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Name: Jared Nicholes
Dietrich, Idaho (Zone 6a)
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jnicholes
Nov 19, 2021 11:13 AM CST
Hi guys,

Today, I was pondering about something that happened with a plant 3 years ago. I would like someone to try and help me solve this mystery.

Here's some backstory.

When I lived in Post Falls, Idaho, we had a Peace Lily. It was a good plant, but it always seemed to struggle. We do not know why.

Then, we moved to Nampa, Idaho in 2017. The plant was still struggling, even though it got adequate light and adequate water.

Then, We were moving again in 2019. We could not bring the plant with us. It was struggling anyway, so we decided to discard it.

This is where the mystery comes in. When we were discarding it, we took the plant out of the pot, and found that deep down inside this very large pot, the soil was VERY hot. Hotter than it was in the house. If I had to guess, it was maybe 100°F. Maybe more.

Here's my question. What caused the soil to get so hot? This has been baffling me and stumping me for years.

My best guess so far is that somehow the dead roots were getting composted on their own, without me knowing about it.

Can someone at least try to help me solve this mystery?

Jared
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Nov 19, 2021 11:19 AM CST
I agree with you. You were unwittingly composting the Peace Lily.
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: Jared Nicholes
Dietrich, Idaho (Zone 6a)
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jnicholes
Nov 19, 2021 11:26 AM CST
Thank you. You just help me solve a mystery that's been in my head for three years. One thing still confuses me, how did the composting process start? I have no idea how it started. There was no organic matter in the potting soil. Makes me wonder how the heck this process of composting started?

This may sound crazy, but maybe the plant discarded some of its roots to actually make a compost for nutrients for itself.

Like I said, that's a crazy idea.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Nov 19, 2021 11:34 AM CST
Something was creating heat. If you got the right bacteria going in an anaerobic situation (created by densely packed overwatered or breaking down soil), that would create heat. Did it smell slightly of sulfur? Or rotting vegetables?
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: Jared Nicholes
Dietrich, Idaho (Zone 6a)
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jnicholes
Nov 19, 2021 11:36 AM CST
DaisyI said:Something was creating heat. If you got the right bacteria going in an anaerobic situation (created by densely packed overwatered or breaking down soil), that would create heat. Did it smell slightly of sulfur? Or rotting vegetables?


I actually don't remember if there was a smell. However, I do remember that the soil was densely packed. So was the root system.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Nov 19, 2021 11:40 AM CST
Soilless soil is usually heavy on peat. With a little more effort, you could have had a peat fire. Hilarious!
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: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Nov 21, 2021 9:15 PM CST
I don't think that's a big enough "pile" to generate heat, and a lot more air would be needed for heat to occur.
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Name: Jared Nicholes
Dietrich, Idaho (Zone 6a)
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jnicholes
Nov 22, 2021 1:36 PM CST
purpleinopp said:I don't think that's a big enough "pile" to generate heat, and a lot more air would be needed for heat to occur.



Regardless, heat did occur. I do not know why. This is truly a mystery.
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Butterflies
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purpleinopp
Nov 22, 2021 1:49 PM CST
It is, I couldn't think of an alternate theory, just that I doubt it was from decomposition on such a small scale and with so little air. It's not the kind of thing that can be decisively solved at this point, but interesting.
Where was the pot at the time? Any chance that the location was the source of heat, like if it was where the sun could shine on it, or on top of a fat old (got hot on the top) TV? Maybe the pot was bigger than my first reaction, and there was more air. If a foul odor wasn't noticed, anaerobic decomposition wasn't occurring but if it did happen to be hot composting, there shouldn't be any foul odors.

I've repotted hundreds of plants and never found any hot roots like you describe.
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☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.
Name: Jared Nicholes
Dietrich, Idaho (Zone 6a)
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jnicholes
Nov 22, 2021 1:52 PM CST
purpleinopp said:It is, I couldn't think of an alternate theory, just that I doubt it was from decomposition on such a small scale and with so little air. It's not the kind of thing that can be decisively solved at this point, but interesting.
Where was the pot at the time? Any chance that the location was the source of heat, like if it was where the sun could shine on it, or on top of a fat old (got hot on the top) TV? Maybe the pot was bigger than my first reaction, and there was more air. If a foul odor wasn't noticed, anaerobic decomposition wasn't occurring but if it did happen to be hot composting, there shouldn't be any foul odors.

I've repotted hundreds of plants and never found any hot roots like you describe.


The pot was by the south facing window. However, the heat in the pot was hotter than the heat in the house. MUCH hotter.

And yes, this was a BIG Peace Lily. Big pot.

And for the record, it was not the roots that were hot, it was the soil.
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Nov 22, 2021 2:31 PM CST
South facing windows can get pretty toasty. Just wondering, what color was the pot and what was it made of? And how close to the window was the pot?
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Jared Nicholes
Dietrich, Idaho (Zone 6a)
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jnicholes
Nov 22, 2021 2:33 PM CST
woofie said:South facing windows can get pretty toasty. Just wondering, what color was the pot and what was it made of? And how close to the window was the pot?


Pot was gray color, made of plastic. I'd say it was about 1.5 feet from the window.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Nov 22, 2021 3:08 PM CST
I still think, under the right conditions, a pot of soil could generate its own heat.
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: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
The WITWIT Badge I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Container Gardener Seed Starter
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woofie
Nov 22, 2021 3:11 PM CST
Oh, and you didn't mention what time of year this was. I have south-facing, double pane French doors here and I use the heat from them to warm my hands. (It's currently 35 deg. outside) I stuck a thermometer about 1-1/2 ft away from them. Right now, that thermometer is showing 83 degrees. The room temperature is 71.
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Nov 22, 2021 3:54 PM CST
jnicholes said:
When we were discarding it, we took the plant out of the pot, and found that deep down inside this very large pot, the soil was VERY hot. Hotter than it was in the house. If I had to guess, it was maybe 100°F. Maybe more.


Not warm all the way through, hot in the middle of a very large pot. If a warm window was the cause, the soil would be cooler in the center, not warmer.
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: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
The WITWIT Badge I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Container Gardener Seed Starter
Image
woofie
Nov 22, 2021 4:04 PM CST
DaisyI said:

Not warm all the way through, hot in the middle of a very large pot. If a warm window was the cause, the soil would be cooler in the center, not warmer.


Very true. However, if the pot had been moved from that warm (hot?) window area for some time before emptying the pot, the outer soil would have had a chance to cool faster than the inner area. Not trying to be argumentative, just trying to think of scenarios that would account for that hot inner soil.
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Nov 22, 2021 4:10 PM CST
purpleinopp said:I don't think that's a big enough "pile" to generate heat, and a lot more air would be needed for heat to occur.


The heat starts with lack of air. The kaboom would be the introduction of air. Hilarious!
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: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Butterflies
Garden Sages Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Garden Ideas: Level 1 Hummingbirder Foliage Fan
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purpleinopp
Nov 23, 2021 9:29 AM CST
That's not what I've read, or what I've experienced. Air is required to generate heat. Anaerobic composting is often referred to as and used interchangeably as terms with "cold composting".
👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The 2nd best time is now.
👒🎄👣🏡🍃🍂🌾🌿🍁❦❧ 🍃🍁🍂🌾🌻🌸🌼🌹🌽❀☀🌺
☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.
Name: Rick R.
Minneapolis, MN, USA zone 4
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Leftwood
Nov 24, 2021 3:34 PM CST
I note that no one here has said aerobic composting does not produce heat, but you seem to imply anaerobic activity is hotter, Daisy. I've never heard this before, either. What can you tell us that breaks the status quo?
When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the losers. - Socrates
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Nov 24, 2021 4:04 PM CST
Leftwood said:I note that no one here has said aerobic composting does not produce heat, but you seem to imply anaerobic activity is hotter, Daisy. I've never heard this before, either. What can you tell us that breaks the status quo?


Nope, didn't say that. I don't know what you read to give you that idea.

I did say anaerobic decomposition will produce heat. I did not say it would produce more heat than aerobic decomposition. I did ask if Jared smelled anything as that would be part of purtrification. He couldn't remember. I did joke if he exposed his peat based, too wet, solidly packed potting soil to air, it could explode. That was a joke. I'm from farm country and exploding hay bales were not unheard of. Also exploding cow carcasses. Hilarious!

We don't really know why Jared's potting soil was too warm in the center but, given that the soil was old, soiless, packed and wet, anaerobic decomposition was my first thought. It produces a small amount of heat but nothing like aerobic decomposition. But also produces a smell because the decomposition is prodcing methane.
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

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