Why Can My House Plants Never Survive?

chueh(7B)October 9, 2011

I have always had problems with house plants. They are either growing badly or die shortly.

Nothing is growing well in my house, except this kind of plant. This plant grows fast and big healthily.

Can anybody explain why? And what happened to the palm looking plant. It has lost the pigmentation on the green leaves and gotten brown spots. The variegated leaf (yellow and green) plant has always lost leaves. What happened to it. Can anyone tell me the name of the plant that grows well?

Thank for all

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Maybe spider mites on the little palm, Chueh, they tend toward that kind of pest, plus the "bleaching" is a clue too. Spider mites also like it dry; is your house warm & dry? AC? Forced-air heating?

You might be able to cut the live top off of your Dracaena (the variegated plant), get it rooted & then start over, but if the plant is really struggling the cutting may not root. If you're at the point where you'd toss it anyway, you don't have anything to lose by trying to root out the top.

Overall, are your plants situated to get natural light? What are your watering habits? How's the average temp in your home? Check the plants for bugs, analyze your watering (too much? not enough?) & the conditions you are choosing for your plants... plenty of good advice here, but you'll get asked lots of questions!


    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 8:44PM
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1. Palm probably got eaten by spider mites, as they are often wont to be eaten by.

2. You're probably overwatering the other two. Only water when dry, and pot the plants in a light, fast-draining soil that's low on peat and probably at least 1/3 perlite by volume. I actually like going with something like 40% perlite, 40% bark, and then 20% forest compost for non-succulents.

I also tend to err on the side of underwatering. I haven't really had many issues with doing that, although said approach doesn't really work well with ferns.

3. Are any of those near natural light source? The middle one is growing at a really odd angle which makes me think it is reaching for light.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 8:49PM
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Definately, Spider Mites.

What size pots are your plants potted in? They look huge.

The posters above gave you a lot to think about, where you went wrong.

Check for spider webbing and please remove the dead leaves, Toni

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 8:57PM
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Since no one has answered this yet, your healthy plant is a Schefflera, sometimes referred to as "Umbrella Tree" or "Umbrella Plant" in my neck of the woods.


    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 9:48PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Chueh - I can probably tell you all the 'whys' and the things that are wrong, but a much better approach to this would be to start on the positive side with a fresh start. If you're willing to begin a dialog, follow some pretty simple instructions, and put some effort into improving your effort:reward quotient, I promise you can turn your growing experience around. Ball's in your court.


    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 12:21PM
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LOL All good advice and all make me laugh.... too many things wrong with the conditions I provide for those poor plants.

Yes, I guess not enough light for Dracaena. Well, it is actually 10' away from the south window. Yes, it is a big pot. Guess what! this planted used to be suitable for a big pot. However, the leaves have kept dropping.

Yes, I probably over water Dracaena, because I often need to clean the excess water under the pot. I use a pretty good mix of soil. I was afraid that the soil is good for drainage, the plant is not getting enough water. I water it a little every 3-4 days.

Hm... the fern/palm.. I have two of them. Both are in the same condition. Yes, we do have a lot of spider problems. I vacuum the web pretty frequently. This fern like plant is not my favorite. I bought them because they are good air-purifiers. I guess I should not add more of this fern plants (I was actually buy more of this), if I have spider problems.

So.. is Schefflera un-killable? LOL I thought that any plant come to my hand would die LOL

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 4:26PM
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"I water it a little every 3-4 days."

When you water, you need to thoroughly drench the soil so that water flows out the drainage holes. Tap water has stuff in it and soil tends to accumulate salt/minerals/stuff. Watering thoroughly ensures that all the soil gets evenly moist, but also washes out the accumulated stuff.

Additionally, water only when the soil is dry. If the soil is still moist, odds are the plant doesn't need water.

"Yes, we do have a lot of spider problems."

Spider mites aren't spiders, actually.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 8:07PM
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Schefflera is definately killable, and you're just lucky it's alive I think. There's 4 things you need to know about each individual plant:

1. The correct light level
2. The correct watering regime
3. The correct soil
4. The correct fertilizer

Now sure, you can make errors on 1 or 2 of these things, and your plants may survive, but not thrive. In order to have happy, healthy plants, you must know what these 4 requirements are. Obviously there is going to be other things like temperature, humidity, and pot size as well. Most palms like high humidity, and wither away in the dry air or a centrally heated house.

As for your plants, I agree that spider mites have gotten your palm, and spider mites love dry air. Your dracaena, based on the stem sizes, is way over potted. Your schefflea looks ok, but for the record, mine site immediately in front of a south window, and does great. Just know that human eyes adjust for poor light, so what you think is ok, is nowhere near bright enough. The old phrase "outdoor shade is brighter then the sunniest spot in your house" is very true, so even the sunniest spot in your house isn't as bright as you think. Also, I see you noted that you water every few days. You should always water when needed, not on a schedule. Over time, experience will sort of create a schedule, but it will be based on your plant's schedule, not yours.

I can say this though, Al (tapla) is the right guy to listen to if you're looking to have your plants thrive. He is a wise man, and I can say that my plant keeping experience has improved dramatically since absorbing the information he has shared. Good luck, and don't give up!


    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 8:10PM
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The correct soilless mix is #1


    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 8:32PM
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Since your Schefflera is the healthiest, keep it away from your Palm, otherwise, the Spider Mites will find a home on it, also.

If you don't mind using chemicals, there are many insecticides on the market, but I don't recommend them.

Chueh, please don't take this the wrong way.
If every leaf on your Palm is mottled, perhaps you should toss it, start over.

The Dracaena can be rooted. The species you have is fast-growing.

12' away from any window is too far, despite direction. Even south.

Watering every 3-4 days in that large pot is only causing problems.
Because the topmost soil is dry, doesn't mean the remaining soil is. I'd bet center to deepest soil is soaked.

You said your Dracaena's pot size used to be suitable. Most likely, the roots rotted away because it was over-watered, not under-watered.

For the time being, until you decide what to do with these plants, I wouldn't add more.
BTW, your plant is a Palm, not a fern. Big difference.

House spiders and Spiders Mites are not the same. Spider Mites are very tiny and build webbs on and under leaves and stems. Spider Mites are so small they're hard to spot. They kill plants. Often, leaves feel sticky, and green is mottled.

What will you do? Toni

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 2:53AM
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marquest(z5 PA)

I said the same thing you are saying chueh. I grew up with a Mother that had a green thumb. Back in the old days she had the typical old time plants. Coleus, grape ivy etc. The house was full of plants. I could not figure out why every plant I brought I killed.

The first plant I killed over and over again was the palm. I think they like condition of perfect humidity, perfect watering conditions that I could not accomplish in my home. Plus they usually sell large plants that I think have been grown in a greenhouse and could not adjust to my home conditions.

I now have a house full of plants some would say too many. It took some research to find the type of plants that match my habits and lifestyle. I do not baby them with special soil or even constant watering. I discovered I had to find plants that live under my life conditions.

To help you what I did was look at peoples pics and ask question about care. Also, what they did to make their plant so beautiful. If I have to start running all over town to find this and that to make good soil then it is not the plant for me. I need something that likes a plain good potting soil and plop the plant in a pot. I do not have the time to baby plants.

If you like to water try to find plants that love moisture or is not picky about extra water. The plant I like most in that category are Spider plants.

I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 1:21PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I'd like to see you purchase a little houseplant book or two before you buy your next plant. It's not difficult to maintain healthy plants, but you DO have to have a little bit of common knowledge. Even the tiniest amount of homework on your part would probably reap great benefits.

Then, as was suggested earlier, you should make a careful evaluation of the locations in your home that will likely be home to your houseplants. Determine the light intensity and duration of those locations, proximity to air vents, etc. THEN, match your plant selection to the conditions in your home.

I second the vote that you should TOSS that palm. Spider mites are very difficult to control once they are allowed to become such a problem.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 1:46PM
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Thank you all... All excellent advice. Will do!

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 6:52PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

The best advice would be to take Al up on his offer to start a dialog.


    Bookmark   October 14, 2011 at 6:25PM
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