All Things Gardening forum: Whatcha Callit plant looking sad.

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Name: Greg
Lake Forest Park, Washington (Zone 8b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
Jun 23, 2016 10:43 AM CST
My wife forgot what this plant is called. I'm worried about it's health, the leaves are turning a yellow/brown and spotty. My gut feeling is that it's outgrown the small pot it's in. It's in an exposed area where it gets plenty of water from rain. My wife rather likes it in that location, but is open to moving it out of the pot if need be.

Thumb of 2016-06-23/Brinybay/15beee

[Last edited by Brinybay - Jun 23, 2016 10:09 PM (+)]
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Name: Carol Roberts
Huntington Beach, CA (Zone 10b)
Sunset 24
Container Gardener Foliage Fan Annuals Dog Lover
Jun 23, 2016 3:14 PM CST
Phormium? Hard to tell whether the center stripe is supposed to be yellow or white, but you could try the plant database. I would transfer an image from the PD but I don't know how. Hopefully someone is going to show up soon and solve everything. Good luck.
Can't complain too loud about how the ball bounces when I'm the one who dropped it.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
Frugal Gardener Garden Procrastinator I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest
Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database.
Aug 3, 2016 6:35 PM CST
Hi Greg.

I see a pot, and you said "plenty of water from rain".

I hope the pot has big holes that aren't blocked by sitting on anything impermeable, or that open into a saucer, like some store-bought plants-in-pots.

I see every garden problem as "probably caused by poor drainage", so feel free to ignore this. But re-potting it might solve the problem even if it is NOT root-bound. It may be periodically root-drowning if the pot doesn't drain really fast after every rain.

1. You might just tip the pot sideways and try to lift the rootball enough to get a glance at it.

If all you see are roots tangled over and under more roots, trying to find ANY little scrap of soil to call their own, it may be pot-bound and needs to be potted-up and/or root-pruned.

If you see only few roots, skinny and short and slimy at the tips, in rather wet soil and no visible air gaps, the roots are probably drowning a little every time it rains. Discard the fine potting soil and repot into a much better-draining mix.

2. If you are reluctant to rip your wife's plant out of its pot and automatically become responsible for anything bad that happens subsequently, maybe just set the pot up on something porous or rough so that water can come out of the holes freely.

Set some wicking, water-absorbant fabric under the holes so that they press against he soil in the bottom of the pot (like an old towel or tee shirt or several cotton socks). Pressing against the soil is key. That "connects" the toweling to the soil, creating a continuous capillary run from the top of pot to the bottom, THROUGH the holes and INTO the toweling.

Now drape one end of the toweling DOWN so it dangles BELOW the bottom of the pot. Now you have a wick that will PULL water out of the pot, using gravity PLUS capillarity to keep that pot draining.

Maybe even protect it from heavy rain.

If it perks right up, it was probably the water-logged fine potting mix drowning the roots. You'll still have to re-pot it to get rid of the fine potting mix, but now it won't be "YOUR crazy experiment that killed MY plant". If your wife is convinced that it MUST be re-potted, it wouldn't be YOUR fault if you offered o help her out with HER project of re-potting HER plant, would it be?

But hey. I see EVERY problem as "probably bad drainage", so take it with a grain of salt.

{Edited to add:

I forgot to say: first, just pick up the pot in your hands. Does it seem almost as heavy as it would be if that pot were filled with water? If it seems that heavy, the soil probably is saturated with water, and the roots are trying to survive even though they are being held underwater for hours or days at a time, after rains.


[Last edited by RickCorey - Aug 4, 2016 7:42 PM (+)]
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Name: Greg
Lake Forest Park, Washington (Zone 8b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
May 14, 2017 11:54 AM CST
I'm going to re-pot it today for the time being. Here's a closer picture of the plants stems or "trunk", it looks kinda like a palm tree. I looked up Phormium, but still couldn't quite tell. I'm certain it will do well in a new pot, I just need to know exactly what it is and how much sun it needs.

Thumb of 2017-05-14/Brinybay/6757d2

Name: Greg
Lake Forest Park, Washington (Zone 8b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1
May 14, 2017 6:49 PM CST
Done. Wife isn't that fussy over the outdoor plants, that's pretty much my bailiwick, although we do consult at times. She suggested tossing the Watcha Callit, I was reluctant. Anyway, see this post:

The thread "Getting back into digging in dirt." in Pacific Northwest Gardening forum

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