Maranta at Death's door - help!

thinwhitedukeDecember 28, 2013

I purchased a maranta (prayer plant) from my local supermarket a few months ago, because I liked the leaves. I knew knowing nothing at all about this type of plant beforehand and now regret my rashness because despite all my efforts, it is dying - pls see photo.

It hasnt 'prayed' in weeks and has lost several leaves - they yellow and die. Other leaves curl up and some have brown tips. I've read up extensively online about their requirements but still cant seem to help. Am hoping an expert will be able to tell from the photos what's wrong...! What I'm doing:

- keeping it upstairs where the temp ranges from 15 ceclius at night to 23 celcius in the day.
- keeping it on a bed of stones filled with water for humidity
- misting daily with lukewarm water
- watering 1-2 times a week, just as soil begins to dry (using bottled water)
- keeping it out of any direct sunlight. It gets indirect light during the day from a skylight the other side of the room.

I did repot it when I first got it and probably now have it in a pot that is too deep/large (it's about 7 inches tall). Should I return to original pot??

I am fairly sure she's pest-free but havent dared look at the roots yet - could there be a root infestation behind this?

It's really frustrating that so many websites contradict each other as to the problem - some suggest it's too much water, some say too little, some say it's too much light, some not enough.... argh! Advice gratefully received before I end up killing the poor thing...

This post was edited by thinwhiteduke on Sat, Dec 28, 13 at 5:10

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You said it was sitting in a bed of stones filled with water for humidity. Is the bottom of the pot sitting in the water at all? If so, does it stay in the water all the time?

I also think it could use some more light.


    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 11:09AM
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Agreed, more light, less water. The pot is a bit big so takes longer to dry out. Otherwise, these should be easy plants but they do like it warm...and humid.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2013 at 2:55PM
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15c is too cold for it - at this temp if it's damp, it starts rotting.
if you can't keep it at least at 20c at night - it won't grow. you can let it go semi-dormant until spring, but then you need to water MUCH less. it will still need more light though, it should be closer to the window, but not too close - or else it'll be even colder at nite.
these are tropical plants. optimally they grow at 24c-27c (nite /day). and very hi humidity (80% is fine). at more moderate temps humidity should be much less and they need to be drier (dry period in sub-tropics). let the soil dry up half way down. do not drench it till water flows thru the bottom - just give it some sips of water , but do not let it get completely dry either. stick a chopstick/skewer down to the bottom: it's like a cake tester - wait till it's damp only in the 2nd half or even 1/4 down before you water. stop misting .
best thing to bring the temps at nite higher - is to tent it. stick a few skewers in the pot and put a large plastic bag over it (cut a few small holes to let it breathe). you can keep it in the bag until spring. just aerate a couple of times a week for 30 min. but before you tent it - you need to let the soil dry halfway, or it'll rot some more. when it's tented it won't need any extra water at all - may be a little ev 3 week or so.
it's dying obviously.
it needs good light and warmth (24c-27c or more) to grow - it won't really happen till spring. best you can do now, prevent it from rotting away completely.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 8:21PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

Agreed, that doesn't look like enough light. At least until spring, I would move it downstairs, where it looks much more bright. During summer, it might like the upstairs spot. Although it would be about the same intensity of light, having so many more hours of it could be acceptable.

I would stop misting also, and stop with the bottled water. That is tap water from somewhere, or ground water with unknown minerals in it - which plants may or may not like - unless it says it is filtered. In that case, it would be much more expensive than necessary for any plant. Unless you meant distilled, which is fine, pure water. Distilled would be a lot less expsensive, and give the same benefits (of not having any chemicals in it.) Other sources of pure water would be catching rain, melting snow, condensate from dehumidifier or A/C.

It's very cool in our house also, 55 degrees some mornings. Maranta can grow and bloom, but must not be thoroughly soaked at any time (if you don't have a perfectly draining soil, which I don't after organic ingredients have decomposed all summer.) Once it finally dries out (from coming inside for winter,) I use a squirt bottle to moisten the surface, but not soak the pot like pouring water would do.

I'm not a believer in the pebble tray at all, but what little I can see in this pic is not 'doing it right' anyway. There should be enough rocks in the drip tray so the top of them are dry. Especially if that's a porous, unglazed clay pot. If the bottom of the pot is touching water, it will stay much too wet. I would water at a sink, then put back in drip tray after it's finished dripping.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 9:45AM
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i think 55F=13C is way too low. it stresses the plant, even if daytime temps rise considerably. so i am curious, which maranta you have going, purple, and what temps/light/water it gets if it even blooms?!
i checked UFL production guide again for the above maranta.
they say 95% of marantas are grown in fl nurseries.
Marantas are best grown under a light level range of 1000 to 2500 foot-candles in greenhouses where moisture and temperature can be controlled. Temperatures of 70F=21C to 80ðF=26.5C are ideal for maranta rooting and growth. Good growth occurs up to 90ðF but is poor above that temperature.

on other sites 16C=62F is stated as min - which as we know is never good for growth ;), but at least the plant won't die.
most tropicals barely absorb water below 65F, especially when daytime temps are in same range. it is a recipe for disaster if you continue to water them as usual for summer (when they need a a good amt of water). at these low temps thay need to be kept rather dry. and will usually decline and go semi-dormant.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 1:26PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

It's the one from this discussion. Looked great until there was so much rain/no sun this summer. By the time I brought it inside, it was terrible looking, got way too wet during the monsoons we had, then too cold there at the end of being outside.

I chalked it up for dead when all of the foliage shriveled up in October. But soon after coming inside, it started growing again. This is one I think of when I've mentioned before about some plants doing better inside for winter. I don't know why it finds the cold in here OK. It usually warms up by afternoon, but we're not willing to spend more on heat, the plants just have to deal with it. I think that's more like a natural environment, but the pro instructions usually harp on a steady temp. I've never understood that really, it's always colder at night anywhere, generally/most nights.

Just an anecdote of a plant breaking the rules. I shared it though because the conditions & care were the same in here last winter when it looked so great & kept making little flowers. And now, back in the supposed wrong conditions again, it looks pretty happy to me for a plant that had no leaves about 2 months ago.

I think it just wants to be really dry if not warm, that's what I infer from my plants' behavior in conjunction with what I've done to it. It is strange, no doubt. I don't like plants that break the rules any more than you do, but it almost always involves dryness. So many anecdotes of mine & other people, of dryness 'fixing' things (probably all cases of root rot, but not enough root inspections on my part to do more than hypothesize. Usually just let it dry & see what happens, now that I know about root rot to know about this tactic. An overwaterer can only reform so much at a time, ya know ;+)

Maybe it liked the way I dug around the pot to add many of the other plants, summer-propagated cuttings pulled out of the ground to come inside pots for winter. IDK... (Also when I beheaded a sick-looking Dracaena - the stump in the pic, which hasn't grown new foliage, glad I did that.) Here's what it looks like just now.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 5:19PM
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lol, it looks rather bad to me!
but hey, i was saying it needs to be much dry-er at low must've drowned it altogether in summer! this certainly is not a very good example of keeping a plant happy.
just because it's not altogether not reason enough to recommend that it's ok to keep it at 55F!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 10:12PM
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Thanks for all the messages guys! The plant is on a bed of stones, in a glazed clay bowl. The tops of the stones do stick out of the water. and the bottom of the pot is clear of the water at all times so I dont think that's the issue.

I will move it so it gets more light. I'd bring it downstairs but I've a very large glass double door below that lets in loads of direct sunlight that fills the room - I think the maranta would get scorched. I'll move it closer to the window upstairs.

Re watering, I have purchased a filter so will use distilled water from now on. For the temperature, unfortunately there's nothing I can do about that. The winters out here can be cold and it is in the warmest place in the house. I only turn the heating on when it gets freezing out as it's just to expensive to run continuously.

If I do the tent idea, should the bag be transparent to still let in light?


    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 8:31AM
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yes, of course, the bag needs to be transparent - it's like a terrarium. it'll raise the humidity and reduce evaporation from leaves. make sure to cut a few slits on top though. to let it breathe a bit. the bigger the bag the better.
about light: if you position the plant in bright light at the edge of the window, at the opposite angle from which the sunlight is coming it won't be in the sun. the area near the window in the sunlight will warm up during the day - which is good. but at nite it'll be even colder then the rest of the room. tenting then will be essential.
if you have sheers to pull across some of the window and position the plant behind the sheers of the sunny window in diffused light - that would be better. you can still tent. that'll get best light and warmth.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 8:51AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

Petruska, you know I highly respect your opinion but I'm not sure you read what I wrote. Between the last pic in the other thread (in July) and October, while the plant was outside, it got way too wet and the sun was nowhere to be found. Plenty warm, and 90+% humidity all the time, but it still wasn't happy. All of the foliage on the plant now is new in the past month, since coming back inside. When I brought that pot in, there were no Maranta leaves visible. Of course it doesn't look great, it's recovering from being written off as dead. But the point is that the cold didn't prevent it from this resurrection.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 8:59AM
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Thanks, Petruska. Will move it to a lighter spot, water less and hope for the best.

I also think I should review the potting soil - I fear it is not well-draining enough so will try a potting soil/perlite mix - but will wait a while and see what the move does first.

PS - Happy New Year to all on the forum x

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 9:37AM
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yes, purple, i did not look thru your other thread. i do remember your 'got flooded and gloomy' posts from summer though. it did not surprise me that maranta declined when very wet.
and now some managed to survive and regrow once dried - makes sense. of course is better then dead ;).
my point was - if you keep it warmer (by tenting at least) AND drier - it'll grow and revive much faster.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 11:32AM
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ok, now i looked.
it could be that you overpotted that plant. i've been collecting data on cals recently - 'cause i like them so much. seems they like shallow pots best (rhizome...) and moist but not wet soil. and many experienced growers say: do not overpot, do not repot often,etc. some say no need to repot , if ever....
seems they are similar to rexes in culture. except sturdier.
i wouldn't repot just yet, too risky. but perhaps you can lift it out of the pot and see if soil just falls off from the sides/bottom - and then plop it in a smaller pot. reducing the volume of damp 'unused soil' would help to keep it drier thru the winter.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 11:59AM
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Thanks again, Petrushka for the advice. Will leave her to readjust for a bit and then will move her back to the original pot if she still seems to be suffering.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2013 at 12:32PM
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