Houseplants forum: Questions about potential overpotting (Dracinia)

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May 22, 2017 9:00 AM CST
Hi. I do not have a green thumb.
About 5 months ago I purchased a Dragon tree at at Home Depot type store. I repotted it shortly after, into a much larger pot that I already owned. I added some parlor palms as accents and have been caring for it since. It seems in really great shape. No signs of pests, fungus, etc, (although we do have hard water and I see evidence of that in the soil as it dries and with some slight browning of the fronds). The medium I used is compost.

My question relates to overpotting and root rot. (I love this plant so much, I don't want it to get root rot). I water sparingly only when soil is dry at least 2 inches down, mist often. I never soak it. Since it seems in good health, what are your opinions about potential root rot? Will sparse watering prevent it?

Thanks much!

Thumb of 2017-05-22/Alysan/c22abf
Thumb of 2017-05-22/Alysan/8005d1

Name: Christine
Saugerties, NY zone 5a
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May 23, 2017 6:56 AM CST
If the pot has good drainage you should be alright, I only mist my plants a few times a year, I have always read misting can lead to bugs, if your trying to increase humidity try setting the pot on a tray of pebbles with water. It looks good, your doing a great job,other members will chime in with more advice.

May 23, 2017 8:11 AM CST
Thanks, Christine! I appreciate your response.
There are drainage holes in the bottom, but I never water it to the point that it drains. Because the pot is so large, (probably way too large for the tree?), I'm afraid of over watering it. I water when the top 2-3 inches are dry, and even then I don't use more than a pint or two.
Does this seem the right thing to do?

Thanks :)
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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May 23, 2017 8:19 AM CST
I would water them thoroughly till water drains out, so it also flushes out accumulated salts. Then leave it alone for awhile. Use bamboo skewers to check if soil is still wet, stick it into the soil and if it comes out wet, delay watering.

Name: Gene Staver
Portage WI 53901 (Zone 5a)
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May 23, 2017 1:05 PM CST
I never heard of a Home Depot type store before. You used compost instead of dirt? Misting is a waste of time unless it makes you feel better. Gene
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
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May 24, 2017 7:36 AM CST
Hi & welcome! Gorgeous plant! Curious about where you are because if you are in Europe, the term compost is used for what we in the US call potting soil. In the US compost is usually only used to refer to composted organic matter, which is the holy grail if ground gardening, but too dense and airless in a pot. A compost tea can be miraculous, but that's another matter.

If your soil is chunky/porous/airy, there is no need to worry about rotting roots (overwatering.) Trying to grow in a soil that requires letting it get to some mysterious, magical degree of dryness before adding more water is more stress regarding having plants than I want, and it's such a relief to be able to get past that concern, and I now enjoy just watering to make sure the soil does not get too dry.

No plant likes to be rootbound. What is necessary for plants to stay alive is for their roots to not rot, which can happen so easily in a pot with dense soils, like ground dirt, or bagged mixes of predominantly tiny particles of peat, (or to simply shrivel from simply never getting any water.) Having very little soil around the roots would make the soil dry more quickly, and for even the most dedicated plant-overwaterers to not rot the roots of their plants. This is not ideal, since most non-cactus plants are stressed by dry conditions, it's just a way of coping with soil that has little air in it when moist.

Negative experiences in regard to potting-up, where an undisturbed root ball is placed into a bigger pot with more soil around it, vs. doing a repotting, as described below, can give rise to old wives' tales about plants not liking to be repotted/disturbed. Potting-up a root-bound plant that has roots surrounding the outside root ball often lead to this negative experience because those roots had adapted to accessing oxygen around the outside of the root ball and surrounding them with more dense, soggy-but-airless potting soil will likely lead to suffocation.

The reason bonsai masters are able to keep potted entities alive for hundreds of years is because they care for the roots by trimming them and changing the soil. A plant grows from the roots-up, so if the roots are not healthy, gorgeous foliage will decline &/or no flowers can form. When you unpot a plant and find a pancake of roots at the bottom, chopping that off will give roots a chance to grow normally again for a while and will make removing the old soil easier.

Roots need oxygen & moisture at the same time to function. Just air = shriveling. Just moisture = suffocation & rotting. Either will cause root death and dessicated foliage because the roots have been unable to deliver moisture. Having to let soil dry, as if ones' tropical jungle plant was a cactus, is an unnecessarily stressful coping mechanism for non-desert dwelling plants in soil without enough oxygen for the roots to stay healthy when it is moist and can lead to premature loss of older leaves and in extreme cases, dry shriveled roots/dead plant.

The ability of roots to be able to function properly depends greatly on the soil structure/texture, which can change over time. Potting soil tends to be very dense, mostly peat, with very little air in it. Any kind of organic ingredients decompose into smaller bits over time, and roots fill air spaces over time as they grow through soil. Replacing soil periodically is usually necessary to keep plants healthy because of these reasons. A more porous, chunky, airy soil (like cactus/palm, if one is buying bagged,) can have more air in it even when it is moist because there is space between the particles. When there are tiny particles of any kind in a pot, such as peat, sand, silt, clay, they filter into all of the tiny spaces in a pot, eliminating the air. "Overwatering" is the label and manifestation when roots have suffocated and/or rotted, combo of both. Over time, organic bits decompose into smaller bits, so even the "best" soil, if it has organic components, will need to be replaced when this happens. The speed at which this happens depends on many variables, but on average, about 1-3 years.
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May 24, 2017 2:00 PM CST
Thank you everyone! Thank you Purpleinopp for such a detailed reply.
I'm American, but I live in England. B&Q is a store just like Home Depot in the states, and that's where I bought this plant. I used multi purpose MG compost for this plant, which is widely used for potted plants here in England. It's not actual garden compost. I believe it's high-ish in peat?
Should I remove the compost and replace it with something more airy? And if so, any suggestions? Cactus/Palm, maybe? ( I've compared it to the miracle grow potting soil, and the compost is less dense)...Or should I leave it alone? I'm loathe to change out the compost if there isn't really a need.

I will take watering advice given as well. My tree seems happy with getting less water more frequently, but it seems the consensus is a good soaking/draining versus a few pints every week. I'm afraid of root rot, primarily.
[Last edited by Alysan - May 24, 2017 2:47 PM (+)]
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Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
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May 24, 2017 4:42 PM CST
Happy to swap anecdotes. ;) Agree, I rarely try to fix the unbroken, and your plant looks happy at the moment. When I see signs of stress, that's when I get more involved than adding water. I've used bags labeled cactus & palm and they were acceptable because of lack of peat, vs. "potting soil" AKA compost over there. Whenever you do feel ready to change things up, consider an unglazed pot if your concern about overwatering persists. An unglazed clay pot allows roots to access oxygen all around the inside of the breathable pot, vs. just at the surface and air holes in a non-porous pot.
👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
The less I interfere, the more balance mother nature provides.
👒🎄👣🏡🍃🍂🌾🌿🍁❦❧ 🍃🍁🍂🌾🌻🌸🌼🌹🌽❀☀🌺
☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.
[Last edited by purpleinopp - May 25, 2017 8:38 AM (+)]
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May 26, 2017 2:17 AM CST
Perfect, I'll do just that. Thank you Purpleinopp, and everyone else. I appreciate you taking the time to respond.

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