Houseplants forum→Leaf damage to natal mahogany

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Redfly
Jun 15, 2021 11:37 AM CST
Please help diagnose and possible solution. The leaf turns lighter color before becoming crispy brown and falls off. It occurs mostly at the tips and edges but can happen in the center if the leaf too as seen the the picture. The plant is in a self watering container but I am watering from top down until it gets more established. I once forgot to water it a few weeks ago and all the new buds died but fortunately the established leaves have only curled. Is this a result from that dry spell? And is the plant still not getting enough water? Any insight is appreciated!
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Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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plantladylin
Jun 16, 2021 8:08 AM CST
Hi Redfly, Welcome!

I've never known anyone to grow a Forest Natal-Mahogany (Trichilia dregeana) tree as a house plant so I can't offer much advise. Do you by chance have a pet that may have chewed on those leaves? To me, it appears like they've been chewed by either a pest (possibly a caterpillar) or an animal. I also wonder if the self-watering pot, combined with top watering may be an issue. Shrug!

Additional photos showing the entire plant and it's container may be helpful for others to offer advise and suggestions as to what the issue may be.
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Redfly
Jun 18, 2021 9:18 AM CST
Hi Lin,

It does seem like a hungry caterpillar has taken several healthy bites but I've found no pests except for fungus gnats which are being treated with yellow sticky and BTI-infused water for the soil. As the tips and edges of the leaves lose their colors, they desiccate and fall off. See photo below.

The plant is in a Lechuza container. Lechuza actually recommends watering top down the first 3 mos until the roots establish. I am careful not to exceed the max level of the water gauge when watering.
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Name: Omie
New York state (Zone 5b)
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Omie
Jun 18, 2021 9:53 AM CST
Is it anywhere near a window- what is its light source?
Have you had it for a long time, and is this the same pot you bought it in?
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jun 18, 2021 12:38 PM CST
I suspect the leaf symptoms that you are concerned about were caused by the dehydration episode. The rest of the plant appears to be fine. How long has it been in the Lechuza and are you still watering the soil or just filling the reservoir now?
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
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Redfly
Jun 24, 2021 11:43 AM CST
I bought the plant about a couple of weeks before I up-pot it into the Lechuza planter and back fill it with pumice cut with 20% clay (the Special Kitty fragrance free natural clay non clumping kitty litter). The Lechuza pot is only a size larger than the nursery pot. The planter is in the foyer which has large SE facing cathedral size windows above the front door. The plant doesn't face the windows because it is next to the door but it still gets plenty of light.

The plant has been in the Lechuza planter for about 4 weeks and I am still watering from the top. After that one dry episode, I check the top frequently. If it feels dry to touch I water it even if the reservoir is not yet empty.

Initially, when I bought the plant, it had multiple trees grouped together. The youngest tree- less than a foot tall with a root ball barely the size of a golf ball- fell away and I repotted it in a purely pumice and clay mixture. This one too is in a diy self watering pot and is thriving without problems.
Name: Omie
New York state (Zone 5b)
Beekeeper Cat Lover
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Omie
Jun 24, 2021 1:00 PM CST
You mean the whole plant is potted in pumice mixed with 20% clay kitty litter?

Redfly
Jun 24, 2021 4:51 PM CST
The original plant (which initially has 6 trees grouped together) was up potted with its original soil and then back filled with pumice and kitty litter clay. One of 6 trees fell away from the group and I repotted that one in pure pumice and kitty litter mixture - this little guy has no leaf damage. Most of my indoor and outdoor container plants are in this mixture or pumice cut with vermiculite mixture (ficus, scindapsus, cavendish banana, succulents, bird of paradise, sweet olive, camellia, dracaenia, to name a few) and none have had leaf damage and are all thriving.

The leaf damage is not extensive… yet. It desiccates slowly and in sections (hence the bite-like look). I have been hoping it would stop with careful watering but it has not.
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jun 25, 2021 10:21 AM CST
Lechuzas are tricky to set up properly. Did you use the substrate that came with the planter?
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

Redfly
Jun 25, 2021 1:55 PM CST
I did use its substrate as the bottom layer. A few of my larger plants are in the Lechuza planters both indoor and outdoor and they seem pretty happy.
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Prof. plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jun 26, 2021 7:17 AM CST
If you have set it up properly and have been top watering for a month, you should be able to now cease top waterig and rely on the reservoir and indicator to take care of the watering.

Did you remove and replace the original soil? I am a bit confused by your use of kitty litter and pumice. Can you post a photo of your Fabian, including its pot?

Also, how far is it from the nearest window? A photo that shows its location relative to the window would also be helpful.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

Redfly
Jun 27, 2021 9:21 AM CST
My use of pumice and kitty litter is heavily influenced by a group that calls itself the Swedish Plantguys. Their recommendations are grounded and usually accompanied by a (sometimes extensive) science lesson. I try to link their piece from YouTube on pumice but because I'm a new member to this forum, I can't.

For my personal use, it was between this pumice mix and Al's gritty mix (pine bark fines, Turface, gran-I-grit). The basis for these mixes are similar (ability to provide good drainage and aeration while retaining moisture) and I just find it easier to source pumice as opposed to Al's ingredients. When added to pumice, vermiculite or clay (sourced here as kitty litter because it's cheap and readily available) serves to bind fertilizer and release it to the root.

As for the plant, I didn't remove or replace any of the original soil. I just up-pot the entire thing and then fill in the rest with pumice and kitty litter.

The plant is next to the front door that faces southeast, more towards south than east. Above the door is also a large 4'x6' window, maybe even bigger. Although it is not in front of the window, the plant still gets plenty of indirect light.

I'll start watering from the reservoir now and see if it improves.

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