The Q&A Archives: Care of Murraya Paniculata

Question: Dear NGA expert,

I wrote to you back in August about advice on what is the best way to transfer my Murraya Paniculata from outdoor to indoor with the least amount of stress on the plant, and just general care and fertilizing help. I appreciate your prompt reply and the advice you gave.
I will give you a rundown on how the plant has been growing. I live in Toronto, Canada and since the end of September I brought the plant in gradually acclamating it to an indoors. The plant was flowering and giving new leaf growth since the time I bought it in June. Since bringing it indoors It didn't flower as much but the leaf growth continued. Some of the leaves had holes in them or it looked like it had a cut on one side. What is the reason for this? I thought sume bugs were eating it but there is no visible sign of any bug infestation.
At the moment there are no new leaf sprouts, the existing ones are growing. I have been fertilizing them every 2 weeks till the end of October, and once end of November and I will once more the end of December and then as you said when activity stops to stop fertilizing until Spring. Should I keep this schedule?

Lately I've been noticing misty droplets of a sticky substance on the leaves, it feels like sugar sticking . It's on some but not all the leaves , I noticed the floor was sticky too. What does this mean? Is this a problem or is it normal at this time of year for this plant? I also have 2 knobs that look like the pitt of an olive that were green for a long time and now they are turning red. What is this? Is this the seed of the plant> Should I leave it on or take it off? What to do?

The temperature in the house is 22 degrees, the plant is infront of a window with South exposure, the shades are on a slant at all times so it gets some sun if we are lucky that day on angle for a little while otherwise it is mostly filtered light. The leaves look healthy and green , though the plant looses about 15-20 leaves a week. This week it seems to be a little bit more, I hope this is not the beginning of a trend. I mist the plant every other day if I remember and it seems to like it. What is considered a normal drop of leaves for a week?.

I asked a lot of questions I know but I love this plant and don't want to loose it. I will recap and number them for you to make it easier to remember what I asked.Here's a recap.

1- Why do some of the new growth have holes in them , or look like they have
cuts on a slant? Is this normal?

2- Should I stop fertiliizing come January which is supposed to be a dormant
time for the plant, and start again in Spring? Or what?

3- What is the meaning of the sticky film that is on some of the plant leaves?

4-What are those 2 red olive pit looking things , and what should I do with
them, leave them on or off?

5- How many leaves a week is considered a normal drop for a week? Too much water or not enough water is the reason for leaf loss?

I would greatly appreciate if you could answer these questions for me, or give me any other tips which you might think will be helpful.

Advanced Thanks

Vivian B.

Answer: This plant is an evergreen and under ideal conditions would not be losing any foliage. When moved indoors many plants will drop a few leaves as they adjust to their new growing location, but this is excessive.

Based on your description, I suspect it needs a much brighter location where it can receive full sun during the winter. It has reacted to the lower light by ceasing to bloom. Since it has slowed its growth, you should stop fertilizing. I would not fertilize it from October first through mid March due to the seasonally shorter days.

Overwatering and underwatering can both cause leaf drop. If the leaves are yellowing and falling off mostly from the bottom of the plant, then you are overwatering. If the leaf loss tends to be more from the top or outer branch tips, then you may be underwatering. To know if you need to water, check the soil with your finger. It should be slightly damp like a wrung out sponge when you dig into it, not sopping wet and not dried out. Always empty the drainage saucer after watering so the pot is not left sitting in water.

If your indoor air is very dry, it would also benefit from being placed on a pebble tray. This is a shallow tray filled with pebbles and water added to almost cover the stones. Set the plant container on the pebbles. The water should not be high enough to touch the bottom of the pot. The evaporation of the water humidifies the immediate area much more effectively than misting.

Protect the plant from drafts, both hot or cold. This plant will do well enough in a cool room during the winter, with temperatures between 50 and 70 degrees. A cooler room is better if light conditions are especially low or if your indoor air tends to be especially dry.

The round things are fruits with seeds inside. Since this is a container plant, I would remove them to help conserve the plant's energy. Routine deadheading or prompt removal of faded flowers will prevent fruit formation.

The stickiness might be caused by aphids (soft bodied sucking insects typically found on the newest tender growth) or by scale insects (typically found as round, nearly flattened discs on the stems and/or foliage.) Aphids can be washed off with a spray of water or treated with insecticidal soap; scale can be removed by hand or treated with a light weight horticultural oil. Another possibility is spider mites which could also cause yellowing and leaf drop. These can be rinsed off weekly with plain water, or treated with insecticidal soap. Raising the humidity and lowering the ambient temperature also helps slow spider mites. Please be sure to carefully read and follow all of the label directions. I would also suggest a test spray on a few leaves then waiting several days to make sure there is no adverse reaction to the spray.

Based on your description I am not certain what the holes or cuts in the foliage are caused by. It is possible there was a caterpillar or worm damage before the foliage unfolded from the bud stage, or perhaps there was some sort of caterpillar or leafcutter insect or even weevil activity at some point while it was outside. If you do not see pests active on the plant now, the damage should stop. If new damage continues, it is possible there is a problem with some sort of nocturnally active pest such as a weevil or snail type of pest. You would need to check the plant at night to try to determine that and identify the pest with certainty.

I hope this helps.

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