Houseplants forum: Taking care of a plant for a friend

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Apr 4, 2017 9:01 AM CST
Yesterday, I received this plant to take care of for a friend who is traveling for a few months. The plant apparently has some emotional significance to my friend's mother, who asked him to care for it for her when she moved out of state. I'm not really apprised of all the details as to why it is special.

I'm no expert, but this poor guy looks to be in pretty poor shape, and I don't have much experience with caring for potted plants. I'm not sure what it is - maybe an Arrowhead Vine? My friend wasn't sure, and I don't have his mother's contact info.

Can I save this plant? If so, do you have any advice as to how I can help it blossom? Do I need to cut the dead bits? What is the best way to do that?

As of now, I've watered it, and I attached the main bit to a straw to get it upright a bit so that it can get more light - not sure if that is helpful.

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Name: Lin
Florida Zone 9b, 10a

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Apr 4, 2017 9:34 AM CST
Hi madcal33, Welcome!

Yes, the plant is indeed Arrowhead Plant (Syngonium podophyllum) which requires bright light (partial to dappled shade) but no direct sun, which will scorch the leaves.

I'm not sure what the problem is with the plant in your care but it might be due to the size of the container or perhaps improper soil drainage. Water thoroughly, letting the water completely run through the container but don't let water remain in the tray which can cause too much water to accumulate around the plants roots, causing rot. Good air circulation is important also.

The leaning habit is nothing of concern. It may just be leaning and growing towards brighter light. In nature, Syngonium will trail along the ground and once it reaches a tree trunk, it will begin to climb up into the canopy.

Hopefully others will be along with advice and suggestions very soon.
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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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Apr 4, 2017 10:01 AM CST
I would give it a few more days, it may just be acclimating to your location. Plants do pout a bit when moved to a new location. Did your friend tell you if the plant was newly repotted? Repotting and change in location stresses the plant, but it should gradually acclimate, just don't be tempted to overwater and as long as that container has drainage holes it should be fine. Give it time to adjust.

You can stick bamboo skewer into the soil and if it comes out still wet, delay watering. Or you can put a big stone on the container, if you lift the stone and soil under it still looks wet, delay watering. Or lift the container before you water to get a feel of the weight before watering. Once watered it becomes heavier, so you can also use that to gauge if media is still wet.

It takes awhile for media to dry out a bit indoors and grown in glazed containers, so you have to be careful with overwatering. No fertilizers either at this point, let the plant adjust first. Also when you do water, do it early in the day, not at night.

I see hope for that plant..just a little patience and care in watering for now.

Name: Alyssa Blue
Ohio (Zone 5b)
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Apr 4, 2017 10:26 AM CST
I can see it holds a special meaning because of the angel and hummingbird. I think it's very sweet, and yet can be very difficult when sentimental emotion is tied to a plant, because if something happens to it, it's such a big let down. So here's what I think:

I think it's the pot and the soil. It looks like it's poor draining soil, and the pot is ceramic so it does not drain as well as plastic or non glazed terra cotta.

I would start by cutting off the couple of dilapidated stems that are lying on the soil, then move it to a west window if you can. Watch it to make sure it doesn't get direct sun beating on the leaves though.

Most important part- Did the person tell you it was ok to re-pot or do whatever you needed to do???

If so....then if it were me and I had the go ahead, I would lift it out of the pot and see what's up with the roots. Then I would change the soil for something well draining, not Miracle Gro, because there's a lot of peat in the potting mix. If the pot is actually too big, I would consider moving it to a smaller plastic pot and setting the plastic pot inside the ceramic pot so it looks like the same setup.

If they didn't tell you it's ok.... then just trim it, water it, and give it better lighting and see what it does.

Either way, if it doesn't make it in the end, I would take a photo of the plant at that point, then buy a new arrowhead plant (they should carry them at Lowe's, etc) that would fit that size ceramic pot. Place the new plant in the ceramic pot with better soil, and tell them you felt bad the original one didn't make it, but here is a new plant in the old pot. And tell them, "I replaced it because you're a friend and I care." Smiling

Apr 4, 2017 1:10 PM CST
Thanks for all of the suggestions and tips! I will go to a Home Depot or Lowe's garden center this weekend and see what I can do regarding the soil. I didn't get permission to repot, and I would be willing to bet that the blue pot has some significance, so I won't gamble on repotting it.

I have it in my office for now - the window faces southwest-ish. It gets sun in the late-afternoon/evening, so I will be sure to tip the blinds before I leave the office and reopen them when I come in so that it is getting plenty of indirect sunlight, but no direct sunlight, during the day. I will also follow the tips re. watering.

And Alyssa, thank you for the recommendation in the event the plant doesn't make it. I hope I can save this one, but if not, I think you're right that that would be the right thing to do.
Name: Carter Mayer
Houston, TX (Zone 9b)
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Apr 4, 2017 2:24 PM CST
Honestly, I do not think there looks to be anything wrong with the plant other than it has been grown in too low of light for too long. Syngoniums are pretty tough little plants and though they may get puny looking, they can withstand some pretty poor conditions.

I do not think you should or need to do any cutting on this plant, if for no other reason than because you are only temporarily caring for it for a friend. Even if it were yours, however, I still feel it is unnecessary to cut any pieces off. It shows no signs of pest damage or disease. There aren't any yellowed or discolored leaves. Even the one leafless stem looks to still be alive, just simply has lost its leaves (which can be caused a number of things, including poor lighting). As mentioned before, it only appears to be in need of brighter light.

I would simply move it to somewhere where it will get as much of light as you can give it. If you would like, you can take the pieces hanging over the edge of the pot and gently coil them inside the pot. They will root where they touch the soil (more roots=happier plant), especially if you put just a little soil over a few parts of the stem, and possibly (probably if given more light) it will send out some additional new shoots.

Ya, I think this plant mainly just needs a little TLC and some brighter light. It should bounce back pretty easily. Just don't overwater it! Only water when the top 1/2 inch to 1 inch of the soil is dry.
Name: Sally
central Maryland
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Apr 10, 2017 8:26 PM CST
To me, I agree it's in pretty poor shape. Probably pretty once upon a time, and been in the same pot for years. You've gotten good advice, and I wouldn't feel too terrible no matter what happens. If it dies in your care, go to H Depot and buy new one.
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