Ask a Question forum→Soil staying moist too long?

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Name: Demi Elder
Brooklyn, NY
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DemiArianna
Jun 4, 2020 9:06 PM CST
Bare with me, folks. I've been posting a lot because I got a lot of new plants at once.

So I got a small Calathea and a small Elephant's Ear, I repotted them both into slightly larger pots, which I thought was called for, since their roots were all cramped up around the sides and bottoms. I'm starting to think that I packed too much new soil in with the old root ball, though? I watered them right after repotting and that was Sunday. They are both still moist to the touch on the soil surface as of Thursday night. My other older plants all drain out quicker than this? The same goes for a larger Croton I bought and repotted on Sunday, still moist on Thursday. Do some plants just drink slower or is this an issue?

Also, I typically have read "water until water comes out of the bottom" and with these that didn't even happen, they weren't watered to the point of leaking as far as I can recall. They each have one hole in the bottom and rocks at the bottom as well. So I don't think I drowned them.

Thanks in advance!
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[Last edited by DemiArianna - Jun 4, 2020 9:08 PM (+)]
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Bryan, TX
WAMcCormick
Jun 4, 2020 9:28 PM CST
Does the soil you used have a high clay content? If it does, it can hold water like a jug.

Is the new soil the only part that is staying wet? If the original soil filled with roots is dry while the new soil is wet, then the composition of the new soil is not close enough to the composition of the soil in the root ball and may need to be redone to match better. If the root ball is dry, the moisture in the new soil is not moving to the roots, and the roots need water. Is that muddy enough?
If it takes a long time to grow, remember that if nobody plants it, nobody has it.
Name: Demi Elder
Brooklyn, NY
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DemiArianna
Jun 5, 2020 12:39 AM CST
WAMcCormick said:Does the soil you used have a high clay content? If it does, it can hold water like a jug.

Is the new soil the only part that is staying wet? If the original soil filled with roots is dry while the new soil is wet, then the composition of the new soil is not close enough to the composition of the soil in the root ball and may need to be redone to match better. If the root ball is dry, the moisture in the new soil is not moving to the roots, and the roots need water. Is that muddy enough?


Hmmm, no I don't think it does. I used Hoffman "Purely Organic" Potting Soil. I've misplaces the bag but I don't think it has a high clay content.

Just dug my finger deep into the Elephant Ear's pot and the whole thing seems to be pretty moist all the way through. :/
Name: Rick R.
Minneapolis, MN, USA zone 4
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Leftwood
Jun 5, 2020 1:19 AM CST
Do you have other plants planted in that same soil that dry out in just 4 days? I don't see a problem. Your new plants are getting double shocked - once by the transition from the store/greenhouse where you bought it to your home and once by transplanting. As far as the plants are concerned right now, they should just be sitting there, recuperating. They won't be using much water yet.
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Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Jun 5, 2020 5:29 AM CST
I believe I replied to your Monstera post before. I've kind of specialized for the past over 35 years in growing tropical plants, mostly aroids, of which your Monstera and your 'elephant ear' (which is an Alocasia 'Poly') are a part of that group, aroids.

Many aroids are epiphytes (like your Monstera). Some are terrestrial (like your Alocasia).

But the one thing that they all have in common is that if you are trying to grow them as houseplants in pots, they need a very fast draining potting substrate.

Most plain bagged potting mixes, even Hoffmans Purely Organic, are too heavy.

They do NOT like a lot of PEAT which is one of the main ingredients in most bagged mixes. Peat holds water too long for them.

The best potting mixes for aroids are based on a scientifically researched formula developed by the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. This mix is, in fact, bagged and sold by terrarium supply companies, it is called 'ABG'. No surprise there.

But you can make your own for a lot less than they charge for a small bag.

The basic mix, as I believe I mentioned in your Monstera thread, is this:

One equal part each for epiphytes:
Perlite
Fir bark (Orchid bark)
Chopped coconut husk
horticultural charcoal ( many people omit this however)
ground coconut coir (sold in pet stores as Eco Earth)
optional for lithophytes (aroids that grow on stone)--Aliflor, LECA

For terrestrials (like your alocasia)
add to the above mix and equal part of your bagged potting mix

This is a porous fast draining mix that allows the roots of your plant to uptake only the water it needs and allows the rest to quickly drain away. This helps prevent overwatering, makes air pockets that allow roots to branch more freely, and generally makes plants extremely happy.

The only peat contained in this mix is what may be in your potting mix. Do NOT use sand, it compacts and can cause water logged soil.

I don't grow my plants in the house, but I use this mix anyway, because the plants thrive in it. It can rain on them everyday and they won;t be overwatered.

If you plan to keep a lot of aroids as houseplants, it would be in your best interest to invest in the components of this mixture and utilize it. Other tropical plants also like it.

Also make certain that your plants are in containers that have a LOT of drainage holes cut in the bottom. A plain black nursery container is the best thing to use. You can then set that container inside a decorative ceramic (which should ALSO have drainage holes) and use a saucer underneath.
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
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WillC
Jun 5, 2020 8:29 AM CST
What you described as "cramped" roots is what I call appropriately or moderately potbound. You can save yourself a lot of problems if you resist the temptation to move your new plants into larger pots or by changing the soil.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
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Name: Demi Elder
Brooklyn, NY
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DemiArianna
Jun 5, 2020 8:39 AM CST
Gina1960 said:I believe I replied to your Monstera post before. I've kind of specialized for the past over 35 years in growing tropical plants, mostly aroids, of which your Monstera and your 'elephant ear' (which is an Alocasia 'Poly') are a part of that group, aroids.

Many aroids are epiphytes (like your Monstera). Some are terrestrial (like your Alocasia).

But the one thing that they all have in common is that if you are trying to grow them as houseplants in pots, they need a very fast draining potting substrate.

Most plain bagged potting mixes, even Hoffmans Purely Organic, are too heavy.

They do NOT like a lot of PEAT which is one of the main ingredients in most bagged mixes. Peat holds water too long for them.

The best potting mixes for aroids are based on a scientifically researched formula developed by the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. This mix is, in fact, bagged and sold by terrarium supply companies, it is called 'ABG'. No surprise there.

But you can make your own for a lot less than they charge for a small bag.

The basic mix, as I believe I mentioned in your Monstera thread, is this:

One equal part each for epiphytes:
Perlite
Fir bark (Orchid bark)
Chopped coconut husk
horticultural charcoal ( many people omit this however)
ground coconut coir (sold in pet stores as Eco Earth)
optional for lithophytes (aroids that grow on stone)--Aliflor, LECA

For terrestrials (like your alocasia)
add to the above mix and equal part of your bagged potting mix

This is a porous fast draining mix that allows the roots of your plant to uptake only the water it needs and allows the rest to quickly drain away. This helps prevent overwatering, makes air pockets that allow roots to branch more freely, and generally makes plants extremely happy.

The only peat contained in this mix is what may be in your potting mix. Do NOT use sand, it compacts and can cause water logged soil.

I don't grow my plants in the house, but I use this mix anyway, because the plants thrive in it. It can rain on them everyday and they won;t be overwatered.

If you plan to keep a lot of aroids as houseplants, it would be in your best interest to invest in the components of this mixture and utilize it. Other tropical plants also like it.

Also make certain that your plants are in containers that have a LOT of drainage holes cut in the bottom. A plain black nursery container is the best thing to use. You can then set that container inside a decorative ceramic (which should ALSO have drainage holes) and use a saucer underneath.


Super informative!

In this case where I've already repotted, would you recommend some sort of re-repotting with this mixture? And if so how would one carry that out? Is it possible to remove some of the soil I repotted with or is that a crazy idea?

Name: Demi Elder
Brooklyn, NY
Image
DemiArianna
Jun 5, 2020 8:40 AM CST
WillC said:What you described as "cramped" roots is what I call appropriately or moderately potbound. You can save yourself a lot of problems if you resist the temptation to move your new plants into larger pots or by changing the soil.


I've gotta learn to let them be in their original plastic pots Sighing!

Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Jun 5, 2020 8:43 AM CST
Since you are already done the deed, I would wait until you need to repot again. But be careful NOT to overwater your Poly. They do not like wet feet
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Name: Demi Elder
Brooklyn, NY
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DemiArianna
Jun 5, 2020 8:50 AM CST
Gina1960 said:Since you are already done the deed, I would wait until you need to repot again. But be careful NOT to overwater your Poly. They do not like wet feet


Alrighty thanks for the speedy reply! I will monitor my watering HEAVILY, and I'm going to the nursery today so I will definitely pick up ABG or its components. Hope they turn out okay in the long run.

I also need to learn how to actually tell when they need to be repotted.
[Last edited by DemiArianna - Jun 5, 2020 8:51 AM (+)]
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Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
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Gina1960
Jun 5, 2020 8:53 AM CST
You probably will not find actual ABG at your local nursery. It is sold online mainly, by terrarium supply stores like Josh's Frogs and the like.
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Jun 5, 2020 10:26 AM CST
Hmmm... I'm worried about the rocks on the bottom. The chances are the soil is not draining because of that layer of rocks. When unlike materials are layered in a container, it forms something called a perched water table. The bottoms of pots already form the first PWT but, adding a layer of rocks adds a second. Every layer the water goes through slows the flow so, the top layer (potting soil) is too wet too long. What I am describing could be death for an Epiphyte.

You will have to get Gina1960's advice on were to go from here. She is the Aroid expert, not any of the rest of us who have answered your questions.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Demi Elder
Brooklyn, NY
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DemiArianna
Jun 5, 2020 3:51 PM CST
Gina1960 said:You probably will not find actual ABG at your local nursery. It is sold online mainly, by terrarium supply stores like Josh's Frogs and the like.


Oh wow! good to know! will start virtually searching.
Name: Demi Elder
Brooklyn, NY
Image
DemiArianna
Jun 5, 2020 3:59 PM CST
DaisyI said:Hmmm... I'm worried about the rocks on the bottom. The chances are the soil is not draining because of that layer of rocks. When unlike materials are layered in a container, it forms something called a perched water table. The bottoms of pots already form the first PWT but, adding a layer of rocks adds a second. Every layer the water goes through slows the flow so, the top layer (potting soil) is too wet too long. What I am describing could be death for an Epiphyte.

You will have to get Gina1960's advice on were to go from here. She is the Aroid expert, not any of the rest of us who have answered your questions.


Aww sheesh, it sucks when I find out advice I've gotten about plants turns out to be the wrong advice!

I've got a few things to think about--the rocks at the bottom of the pots, the ABG I should acquire, the scary fact that there is mold starting to form on my Croton's top soil (from coconut coir being used in the repotting, I'm afraid), and also what might be some mold on this over moistened Elephant Ear.

Gina1960 essentially said that in terms of this soggy plant, what is done is done and just to try to be careful not to overwater going forward but given all of this I'm severely tempted to take the Elephant's Ear, my also-too-damp Calathea, and my Croton out of their pots soonish, and remove some of their new soils to replace that space with ABG. And to take the pebbles out.

I KNEW I was setting myself up for a learning curve acquiring all of these new plants but I figured there was no better time than while quarantining and stuck at home anyway. Things I learn from mistakes stick betta than anything else. But phew.
Name: Gina
Florida (Zone 9a)
Tropical plant collector 35 years
Region: Florida Tropicals Aroids
Image
Gina1960
Jun 5, 2020 4:26 PM CST
Well, I repot at any time that I think I should. If my plant is IN a pot LOL many are not. I don't adhere to any rules about repotting being 'bad' for my plants, because frankly, nothing adverse has ever happened to a plant that I repotted. You just have to be careful of the root system. Don't wash the roots off. Don't try to remove all the old potting substrate. Just fill your new container 1/3 or so with the new mix, unapt your plant gently, let what is going to fall off fall off, maybe give it a gentle shake to help that happen, set it into the new pot and fill in with substrate.

Just make sure your container isn't too large for the root system.

You don;t have to buy already made ABG. All you need is a bag of perlite, a bag of orchid bark, a bag of horticultural charcoal (if you want to use it...I myself do) and some chopped coconut husk (which you can omit if you can;t find it but most pet stores have it, it comes in a 'brick' and you break it off and hydrate it. All the other stuff you can get at Home Depot or Lowes.
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Name: Demi Elder
Brooklyn, NY
Image
DemiArianna
Jun 5, 2020 6:44 PM CST
Gina1960 said:Well, I repot at any time that I think I should. If my plant is IN a pot LOL many are not. I don't adhere to any rules about repotting being 'bad' for my plants, because frankly, nothing adverse has ever happened to a plant that I repotted. You just have to be careful of the root system. Don't wash the roots off. Don't try to remove all the old potting substrate. Just fill your new container 1/3 or so with the new mix, unapt your plant gently, let what is going to fall off fall off, maybe give it a gentle shake to help that happen, set it into the new pot and fill in with substrate.

Just make sure your container isn't too large for the root system.

You don;t have to buy already made ABG. All you need is a bag of perlite, a bag of orchid bark, a bag of horticultural charcoal (if you want to use it...I myself do) and some chopped coconut husk (which you can omit if you can;t find it but most pet stores have it, it comes in a 'brick' and you break it off and hydrate it. All the other stuff you can get at Home Depot or Lowes.


All noted! Doesn't sound impossible, I'll search for eat of these things at the nursery first. Thanks again for all of your advice!
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
Image
DaisyI
Jun 5, 2020 6:53 PM CST
I just got some coir (coconut fiber) for my worms at Chewy. Its called Zoo Med eco-earth.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

President: Orchid Society of Northern Nevada
Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: Demi Elder
Brooklyn, NY
Image
DemiArianna
Jun 7, 2020 3:44 PM CST
Gina1960 said:Well, I repot at any time that I think I should. If my plant is IN a pot LOL many are not. I don't adhere to any rules about repotting being 'bad' for my plants, because frankly, nothing adverse has ever happened to a plant that I repotted. You just have to be careful of the root system. Don't wash the roots off. Don't try to remove all the old potting substrate. Just fill your new container 1/3 or so with the new mix, unapt your plant gently, let what is going to fall off fall off, maybe give it a gentle shake to help that happen, set it into the new pot and fill in with substrate.

Just make sure your container isn't too large for the root system.

You don;t have to buy already made ABG. All you need is a bag of perlite, a bag of orchid bark, a bag of horticultural charcoal (if you want to use it...I myself do) and some chopped coconut husk (which you can omit if you can;t find it but most pet stores have it, it comes in a 'brick' and you break it off and hydrate it. All the other stuff you can get at Home Depot or Lowes.


All noted! Doesn't sound impossible, I'll search for eat of these things at the nursery first. Thanks again for all of your advice!

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