Houseplants forum: I am killing a cardboard palm!

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Apr 2, 2017 8:59 PM CST
I’m totally novice to any type of botany and plants/plant care and I started off with a cardboard palm I saw at home depot. It has been loosing leaves over the past month, They turn brown and fall off and whole branches have browned and fallen off. Really upset that I managed to kill such a hardy plant. I’ll list out all the facts and parameters;

-I was watering once a week, getting most the soil wet but I stopped this week after I learned about root rot.
-It doesn’t get much light but its right in a window that faces east south east.
-Im in michigan
-the room is a bit cold (about 65˚f) for the past few months
-I just replanted it in a much larger pot and put fertilizer in it, a very small amount
-no fertilization or anything like that until now
-I had a good draining pot but it was small. I am going to drill holes in the bottom of this one after I pick up a percussion bit tomorrow
-its pretty dry air in the house

roots appear ok, very stiff to the touch.
Thumb of 2017-04-03/jmtoni/385465
Thumb of 2017-04-03/jmtoni/c51f0c

Here is a before photo. Before the winter months. Very cloudy, not much light, very cold. I bet I’ve been overwatering it too.

Thumb of 2017-04-03/jmtoni/da03c5
Name: Carter Mayer
Houston, TX (Zone 9b)
Tropicals Adeniums Plant Identifier
Apr 3, 2017 7:16 AM CST
It could be ok, just that being pretty much a tropical, under not ideal conditions it is losing older leaves sooner than it would normally; and given that it is winter and in colder temps, it is in a somewhat dormant/very slow growth stage, and therefore not putting out new leaves to replace the old ones dying off. If the roots look ok, then I'd just be careful with watering until it warms up and you start to see growth resume. Plus lower lighting than optimal will cause the plant to carry fewer leaves than normal since it is not receiving enough sunlight to produce enough energy to feed itself.

Rather than water on a specific schedule, try checking the soil before watering. When the soil is dry about an inch or so down, then water (in other words, instead of you telling the plant when it needs water, let the plant tell you when it needs water). You will find that the "schedule" will vary somewhat depending on the season, size of the plant, size of the pot, rate of growth, etc., with it being more frequent in summer and less frequent in winter.

It sounds like you are actually doing ok, just be cautious with watering right now, making sure you aren't letting it get and stay too wet while it is not showing signs of active growth. "Wet feet" are your plant's worst enemy right now.

Apr 3, 2017 7:37 AM CST
Thanks for your expertise again Carter. The sun should return to Michigan in a few more weeks haha and hopefully it will establish itself a bit better in a larger pot. Yeah I’ve been making sure I don’t overwater like you said because I bet I’m at risk for overwatering more than under watering at this time. Maybe I can move it outside for the summer to help it reestablish itself.
Thumb of 2017-04-03/jmtoni/3358ac

Name: Will Creed
Professional indoor plant consultan
Apr 6, 2017 6:16 PM CST
Despite its name, it is not a Palm. It is a Zamia furfuracea and is in the Cycad family. It requires lots of sun indoors and it must be allowed to dry halfway deep into the pot before watering. It is very easy to over water this plant and I suspect that is what has happened with yours. Unfortunately, moving it to a larger pot will simply aggravate the problem because the excess soil will stay moist even longer. It may not need water more than monthly now. Also, this plant often does not produce any new growth for many months at a time and then pushes out new growth in a spurt. Repotting tends to retard the growth even further.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Cat Lover Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Region: California Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all!
Composter Cactus and Succulents Dragonflies Hummingbirder Amaryllis Container Gardener
Apr 19, 2017 12:40 PM CST
I grow my Zamia furfuracea outdoors year round and this last winter has been rather rainy. Typically during the cold winter months, it can go for a long time with no water, its growth slows down. Mother Nature does the watering for me during winter, though as I have said earlier, she has been rather too generous this time. But weather changes a lot and last winter was signifcantly wet and we had an extended cool down, so some of my leaves did go brown and died. But I am not worried, it should bounce back again once the warm and dry weather returns again.

Since you are growing your plant indoors, it really needs less watering all the more since ideal conditions for active growing is not present. Do bring it out once your overnights are above 50F and higher, it really likes being outdoors especially when summer comes around. Position it slowly to full sun to acclimate it. It is such a drought tolerant plant, so try to be cautious when watering indoors. My plant gets to do its active leaf growing during the height of our dry summer July to September, and that is the time when it will need more frequent watering, but still with some intervals, since the roots does not like being soggy.

Here is mine, our weather is improving now, the dry hot days that it likes is coming fast:
Thumb of 2017-04-19/tarev/f5e8e7
Some leaves dead got from that winter cold and rains:
Thumb of 2017-04-19/tarev/fede5a
Some leaf edges got that browning, again from the cold rains
Thumb of 2017-04-19/tarev/4e4b8e

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