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Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Posted by caroli NC (My Page) on
Fri, Oct 19, 12 at 9:39

I received a large alii ficus as a gift for mothers day this year. I potted the tree and placed it outdoors in a very good location until colder night temperatures forced me to bring it inside. Outside I established a watering pattern that worked great.
I have viewed and read this forum for several years and have tried to follow Al's advice for containerized trees. I potted this tree in the same size container with roots checked and 50% of existing soil removed to inspect roots. No root pruning was needed. I also used Al's advice (I hope I am correct) and purchased Farfard's professional mix #3B since I did not have the time to gather the contents to make his custom soil.
I am concerned about the amount of water I should use inside. I watered this tree after it was moved inside and I have been observing the soil for the last 13 days. I wanted to follow Al's instructions that allowed you to water in 2 increments allowing the water to come through the soil and into the drip tray. I did water this tree yesterday with approximately 3 qts of tepid water to achieve this goal. I had about 10% water flush into the drip tray. My ceramic pot is 14" h. x 16" w. and my tree is approximately 7 ft tall at the highest point.

Should I be concerned that I watered the tree too soon? Any advice on this type of watering would be helpful. The benj. ficus trees that I have grown for the last 5 years are not watered in this fashion. I have never watered to allow the water to flow outside the pot. With the smaller benj. ficus I have provided new soil each year and salt build up has not been an issue. With this much larger tree should I follow this flushing technique or just plan to repot each year to eliminate buildup in the soil.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Whats an alii ficus?


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Banana-leaf Ficus, Ficus maclellandii 'Alii'. Nice-looking plant.


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 19, 12 at 11:57

First, you should be commended for the depth of information you provided and covering almost everything that would be needed to answer your questions.

I'm going to ramble a little & offer a couple of things for everyone to consider. A build-up of dissolved solids in the soil is always a problem - for most growers, what determines if we act or not is how bad the problem is. VERY bad, is when we see direct evidence related to poor root health/function - usually manifest in spoiled foliage in the form of necrotic leaf tips and margins, nutritional issues related to an imbalance of nutrients in the soil, and general poor health. If plants healed themselves, it would be fine to adopt practices that allowed us to wait until symptoms occurred to fix things, but unfortunately, they don't. In terms of a plant's visual appeal, which is probably everyone's most important concern, plants are slow to clean themselves up. Because of this factor, most growers can see the advantage in preventing problems instead of trying to fix them; so it should be no surprise that is what I practice & suggest to others as the approach to growing that yields the biggest bang for your buck.

Once your soil has reached the saturation point, it doesn't matter if you add an extra ounce or gallon of water, other than the extra gallon is better at flushing additional salt accumulations from the soil, so don't short yourself on the amount of water you put through your soil. You'll need to find a balance that's comfortable for you. Maybe that will be 2-3 short waterings (sips) and then moving the plant to the shower once each month for a good soil flush. You've shown you understand all the principles - the important part - and no one can decide for you. Eventually, the plant will tell you if you're pleasing it or not and you'll know how to adjust if 'not'. You're on top of your game, so I'd say you're in the tweaking phase. ;-)

As far as your repotting intervals - it depends on what you want out of the plant. If you want to maximize growth, I'd pot up yearly (unless there is soil not colonized by roots), being sure I potted up before the root/soil mass can be removed from the plant intact. If you want to maintain your plant in good health, you can do that several ways. One way: Repot in year 1, pot up in years 2&3, then repot in year 4, reducing the root mass considerably & reducing the pot size, repeat the cycle - unless you're using a soil that supports little perched water; then, you can reuse the larger pot.

The Fafard soil is a good choice. One thing you can do to help you deal with any unwanted water retention it might have is: Use a pot larger than you normally would & put an overturned container that fits the bottom of the main pot snugly at the bottom of the pot. Then, fill in around the overturned pot. with soil & plant above the pot. Perched water tables are height-specific to every soil. IOW, the ht of the PWT in any given soil is the same, regardless of container size or shape. If we use the upturned container to reduce the volume of soil that CAN be occupied by perched water, we reduce the volume of perched water a soil can hold - a huge plus to those using water retentive soils.

If the soil was still moist to the touch when you watered, checked with a bamboo skewer/wood dowel, you probably watered too soon for the interval to be ideal. The good news is, it won't take you long to figure out what the right interval is. IMO - the most productive soils will require watering frequently - every 1-4 days when plants are growing well, and no longer than weekly when they are pretty much resting. If you're into the 14 day range & the soil is still moist, there is little question things could be better. That isn't said from a critical perspective, it's just a fact. If I had put everything in the last paragraph or so into what you need to decide, it would be: should I water in sips & flush occasionally, or continue the dialog & explore what else might be done after more input to figure out how I might be able to water properly w/o worrying about the plant staying wet for extended periods.

Of course, you know I wish you the best. ;-)

Al


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Thanks Al for the information shared in response to my question about watering my Alii Ficus tree.
After 13 days the soil within the first 3" was dry. Unfortunately, I do not have a wooden skewer inserted into the soil. Is it too late to do this and should it be at the edge of the pot or within the rootball....say 2" or so from the edge? I have always hesitated to puncture the roots.
I also was trying to achieve 50% of the soil being dry before flush watering. If this isn't the best way please give me guidance. Can you "sip" water weekly with "flush" watering say once a month?
I just don't want to thirst or drown this rather large plant.

Thanks,
Cindy


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 19, 12 at 13:38

Your soil should be nearly dry all the way to the bottom before you water again. If you don't want to use a wooden dowel or skewer, you can drill a hole in the side of the container near the bottom large enough to get a finger into and that you can plug up so soil doesn't leak from the pot after checking for moisture. If you DO use a skewer or dowel, don't worry about damaging roots. You're far better off to break a few small roots than suffer the ill effects of too much water in the soil. Roots commonly die and regenerate, even in the landscape, so again - that shouldn't be counted as an issue. Insert the probe and angle it toward the bottom center of the pot. If it comes out dam p/dark/cool/with soil on it - wait to water.

Yes, you can water in small amounts regularly & flush monthly or every 6 weeks. That you're addressing the salt accumulation is the important part. I should mention it's not just salt accumulation that makes for problems. Allowing the ratio at which plants use nutrients to become badly skewed in favor of a few nutrients supplied in excess leads to problems with uptake of other nutrients, and thus (antagonistic) deficiencies of those nutrients that may actually be present at levels otherwise adequate to fulfill the plant's nutritional needs.

I hope that's helpful.

Al


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

I will plan to insert a skewer as you suggested.

With a total "flush" watering should I be concerned if it takes a week or so for it to be dry enough to water again. Here is NC the home heat is only on occasionally and that seems to make the moisture last longer.

I can really tell a big difference in the Farfard potting soil compared to the soils commonly sold at most garden centers. I can see the difference in drying time and texture of this soil both wet and dry.

This Alii ficus is new to me and it started dropping a few dried and yellow leaves around the end of September. Before this it produced new growth. We had a couple of nights with temps. below 55 and lower day temps. 70's which made me question if the tree had suffered some shock or didn't dry sufficiently between watering. (leaf loss approximately a dozen leaves weekly) I know the move indoors didn't help.

I read that Alli do not like as much water as the benj....is this true? Do you think I shocked this tree and if so what are the signs. Do the leaves turn yellow or fall green?

Cindy


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

I will plan to insert a skewer as you suggested.

With a total "flush" watering should I be concerned if it takes a week or so for it to be dry enough to water again. Here is NC the home heat is only on occasionally and that seems to make the moisture last longer.

I can really tell a big difference in the Farfard potting soil compared to the soils commonly sold at most garden centers. I can see the difference in drying time and texture of this soil both wet and dry.

This Alii ficus is new to me and it started dropping a few dried and yellow leaves around the end of September. Before this it produced new growth. We had a couple of nights with temps. below 55 and lower day temps. 70's which made me question if the tree had suffered some shock or didn't dry sufficiently between watering. (leaf loss approximately a dozen leaves weekly) I know the move indoors didn't help.

I have read that Alli do not like as much water as the benj....is this true? Do you think I shocked this tree and if so what are the signs. Do the leaves turn yellow or fall green?

Cindy


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

The trouble is all plants are different. Some like to be bone dry before watering, some must never be allowed to dry out completely.


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

I will plan to insert a skewer as you suggested.

With a total "flush" watering should I be concerned if it takes a week or so for it to be dry enough to water again. Here is NC the home heat is only on occasionally and that seems to make the moisture last longer.

I can really tell a big difference in the Farfard potting soil compared to the soils commonly sold at most garden centers. I can see the difference in drying time and texture of this soil both wet and dry.

This Alii ficus is new to me and it started dropping a few dried and yellow leaves around the end of September. Before this it produced new growth. We had a couple of nights with temps. below 55 and lower day temps. 70's which made me question if the tree had suffered some shock or didn't dry sufficiently between watering. (leaf loss approximately a dozen leaves weekly) I know the move indoors didn't help.

I have read that Alli do not like as much water as the benj....is this true? Do you think I shocked this tree and if so what are the signs. Do the leaves turn yellow or fall green?

Cindy


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Sorry my last post was multiplied.

You are correct that plants can be extreme opposite when it comes to light and water requirements. Finding the right combination has always been challenging when it is a plant that very few people have experience with. Ficus tend to pout when they are not happy and most of mine find it hard to recover.


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 19, 12 at 22:14

Cindy - I don't think a week-long interval is anything to fret over, though for myself I prefer soils that end up making more frequent watering necessary. I like soils that require me to water every 1-3 or 4 days, though occasionally I've put together plantings that at first only need watering every week or so, knowing that interval will shorten as the planting matures. Generally speaking, the shorter the watering interval required, the better the opportunity the plant has to grow to its potential. You still have to work on getting other factors right, but that whole watering/drainage/aeration/root health/accumulating salts thing is the most common and usually the biggest bugaboo when it comes to growing in containers.

I would say that the cultural preferences of alii are virtually identical to those of benjamina, except that alii might not tolerate quite as much sun as benjamina. I have repotted/pruned alii for others & temporarily tended them to get a few sick ones back on track, but I don't grow them because their leaves make them awkward candidates for bonsai, but those I potted in the gritty mix have always shown their appreciation - their owners, too.

Lots of things cause leaf loss for ficus, so it's hard to pinpoint an actual cause unless you start getting into details. More often than not, it's a light or watering issue, but sudden chill and a high level of salts in the soil, as well as root constriction often are causal or contributing factors.

The list of things I follow to keep my plants in top shape is short and easy. Anyone that wants to could do the same things I do. The two most difficult things to get around are finding the ingredients to make the soils I use and learning to do the root maintenance. The rest is so easy a child could do it (my 12 year old GD DOES. ;-)

Of course every plant is different, but if we exclude cacti and carnivorous plants from "commonly grown houseplants", what plants like is amazingly similar. Many people erroneously equate the fact that because some plants better tolerate extremes in treatment that their preferences are equally divergent - not the case. Almost ALL the houseplants most commonly discussed here are perfectly capable of thriving under the exact same treatment regimen. This I know because I treat every plant I own, except cacti, exactly alike. The only variables come from the fact that some of the temperate plants I grow have a predictable dormancy. Other than allowing for some temperature preferences, my other plants get the SAME soils, the same watering SCHEDULE, the same fertilizer apps - and I have no difficulty maintaining problem-free plants that look and grow exceptionally well.

Essentially, almost all the plants widely discussed here have the same sweet spot. What varies is how well they tolerate being distanced from that sweet spot. Obviously, learning how to provide those conditions that create the sweet spot and habitually focusing on that, is much better than being sucked in by the idea that every plant is unique in its cultural wants. Again, they vary widely in their ability to tolerate poor conditions, but pretty much all respond extremely well to a set of easily defined cultural parameters. I grow impatiens & coleus the same way I grow succulents, the only variable being light exposure ..... and anyone CAN do the same if they hit the sweet spot.

If I were you, in my travels I would keep my eyes peeled for some appropriate fir or pine bark. Don't feel pressured to look - just be on the look out. Then take advantage of the find when it happens.

Hava good wknd!

Al


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Al - Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I think converting to one of your soil mixtures will greatly benefit my house plants. I just want to keep my plants in the best shape possible until the late Spring when potting seems to be the easiest time for both my plants and myself.
Please advise me as to which formula will work best for the larger plants and if you would wait it out.

Root constriction and soil minerals should not be a problem (I hope) since the soil was fresh as of May and I practice flush watering when my plants are outdoors... but anything is possible depending upon the vigorous growth of the plant.

I would guess that the leaf drop was caused by watering and that makes me question the decision to wait til Spring to change the soil. (over all the tree is green and leaves look perky)

Have a great weekend too!

Cindy


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 20, 12 at 11:48

"Forewarned is forearmed"

You already recognize the potential problems, which is the larger part of being able to avoid them. How many peoples' aliis make it through the winter in decent/good shape, even when they don't have the advantage you have in a better than average soil? I paused for a moment to evaluate what I was thinking, and decided that most of me wants you to do whatever you think is best for your plant; still, I know there's at least a small part of me that would like to reinforce your initial thought, which is to wait until spring. I just don't see what you have to deal with now as an issue with enough significance that it warrants what I consider an out of season repot, though if all that was required was a simple potting up, I'd be all for it. I'd be thinking about a Memorial Day weekend for the repot and any hard pruning around Father's Day, in your neighborhood.

If you've decided to use either the gritty mix or the 5:1:1 mix, what soil you end up using might be determined by what kind of bark you come up with. All my ficus (easily 30+) are in the gritty mix, and they love it - it's also the easiest (for you) to grow in, with virtually no chance of over-watering anything in it if you use even a little good judgment. You should be able to find the Turface & grit fairly easily, leaving the bark. The grit is mined in NC, and the bark comes from southern yellow pine (mostly), and you guys have lots & lots of that in your state. You might even be lucky enough to find a source for fir bark in 1/8-1/4", already screened. That's what I use for the gritty mix.

You said ".... and soil minerals should not be a problem (I hope) since the soil was fresh as of May ....". Did you mean a build-up of solubles in the soil should be no problem, or that the soil should contain enough nutrition (because it's fresh) to satisfy the plants nutritional requirements? Just checking; because you will need to do some fertilizing along the way.

If your interest in plants doesn't wane, I can see you're going to be a great grower. Lately, we've had many more than the usual number of those fairly new to growing who have an extra spark - who really want to learn and are willing to make the effort to make that happen. You guys are soo good for the forum(s)!

Al


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Al,

When I was speaking about the soil minerals I was referring to build-up. I am unsure of fertilizing. Your opinion please.

Also, I have inserted a skewer into my pot to check for moisture. Do you leave this inserted or just insert when the need arises. (I thought of leaving it inserted and periodically removing it to check for moisture). I was pleasantly surprised to see that although the top portion of the soil was moist the skewer showed that the top 40% didn't have enough moisture to darken it. Do you find this encouraging that the soil may not be to heavy (since I flush watered it 3 days prior) and I can wait until Spring to change the soil?

I have also added additional lighting with (2) Agrosun 32W fluorescent lights. To supplement the indirect light from my garden doors which face NE.

I am 4th generation plant lover and it doesn't matter if its inside or outside plants. I love the challenge. My mom and I garden together.
There is very little in the way of plant support in our area so finding this forum 4 years ago was great. I try to read the info. on plants that we are growing. If you look at your plants as something other than disposable decorations you feel the need to gather the correct information that will enable you to properly care for them....like you would a pet.

I have just became brave enough to ask my own questions.
This alii ficus was given to me by a family member who passed away a week later and it means a lot to me to learn everything I can about the care it needs.

I really appreciate you and all the other experts taking the time to answer my questions. I am committed to learning whatever I can and applying new ideas. Growing plants should not have to be so difficult when experienced people are available to give advice.

I just think I should do so at the start of my plant journey rather than at the end when too much time has gone by and the plant is almost dead.

Cindy


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 22, 12 at 15:16

Even though I'm trying to whittle their numbers down, I have over 200 trees and woody plants in containers, almost all of which are destined to become bonsai. These, along with ALL the other plants I maintain over the long term (like houseplants), plus the 30-50 annual mixed or single plantings I scatter around the gardens/decks, ALL get the same fertilizer - Dyna-Gro's Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. It's as close to one stop shopping as you're going to get. I'm sure there are other similar fertilizers (like Michigan State University's orchid formulations[not just for orchids, BTW]) that would work as well, but I've settled on the ease of the liquid formulation. Also important is that it not only looks extremely good on paper, it performs equally well in practical application.

Any 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer would be a good choice, but there are several reasons that the FP 9-3-6 is a better choice than one of the 24-8-16 blends or Miracle-Gro 12-4-8. All the fertilizers I mentioned are 3:1:2 ratios. Ask, if you're confused.

I don't use skewers or test for moisture content because I use soils that make that issue a nonissue. IOW, they don't hold enough perched water to allow me to over-water unless I work very hard at it. I even water almost everything on a rigid schedule, which is a poor practice when your soil holds significant amounts of perched water. Most people though, don't leave them (skewers) in the soil. They insert them as a test probe, then leave them somewhere near the pot to dry. You'll soon learn to judge when your plant needs water w/o having to resort to using the probe - it should be a temporary thing.

Yes - your findings re the soil are encouraging. Keep looking for reasons not to repot until summer. ;-) The lighting will assuredly help, too. I keep all my ficus under T8 fluorescent bulbs @ 5100K.

Thanks for sharing a little about yourself. I think it's a fact that everyone here at the forum loves to help others. I can't speak for how others think or feel, but the sense of personal reward I get from helping others varies a lot by individual. It makes me feel good to know I've been helpful, but it makes me feel so much better to know that I've helped. Very often, what separates those two feelings is the person on the receiving end.

Lately (the last half year or so), this forum has been blessed with more people with great attitudes and open minds than I've ever seen in such a short time. Those are the types of growers, young or old, newbies or experienced, that make you WANT to help and make you feel like you really might have made a difference when you do. ..... and it doesn't hurt that you mentioned why this particular plant is important to you and drew an analogy between pets & plants instead of the plants being disposable. I call that the revolving door policy - where you buy a plant, take it home & watch it decline to the point another is needed to replace it ........

That you're committed to learning, coupled with your enthusiasm, is your greatest asset. The growers that gather as much knowledge as possible & use their practical experience to validate what they learn will always progress much faster than those who trust to trial and error as their primary method of learning. You're definitely on the right track, and I doubt you'll find any shortage of growers willing to help you.

Take care.

Al


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

I will definitely be on the lookout for the fertilizer you mentioned. Can you find the Dyno-Gro Pro at most garden centers?

What type of Winter schedule do you recommend for fertilizing? Weekly?....Monthly?

I have noticed that some articles written recommend that you withhold the fertilizer from houseplants during the dead of winter. I really don't understand that theory and have wondered if it was a sound piece of advice.

The only thing I have on hand is MG 20-20-20. (used for my flower garden irrigation) BTW 20-20-20 was recommended to me by a "plant specialist" at a large garden center several years ago ....I don't know why this was her recommendation. Maybe I really don't need this for my flower garden either.

I have always hesitated to use this for potted plants not knowing if it could cause root burn even in very light applications.

Thanks for everything.

Cindy


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 22, 12 at 19:01

The best chance of finding the FP 9-3-6 will be at a hydroponics shop or via the net.

How you should fertilize is directly linked to your soil choice and how you water. No one can give meaningful advice about fertilizing without taking these things into consideration, or qualifying their answer to take these variables into account. Those that offer that you shouldn't fertilize in the winter without those qualifications are simply repeating what they heard somewhere w/o understanding the ramifications of the advice or the variables that render it inappropriate.

I fertilize weekly in the summer, and every time I water (at very low doses) in winter. Every picture I've shared on the forums has illustrated plants with unblemished foliage - even when there are many plants in the background, so there is no question it's a practice that works extremely well. I can fertilize this way because I flush the soil each time I water. No salts are able to accumulate, and the fertility level is always close to as low as it can be without there being a deficiency. This is the IDEAL state of fertility for the soil.

Those using soils water-retentive to the degree they cannot risk flushing the soil each time they water cannot fertilize this way because the fertilizer salts will accumulate quickly and cause problems. For these growers, the advice to NOT fertilize in the winter is aimed more at saving the plant from the effects of the accumulating salts than it is at keeping the plant on top of its game. Essentially, it's better to suffer the effects of less than ideal fertilization practices than it is to risk the certain effects of a too high level of soluble salts in the soil - the lesser of two evils.

I often mention that there is no substitute for a sound nutritional program that supplies all the essential elements a plant uses to grow normally, in as close to the same ratio at which the plant actually USES those elements as possible, and in a concentration high enough to ensure there will be no deficiencies, yet low enough that it doesn't impair the plants ability to take up water and the nutrients dissolved in water.

Which brings us to fertilizer NPK %s and ratios.

20-20-20 is a 1:1:1 ratio. Plants don't use nutrients in a 1:1:1 ratio, so we can be absolutely certain that since N is the most used nutrient, if we supply enough N we have to be supplying too much P and K. The extra P and K simply add to the level of salts in the soil and make it harder for plants to take up water and the nutrients dissolved in water. This can become a very important issue in soils that can't regularly be flushed, and we'll start seeing the victims of the effects of having to water in sips increasing as the winter progresses - it always does.

After the calculations are done, 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers supply nutrients in almost exactly the same ratio as that actually used by all plants (averaged). The variance in that ratio are very small from plant to plant, with only a few exceptions. The two advantages in using this ratio are A) you can have the lowest o/a fertility level possible w/o having deficiencies, and B) it makes it nearly impossible to get the ratio of nutrients in the soil skewed to the point where there is so much of nutrient A that it affects the uptake of nutrient B. We see this very very frequently when container growers choose high-P 'bloom booster' type fertilizers. The excess P causes a deficiency of Fe (iron), which causes chlorosis (yellowing), so the grower thinks the plant needs more fertilizer and in providing it exacerbates the high-P problem.

Flower gardens are different than containers. The ability of mineral soils to hold nutrients is MUCH greater than container soils, so ANYTHING you add to your gardens/beds is a crap shoot unless you have a soil test done & follow recommendations. Containers are different. Pretty much what you provide is what plants get, so we can choose our ratios or NPK %s with a very high degree of certainty that we're on the right or wrong track.

Finally, there is no difference between a fertilizer labeled 20-20-20 and one labeled 5-5-5 insofar as the amount of nutrients they will deliver if you follow package directions. Each is a 1:1:1 ratio, but the 20-20-20 is 20% N, P, and K, while the 5-5-5 is only 5% of these nutrients (by weight). The instructions on the container will allow for the difference by directing you to use 4X as much of the 5-5-5 in the same volume of water, so the solution strength and the amount of nutrients delivered will be the same. It's true that a tablespoon of 20-20-20 has more potential to burn than a tablespoon of 5-5-5 when mixed into the same volume of water, but that's why they put mixing directions on the package - so we can follow them. ;-)

Al


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Al, what do you think of Miracle Gro fertilizer? Ive been using that for years now. Previous to that Id use Phostrogen, but Ive not seen that on sale for years!


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 22, 12 at 19:36

Miracle-Gro 20-20-20 is just another 1:1:1 ratio fertilizer, and I don't think a case can be made for using any of the several high-P formulations for plants in containers. Their 24-8-16 and 12-4-8 are both 3:1:2 ratio fertilizers and fairly good choices. I used them all the time with some modifications before I started using the Foliage-Pro 9-3-6. The main advantages FP has over the MG fertilizers is, it contains both Ca and Mg, which MG doesn't have, and it provides more than 2/3 of its nitrogen in nitrate form, which makes for shorter internodes and more compact (less legginess) plants - ESPECIALLY in low light situations (houseplants).

Al


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Al,
Thanks for the explaination on the fertilizer formulas and what they mean.

That explains why several years ago when I continued to use the 20-20-20 after I brought my plants inside in Oct.(per the directions on the box 1/2 t. per 2 qts water) I found that by Jan-Feb my houseplants were unable to absorb the water resulting in the loss of most plants. Of course I was not practicing flush watering...I did not know about that technique. To help eliminate this problem

(I stopped using the 20-20-20 once I brought my pots inside but have continued to use it when they are outside.)

During this Summer I used 1/2t per 1/2 gallon of water for all of my outdoor containers using the 20-20-20 that I had on hand. I always flush water these plants ....of course some of them are houseplants that come back inside in Sept/Oct.
Have I severely compromised the soil in these pots? I will immediately switch formulas but I can't help but wonder if I may have created a soil issue. I plan to continue to flush water my indoor plants at least every other watering.

I don't know if previously withholding fertilizer in the Winter months was much more than applying a bandaid to a cut. My problem is that I have the same situation now and I need your advice.

Do you think the error in fertilizer should constitute a repot now?

Your thoughts please,

Cindy


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 23, 12 at 22:45

If you were using 20-20-20 and flushing the soil regularly, there really shouldn't be any residual issues, as long as you can continue to flush the soil occasionally. Once you decide what you'll be doing to keep salt levels as low as possible & from getting out pf whack (skewed ratios in the soil) we can figure out a good fertilizer plan for you, but how you water is an important part of how you can/should fertilize.

If you're concerned there might be a higher level of salts in the soil than is good for your plants, it doesn't mean you need to repot. Remember, you want to avoid repotting in the winter unless it's an emergency, and a suspected high level of salts in the soil can be remedied by regular flushing.

Are you still keeping track of how long your plant is able to go between waterings?

Al


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Al,

Yes I checked my pots on the 3rd day after watering and again today (5th day).

The skewers checked today felt slightly moist with only very small traces of soil clinging to them. It also looks like the moisture on the skewer is the same from top to bottom. (No discoloration just slight dampness when you touch.) I find this encouraging since we are experiencing a very warm spell and the heat may run once or twice around daybreak. In the past this has always affected the drying time since my plants do not receive any direct sunlight.

Considering the type of soil I am using... house temp at 73 degrees with constant humidity of 45-48 percent... What do you think is a reasonable drying time.

I have always considered 7-10 days between watering as a healthy drying time (not too dry /wet). But I was using a moisture meter thinking that along with checking by hand the top 2-3" of soil I was getting an accurate picture. I think feeling of the soil was the only correct thing I was previously doing. I was shocked to discover (this summer) a forum where you had written about the misconception of using a moisture meter and how it could and would give false readings.

Probably another reason why I have had previous failure in maintaining healthy plants or plants dying regardless of what I was doing to stabilize them.

I have (partially) corrected the soil, changed how I monitor my moisture, plan to flush water(need to decide schedule), and have a (corrected formula) fertilizer for potted plants. So..... I finally feel like I am doing something that will definitely make a difference.

If you can guide me through the process of establishing a watering schedule I think I may have a decent chance of maintaining my plants....a possible 2-3 sip waterings then 1 flush?? (Would this work to eliminate mineral build-up?)

Also, if I can maintain a decent time between waterings with the Farfard soil would it be acceptable to continue to use it or is there no pre-mixed soil available that does not create prolonged moisture? I ask this because there are several family members that are interested in this soil and do not want to custom mix their own.

Cindy


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Can you explain FP/MG? Do you mean company names?


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Yes,
FP is Dyna-Gro's Foliage-Pro 9-3-6

MG is Miracle Grow


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

What about phostrogen? Still made?


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 25, 12 at 18:32

Hi, C - Based on the planting actually needing to be watered, reasonable would be maybe a week's interval - closer to ideal would be every 3-4 days, but you can think about that more as summer/repot time draws near. Some people can't or don't want to build that much aeration into their soils, but once you see the benefits associated with the added aeration and better drainage, you can decide for yourself.

Moisture meters are really poor indicators of moisture levels in the soil. If you have high fertility (lots of salt in the soil), you'll get very high readings (toward WET) with little moisture in the soil, and at low fertility, you'll get readings closer to DRY, even when the soil is quite moist. That's why a wood dowel/skewer or your finger is actually a more reliable indicator.

I think your 2-3 light waterings and then a flush will work well. If you read the thread about dealing with water retention, you'll find tips you'll be able to adopt, and because you're using a reasonably good soil to start with, flushing the soil should be less of an ordeal than if you had a REALLY water-retentive soil.

Fafard is one of the few soils available with a high % of large particles. I think it would be better if it was chunkier, but it's still much better than a very high % of all else that's out there; so yes, you can use the Fafard soil with good results. If you have access to all their products, the nursery mix is best for houseplants, then the 3M and 51L.

If you understand how water behaves in container soils (read that thread?) we should be able to explore some ways whereby you can use some science to reduce the volume of water that CAN occupy the PWT in your containers, which will go a long way toward making it a moot point.

Al


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by rina_ 6a Ont (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 25, 12 at 18:54

Al

just to let you know I sent you mail few days ago. Rina


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

How do you feel about foliar feeding? Does it actually work?


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 25, 12 at 20:36

Compared to the root pathway, it works poorly, but varies by plant. Those plants with lots of cuticular wax, like alii and most other ficus benefit very little (if at all) from foliar feeding. It's most effective in agricultural situations when the growth rate of a responsive crop creates a demand for particular nutrients greater than the plant is able to meet via root pathways. Normally, it will be 1 or 2 elements, sometimes 3, identified as deficient via tissue analysis that are applied.

If you are seeing any significant gain from foliar feeding of plants in containers, you really should take a close look at what you have going on insofar as your nutritional supplementation is concerned - because it's not working as well as it should be and something is wrong.

Al


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Al,
Before I light water should the soil be completely dry from top to bottom of my pot? It is day 8 since I flush watered and my skewer still shows dampness although I leave it for 15-20 mins in the soil before I remove it to check for dampness.

Happy Weekend

Cindy


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Al,

PS: I know earlier you said to allow the soil to dry out but the top portion seems to be drying faster than the bottom.
Would you apply fertilizer with the sip waterings only if I can find the FP or the proper ratio. So far, I am not having any luck locally.

C


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Oct 27, 12 at 11:03

Before I forget, I want to ask if you've read the thread over at Container Gardening about soils and how water behaves in soils? If you have, and you're up for it, I want to talk a little on your thread about what you and other growers can easily do to help reduce the impact of what you/they might suspect or know to be excess water retention. I know it will be helpful to you, and hopefully others will sort of file the information away somewhere in the memory banks for future reference.

Before I lightly water, should the soil be completely dry from top to bottom of my pot? Your question begs a yes/no answer, but if I answered YES, I would be wrong, and NO wouldn't be very helpful because it needs qualifying to be useful.

Some growers confidently give the advice that plants like succulents, schefflera, aralia, ficus, and many others, should be allowed to go dry before you water again. This is an error that cuts against the well-being of the plant. These plants TOLERATE drought stress better than most other plants when they're taken as a group, but that doesn't mean they are immune to the ill effects of drought stress - they're not.

Let's add some perspective though, to what I just said. It's easy to see how that advice originated and came to be accepted as a near universal truth, when in fact it should be relegated to the pile of horticultural myths. Aralia, for example, is a plant that reacts quickly and poorly to soggy soil conditions. Somewhere, someone writing a plant book said, "I don't think my readers will understand or want to be bothered with what it takes to understand this watering business, so I'd better make sure the information I supply at least keeps them from killing their plant from over-watering." The author then evaluates whether or not it's better to let the plant go dry and suffer the effects of drought stress, or to tell them to keep the soil moist and risk the grower being too heavy-handed on the watering can. The lesser of the evils is to let the plant dry down before you water. It's not "good for the plant"; it's simply less bad than over-watering.

'Balance', is a nuance that escapes a high % of even long-time growers. It's important to understand that what you THINK you're seeing isn't always what is actually happening. For instance, many growers assume that when you can only detect (with finger/probe) moisture in the extreme bottom of the pot, all the roots above the detectable moisture level are unable to take up water and nutrients. That's what it LOOKS like - the soil is dry - right? That's what we assume and what we act on, if we don't understand that plants take up water a molecule at a time from a microscopically water in the bottom of the pot diffuses in vapor form throughout the entire soil mass. So in actuality, it might only be the top 10% of the soil that is actually too dry for the plant ..... and the roots in the top 10% of the soil are going to be almost all conducting/anchoring roots anyway. Additionally, when there is moisture detectable only at the pot bottom, the diffusion rate can easily be high enough that not only will there be water available in vapor form in the upper part of the pot, but enough diffusion might be going on that it maintains the integrity of that microscopic film of water on colloidal surfaces from which plants gather water. Remember, plants don't take up water in sips/gulps like we do. Water moves into the plant a molecule at a time, so water that can actually be SEEN in soils is inhibiting of root function. That's why it's so important to understand that evenly damp or moist is the ideal state of water retention for almost everything we grow. HOW to achieve 'evenly moist' is part of the same play - just a different act. At this juncture, what's important is that 'evenly moist' is ideal, but if you have to err, err on the dry side - but not TOO dry.

One thing you need to consider is where the roots are in the container. A 12" pot containing a plant with 3" of root depth due to a recent root pruning/repotting/potting up, shouldn't be allowed to dry down as much as the same set-up that's mature (roots have thoroughly colonized the soil mass).

The key to this whole watering thing is reducing the amount of perched water in the soil to the greatest degree possible. It may seem like word play, but reducing the amount of perched water a soil CAN hold is better than working toward reducing the amount of perched water a soil DOES hold. The reason there is a difference is, the former is achieved as a function of particle size and the physical properties of the particles, both of which affect ACTUAL aeration and drainage. The later can be achieved via a variety of ways that don't necessarily depend on changes in particle size and aeration; so while the net result is still an improvement, it's not as significant an improvement as reducing the amount of water a soil is capable of holding.

I'm laughing because I'm thinking of that old Kung Fu TV show where the old monk holds out his palm with a pebble in it and tells the boy/monk, "When you can snatch the pebble from my hand, grasshopper ....." [.... before I can close my hand - it will mean you are ready to leave the monastery]. In this case, if you understand the nuance that separates how much water a soil CAN hold from how much it DOES hold, you're probably ready to move on. ;-)

Al


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Hello I have one as well when i water mine and yes it is inside i water it thourghly and than remove any access water in holding tray or drip pan.These do not like water to sit in tray.must allow to drain well.I also once a month give mine a tap water shower it loves it and talk about nice pretty leaves.the key is to remove all acess water after watering well threw.Hope this helps.


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

My root mass completely fills out the pot.

As long as there is detectable moisture in the bottom portion of the pot I should wait to water since this is creating rising vapor within the pot?

I agree with your take on the "totally dry" theory...it does seem like you would be creating extreme conditions if you were not very careful.

Since I did not detect any standing water can I assume that I did not have a PWT present after I flush watered??
PWT in pots is the same as static water level within the ground? correct??

Will a constant light moisture cause any of the harmful "too wet" symptoms that most times will occur with houseplants? leaf discoloration, leaf drop, etc.

What signs should I watch for so that I can accurately water my tree? I have light moisture top - bottom with a rootball that should be within 2" of the bottom of the pot. I know I am experiencing water vapor within the pot: but, at what stage does the moisture get low enough to prevent this from occurring? -or- does it? How do you best determine when the moisture is too low to be absorbed?

Without fast drying soil the water vapor within the moist soil plays a large part in timing the next watering? I never
thought of this scenario when watering but it make complete sense. (I guess the out of sight ...out of mind applies for the bottom portion of most growers containers)

With a top to bottom picture I feel that I need to adapt new techniques for determining when my tree is ready for water.

Thanks,
Cindy


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Why have I never heard of perched water before? Ive been on numerous forums, horticulture sites, RHS, Kew Gardens,UBC etc for years now and never heard the term!


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Mon, Oct 29, 12 at 14:52

You don't get out much? Lead a sheltered life? ;-) See why GW is the best place to be? You can learn stuff here, that you can't learn at the other places you frequent. Ignoring its existence or sacrificing reason on the the skeptic's altar does nothing to relieve its limiting effects, btw.

Once upon a time there was a man who wanted to become proficient at bonsai in the worst way, but he failed. He realized that root problems related to his soil choice were limiting his ability to keep his plants viable for the long term, so he put the plants aside and hit the books & the net until he had fixed his problems. Realizing that MOST other hobby growers were suffering under the same limitations HE had suffered under before he figured out how to fix them, he started to share what he had learned .....

I didn't 'discover' the concept. All growers with even a basic working knowledge of soils recognize it as an inherent part of growing. How water behaves in any medium is bound by a very rigid and predictable set of physical principles. All I did was define those principles in a way that allows anyone who wants to, to take advantage of a concept that can be used to build soils that work FOR the grower, instead of against him.

Cindy - If the soil is colonized by roots and you can still detect moisture in the soil, in most cases there is no NEED to water. What determines whether or not a watering that occurs before it's needed is harmful and to what degree it might be harmful, is whether or not it creates a PWT, and if it does, how much and for how long.

When you use MG soils, you must either water in sips or endure the effects of the PWT created when you water correctly. When plants are growing well and the planting is mature (roots fully colonizing soil and in the fast growth part of the growth cycle) a temporary PWT might be very tolerable because the water ion the PWT is used quickly, but in all cases where the PWT hangs around for a significant amount of time, the grower leaves a lot of potential lying on the table, EVEN if there is no direct evidence of root rot or spoiled foliage. Simply put, airless conditions in the root zone impede water and nutrient uptake, which affects growth and vitality. Plus, the fine roots subjected to the effects of the PWT die off very quickly, so the regeneration of these roots before growth recommences is all paid for in the form of lost potential.

Since I did not detect any standing water can I assume that I did not have a PWT present after I flush watered?? Forgive me, but I'm not sure what you're asking.
PWT in pots is the same as static water level within the ground? correct?? Not necessarily. Technically, water doesn't 'perch' due to slow percolation or a lack thereof. There are many cases where water exists close to the surface for extended periods because of a bedrock substrata, or even as clay substrata. When this occurs, it's simply slow or no percolation that is causal. Water can stratify even in coarse gravel under these conditions. PERCHED water is water that is held so tightly in intra-particulate (between particles) spaces that gravity cannot force it to drain from the soil.

Will a constant light moisture cause any of the harmful "too wet" symptoms that most times will occur with houseplants? leaf discoloration, leaf drop, etc. NO. Constant light moisture (about like a recently wrung out sponge) is about as close to ideal as you can get for houseplants. Unfortunately, it's pretty close to unachievable. The closest you'll get in conventional container culture is with soils like the gritty mix. You can wet them frequently and they don't hold perched water in any significant volume, so they have an extremely favorable ratio of moisture:air as long as you water regularly. At the other extreme, when using heavy soils, every time you water like you should, you have extremely unfavorable conditions in whatever fraction of the soil holds perched water for as long as it holds perched water. That the soil CAN hold perched water is related to particle size and the tiny size of the air spaces between particles, so even the soil above the level of the PWT is going to have less aeration than soils formulated from larger particles, which means that even at their best (when the PWT has disappeared and the soil is largely just damp) these soils are still significantly inferior to soils with much better aeration.

What signs should I watch for so that I can accurately water my tree? I have light moisture top - bottom with a rootball that should be within 2" of the bottom of the pot. I know I am experiencing water vapor within the pot: but, at what stage does the moisture get low enough to prevent this from occurring? -or- does it? How do you best determine when the moisture is too low to be absorbed? First, the less PW a soil holds, the less important it is to be concerned about over-watering. You could probably run a hose on a plant in a well made gritty mix for an hour twice each day & not over-water. It has all those evenly spaced air spaces between the soil particles that are large to fill up with water, so the soil is always extremely well-aerated from top to bottom.

If you first put a definition to what a perfect container soil would be, it's actually very easy to see what type of materials you would need to use to achieve that end, and what types of materials are counterproductive when it comes to striving for the superlative. ;-) That would make an interesting conversation - reverse engineering a soil .....

Keep testing like you are. Use the wood dowel or a finger at the drain hole. Use your judgment - if you think you're under-watering, don't hold out and cause unnecessary stress, but in most cases, if you can still detect moisture, you can hold off watering (soil fully colonized w/roots).

Al




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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Al,
Thanks for answering my questions. I am trying to make sure I understand the concept of PW. The question I asked:
(Since I did not detect any standing water can I assume that I did not have a PWT present after I flush watered??)
I was asking if the soil wasn't soggy had the PW occurred?? Trying to figure out with the Farfard soil if or when it might occur.

Do I understand that it occurs by particles absorbing water within & between each other because of the small size thus creating a compact environment?

What forum contains your soil recipe?

Can the Farfard soil be tweaked (if needed) with some of your ingredients to help make it into Spring for potting. Or I have seen a grate that goes into the bottom of the pot to create an air space/drain protection environment. I am exploring these ideas only if I get into an emergency situation.(unless you think the grate would be beneficial by removing the dirt/rootball as a dry solid mass from the pot and installing the grate without causing to much shock)

For right now I will try to carefully monitor my water and hope that I can get a good understanding of PW and how it comes about.

Any other info. you can give to help me understand PW would be appreciated.

Also, until I get the FP fertilizer ordered should I just use plain water?

Take Care
Cindy


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Wed, Oct 31, 12 at 15:26

The Fafard soils, even the nursery mix, aren't as coarse as the 5:1:1 mix, if it's made according to the recipe; and the 5:1:1 mix does hold SOME perched water, so I'm sure the Fafard mix holds at least a little more. If you're using a wick or tipping the pots after watering, it's probably not anything to fret over - the most important thing is that you're aware of the fact that reducing the amount of PW in soils increases the potential for healthier plants, and you're watering in a way that ensures any PW isn't seriously affecting your plants, and the length of time the extra water is a factor is also short.

To tell if you have perched water, saturate a pot full of soil completely - let it soak in a pan for an hour. Then, let it drain on a flat surface or over the sink until it stops draining. Then, push a toothpick up into the drain hole. If the pot starts draining again, it will be perched water dripping/running off the toothpick.

Here's the link to the thread that explains all about PWTs, why/how they occur, and how to prevent or work around them: Click me You'll find recipes toward the end of the thread.

Forget the inserts that go into the bottom of the pots. Jeff from Ups-A-Daisy sent me a whole box of inserts to test & report back to him in spring of '10. I did the tests, even though I knew that the laws of physics dictated that the inserts did nothing more than reduce the volume of soil needed to fill the pot. I did some side by side tests that showed growth and vitality essentially remained the same in pots with & w/o the inserts, until the roots started getting congested. Since root congestion occurred much sooner in the pots with smaller soil volume, they were counterproductive for both veggies and mixed display plantings. They don't add aeration or increase drainage - they just change the size of the pot.

I think you're worrying too much. As I mentioned, it's good to be aware of the impact of PWTs and to know how to fix things. It's also good to know when things are broke, because it's not always readily apparent; and even though lost potential isn't always a tangible loss, it is indeed a loss. Just keep learning & putting together some sort of plan that fits with what sort of effort you're willing to expend.

One way to effectively use the soil you're using now would be like this:

Use a pot a little larger than you normally would. Put something solid in the bottom of the pot about 4" high that almost fits the pot, but not quite. Add 2" of a 3:1 mix of coarse perlite:your soil to the bottom of the pot around the solid object (like a brick). Then add 2" of a 50/50 mix of coarse perlite and your soil, then top off with soil only. That and variations can be broadly used to practically eliminate all perched water in your soils, and can make a big difference when excess water retention is a problem.

Just mix the FP with your tap water.

Once you understand the thread I linked you to, we can talk about several options that will allow you to get all you can out of any soil.

Al



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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Al,

Thanks for the link. I know I have been there before but now that I understand things better I want to go over your info. again.

I did not insert a wick when I potted my large tree. Can that be done now or wait until potting time?? I did tilt the pot after the flush watering because the pot is resting completely on the drain tray and even though it has dips for the water to rest in I wanted to make sure none was trapped beneath the bottom of the pot. I noticed that the first time (within 30 mins.) I tilted the pot it seemed to create additional drainage. I tilted it a total of 3 times within the first 24 hrs of flush watering so that I could sponge all standing water.

Adding the perlite sounds like a great option. I am also interested in the wick. At this point would you consider either option or wait?
(I am going to try your test for PW when I get an opportunity.)

I have found an orchid grower in SC that had the FP in stock and that is on its way to me.

I have noticed a slight increase in leaf drop with the Alii. Since this my first experience with this variety of ficus would you consider it normal or not? It has been inside my house since the 1st of Oct. but since "Sandy" has caused a dramatic drop in outside temps. the heat is running occasionally all day.

I know adjustments are common when the environment changes but I have been told that this ficus has less issues with leaf drop. I am seeing 3-4 leaves per day in the last 5 days. Most are dried or have black spots and dried tips(these leaves were like this when I received the tree in May) This is why I am asking your opinion. I wonder if it could be transport damage or living conditions or some type of disease/fungus. I have not noticed any increase and it seems to be contained on the original damaged leaves.

My question is how do you tell the difference? I have monitored this for changes but have not taken any action yet.
Do your bonsai trees go through any type of seasonal changes?

Thanks,
Cindy

PS: Yes, I am a worry wart


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Thu, Nov 1, 12 at 14:07

You can insert a wick any time. The woven nylon ties used to close onion and citrus bags work well, as do 100% rayon mop strands. Fold the wick material over the end of a straight slot screwdriver so one end is quite short & the other longer. Then, use the screwdriver to push the wick up through the drain hole into the soil - the short ends should disappear into the soil. The wick works best if you insert it through a hole in the bottom at the outermost part of the bottom. That way, when you tilt the pot with the wick down, the wick will be at the lowest part of the pot. You only need tro tilt the pot once, & wait until it stops draining.

If you tip a glass or pot full of water, the water always stays level, so PWTs seek their own 'level' in pots. By tipping the pot, you change the shape of the soil that CAN hold PW. Imagine an 8" square with a line drawn horizontally across it at a 3" ht to represent the PWT. You have a PWT profile cross section of 8x3 or 24 sq in. When you tilt the pot 45* on its edge, the PWT profile becomes a 3" tall scalene (2 equal sides) triangle. We don't even need to calculate to see the area of the 3" tall triangle standing on it's point is much less than the area of the rectangle (about half). So the water that escapes when you tip the pot is directly related to the change of shape of the PWT and thus its volume. The excess water is forced from the pot because the volume of soil that CAN hold perched water is reduced.

Ficus are going to lose some leaves when you bring them in. Don't worry; it's normal. Trust that if you are giving the plant what it wants, it will respond favorably in its own time. You just can't hurry a plant, so you might as well resign yourself to that fact early on.

Fungal infections are always a normal part of plant death. As leaves are dying, they become very open to fungal infection. Usually, the plant's own defences protect the living leaves from infection, but if you're spooked, you can remove & flush or destroy the offending leaves.

Relax. There isn't a boogeyman around every corner. Soils/watering and light are the biggest issues - maybe temperature and fertilizing, too. If you get those all right, you'll do just fine.

Al


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

To insert the wick do you have to penetrate the soil several inches? I put a screen into the bottom of the pot to keep the soil from escaping since the pot had large drain holes.

We haven't discussed how you should properly prepare the bottom of the pot.... so I may have an undesirable situation.

It is day 15 since I flush watered the large tree. My skewer has a cool very slight damp feel and the top 1" is dry & fluffy. Since I know there is slight dampness within the pot when would you proceed with the next watering. I know this isn't something you have to contend with but I think some advice might be helpful since I am basically experimenting with this soil and plant.

I can honestly say that watching the soil for the last 2 weeks has been very educating. I had no idea how lousy a job the moisture meter was doing. The skewer is like having a window into the pot.

I know that I have been over watering my houseplants in the past. (With MG soil & m/meter I had a very damp situation for sure.)

Another interesting bit of information is the "old school" thought that you should water on a schedule has no value at all without first having accurate information for the plant and its container environment. (I guess a schedule works for the soil-less mix)

Cindy


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Fri, Nov 2, 12 at 12:03

This is how I prepare my wicks:

Photobucket

Photobucket

I think it's a little more effective when the part of the wick in the soil is at or very close to the bottom, but it works if you push the wick up into the pot several inches. Remember, you don't want it to fall out. One option would be to drill a hole in the side of the pot right at the bottom & push it in from the side.

It's surprising how much water some soils hold - isn't it? If your plant isn't rebelling, I'd wait to water until you can't, or can just barely, detect moisture, then water again & use what you've learned to reduce the amount of water that remains in the soil after you water.

I think I would change your last paragraph around a little, to read like this (maybe even you MEANT this): Another interesting bit of information is the "old school" thought that you should [never] water on a schedule has no value at all without first having accurate information for the plant and [particularly] its container environment.

"I guess a schedule works for the soil-less mix" I think virtually all of us are growing in 100% soilless mixes, except maybe a very few who use sand, topsoil, or other ingredients with a mineral fraction in their soils for some reason. I think the determining factor when it comes to the appropriateness of watering on a schedule is how much perched water the soil holds. I water on a schedule because it's easy, but more importantly, because I CAN. The soils I use hold little or no perched water, so I could probably water everything every day and flush gallons through the soil if I wanted to - with no ill effects from over-watering. I water in the winter every 3-4 days. Some plants are almost dry, and others still have enough moisture to go another 2-3 days, but I water anyway because there is no harm. You simply can't do that w/o consequences when using water-retentive soils.

Al



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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

To insert the wick do you have to penetrate the soil several inches? I put a screen into the bottom of the pot to keep the soil from escaping since the pot had large drain holes.

We haven't discussed how you should properly prepare the bottom of the pot.... so I may have an undesirable situation.

It is day 15 since I flush watered the large tree. My skewer has a cool very slight damp feel and the top 1" is dry & fluffy. Since I know there is slight dampness within the pot when would you proceed with the next watering. I know this isn't something you have to contend with but I think some advice might be helpful since I am basically experimenting with this soil and plant.

I can honestly say that watching the soil for the last 2 weeks has been very educating. I had no idea how lousy a job the moisture meter was doing. The skewer is like having a window into the pot.

I know that I have been over watering my houseplants in the past. (With MG soil & m/meter I had a very damp situation for sure.)

Another interesting bit of information is the "old school" thought that you should water on a schedule has no value at all without first having accurate information for the plant and its container environment. (I guess a schedule works for the soil-less mix)

Cindy


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RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

Sorry my last post was re-posted when our power blinked.

Thanks for the pics.

The watering schedules maintained by most growers I know are usually based on their preferred day of the week and not what the plant environment is trying to tell them. They simply compensate by watering light or heavy as long as they stay on schedule. Same for giving or withholding fertilizer. Needless to say they are also experiencing severe plant reaction from time to time.

I have also shared what I am learning about amending the soil and gritty mix. I have been asked if a soil such as Farfard's can be amended enough to reduce the PWT and improve drainage without having to make the gritty mix from scratch. I think having to look for the right ingredients seems daunting to some of the older members of my family who enjoy growing plants and they are looking for a way to improved soil without having to custom blend.

Can you give them some info. on this.

Thanks
Cindy


 o
RE: Help with inside watering for ficus Alii tree

  • Posted by tapla z5b-6a mid-MI (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 3, 12 at 13:03

Yes, it can. Most people think that perlite increases aeration and drainage, but the main purpose it serves is to reduce water retention by taking up space in the soil that would otherwise be occupied by water.

If you mix a high % of coarse perlite into the fraction of soil at the bottom of the pot where the PWT is, the PWT will hold less water. It will still be the same ht, but it will hold less water because of the space taken up by the perlite; therefore, the plant will use the water faster and there will be much less ill-effect. You don't NEED as much perlite in the soil above the max ht of the PWT, because it's never soggy.

There is nothing mean-spirited in what I'm saying now, but think I've given you the information you need to be able to help yourself and the rest of your family deal with any consequences of excess water retention. All you need to do is read back through the information I already provided on this thread, and make sure you're familiar with the information at the links I posted. If there is something that still isn't clear, just ask & I'll answer.

I'd still keep my eyes peeled for a source for appropriate sized pine bark, and invest in that as well as a big bag of coarse hort perlite if I were you.

Best luck in all ....

Al


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