Houseplants forum: Turning plants

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bifftwelve
Aug 14, 2017 12:02 PM CST
I've got a couple of plants which both have large, slow moving leaves (as opposed to other more "responsive" plants which follow the light source quickly). I'm new to plants of this type, and hoping to make the best of a couple of possible issues.

One is a Codiaeum / Croton, and the other a Ficus elastica / Rubber Plant. The light source in the room only comes from one side, which means that both plants have grown over time to lean heavily in one direction, and are a bit top heavy - the Croton, for example, has 3-4 very large, dominant leaves. I've tried turning both plants at times to balance things out and avoid the plants leaning heavily in one direction, but I'm concerned that that runs the risk of them not getting enough light as a result. Both tend to look a bit sad / contorted when they have been turned, rather than fully re-adjusting to face the light.

Do these plants look healthy? And what should my approach be, in terms of turning them?

On a related note, the Rubber plant was a single trunk with 12-14 large leaves when I bought it. It has since branched at the top into a V shape, with new leaves sprouting regularly - which is fine for now, but inevitably risks becoming quite top heavy over time. Is there anything I should do to guide / support this?

The plants, as best as my limited photography skills allow!
Thumb of 2017-08-14/bifftwelve/baa924 Thumb of 2017-08-14/bifftwelve/ddcedf

Example of drooping leaves upon turning:
Thumb of 2017-08-14/bifftwelve/116c09 Thumb of 2017-08-14/bifftwelve/6910b5
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Aug 14, 2017 3:07 PM CST
I'm not seeing any leaf distortion that you referenced. In any case, rotating a plant does not mean that it gets any less light, particularly if the plant is rotated a quarter turn each time you water. Leaf formation is largely determined by the light that a leaf receives when it is first emerging. Rotating a plant is the best well to keep growth even and preventing lopsidedness.

Once a plant starts to become lopsided or very tall and in need of support, it should be pruned. Pruning does not in any way affect the health of a plant, but it does help it look better and keep it from becoming overgrown and top heavy. The stems of both your plants can be cut back at any place on the stems. New growth will slowly emerge on the cut stems just below the pruning cuts. Pruning keeps a plant fuller and more compact.

PInching is an alternative to pruning if it is done before the stems become too long or unwieldy. Once a stem is at the length that you prefer, simply pinch out new leaves as they start to emerge. You will have to do this regularly to maintain it at that size. Like pruning, pinching does no harm to the plant.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Sally
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sallyg
Aug 17, 2017 7:10 PM CST
I think you're doing well, especially with a Croton - those can be fussy Thumbs up
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Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
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purpleinopp
Aug 18, 2017 12:11 PM CST
Agree, they are lovely plants! Perfectly healthy-looking. If they hadn't been turned for a while, some sunburn could occur on leaves that had not been getting direct sun before, then did get some after the rotation.

As far as what you should do, only you can decide that, based on your goals. It sounds like you are not yet fixed on a particular goal for these plants, which is fine. And having one does not guarantee that plants will go along. Once a goal is established, a plan for staying on track/getting to a different place can be formulated. Beyond what its' owner wants to see, there are no rules for what any plant should look like. A perfectly symmetrical specimen has its' merits, but no more or less than one that has never been turned for decades and grown to fit its' surroundings.

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Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Nov 18, 2017 4:56 PM CST
What did you decide and how is it going?
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Faridat
Nov 19, 2017 1:44 AM CST
Ficus elastica is one of the most phototropic plants. I can see this in my Ficus elastica also and one I had years ago did exactly the same. What Will suggested is a good plan, turning your plant a quarter each time you water it. This way the cells will be getting the same amount of light on all sides and the "dark" side that is now overgrowing the one that gets the most light will be given more light, thus stopping the overgrowing and tipping the lighted side. Both sides will begin to grow equally, not lopsided. I have started to do the same with mine.
Our fear that it won't get the light it needs is not a reality based one, it will still get the light it needs, just giving it the chance to get it on all sides. Moreover, you won't risk the top of the plant getting so lopsided that it collapses on you some day.

*Here is a photo of mine, you can see it had the same "leaning towards the light source" effect, but I have since been turning it and has improved a bit.

Thumb of 2017-11-19/Faridat/22ad4b

In some Native languages the term for plants translates to "those who take care of us."
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[Last edited by Faridat - Nov 19, 2017 1:47 AM (+)]
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gasrocks
Nov 24, 2017 11:42 AM CST
Have you thought about making some reflectors from white matte board that can stand around the dark sides of the plant? I have done it and it does help. Gene
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Nov 26, 2017 10:27 AM CST
Foil is even more effective in that regard.
👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
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☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.
Greece (Zone 10b)
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Faridat
Nov 26, 2017 11:48 AM CST
Is it possible that sunlight reflected on foil would cause damage to stems and leaves? I'm afraid it would in places like mine, where sunlight can be quite intense. I tend to think white matte board is suitable though. On that note, since we are kinda brainstorming, how about a mirror? Same result?
In some Native languages the term for plants translates to "those who take care of us."
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Nov 27, 2017 8:58 AM CST
The reflection can only be as strong as the light it is reflecting, it's not a magnifying glass. Agree, a mirror is a much more attractive alternative.
👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
The less I interfere, the more balance mother nature provides.
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Name: Baja
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Baja_Costero
Nov 29, 2017 1:22 PM CST
The only way the reflection can be stronger than the light it reflects is if there is some lensing effect which focuses a concentrated beam. Pretty unlikely unless you're putting foil on a round, convex surface. Foil tends to wrinkle and fold which disperses the light more than a mirror might.

Even here with a really bright location (SW exposure, hours of afternoon sun every day) the house plants do tend to lean. For what it's worth, I turn my house plants (all succulents) 180 degrees when I water them, which might be every 1, 2 or 3 weeks. A couple of them grow a bit of a stem and I might turn them whenever they seem to be leaning. Either approach works.

I don't use foil to reflect light onto plants but I do use it to reflect light away from the containers... around the outside of the tray where my smallest pots are, I put a sheet of foil to reduce the amount the sun ends up heating up the soil.
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Nov 29, 2017 1:33 PM (+)]
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bifftwelve
Dec 3, 2017 7:50 AM CST
I've been turning both plants regularly since I posted in this thread originally. There hasn't been much noticeable change in the ficus - slow growing at this time of year, so only some slight tilting of leaves for the time being.

Sadly the croton came under attack by spider mites last month, and lost about half its leaves - I'm confident I've eliminated them with washing up liquid, but the plant is looking a bit miserable. Hopefully I've done enough to allow it to recover over time!
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
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sallyg
Dec 3, 2017 8:58 AM CST
Keep up with the mites, they are really tough to conquer long term
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
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purpleinopp
Dec 4, 2017 8:58 AM CST
I always see some spider mites on various plants when they come inside for winter. Some plants get them every winter. Crotons are notorious for their appeal to SM's. Hosing the foliage when watering plants can help keep them at bay. If you are using a soap, please make sure it's safe for plants. They make insecticidal soap for this that does not have harsh detergents which can damage some plants. I don't use anything but showers of plain water unless that does not seem to be enough, in which case leaves can be wiped (top and bottom) with a cotton ball damp with rubbing alcohol. This will physically remove the mites, and cleans leaves. If a plant has too many leaves to wipe individually, misting with alcohol can also help keep them at bay until the weather changes.
👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
The less I interfere, the more balance mother nature provides.
👒🎄👣🏡🍃🍂🌾🌿🍁❦❧ 🍃🍁🍂🌾🌻🌸🌼🌹🌽❀☀🌺
☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Dec 4, 2017 3:51 PM CST
Crotons are not particularly sensitive to any standard liquid dish soap. Soap is more effective than alcohol in treating mites because it spreads more readily. The key is to spray the soap enough so that it washes over all leaf and stem surfaces and makes contact with every last mite. If your plant is small enough, invert the plant and swirl it around in a sink filled with soapy water. That ensures complete coverage and is easier and less messy than spraying.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Greece (Zone 10b)
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Faridat
Dec 5, 2017 7:44 AM CST
I wonder if all the stains on the leaves of the Croton I purchased last week is actually soap that was used to treat spider mites in the nursery? Could this be used as a preventive tactic also you think? For example on plants that are known as mites magnets, like English ivy?
In some Native languages the term for plants translates to "those who take care of us."
Robin Wall Kimmerer
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
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purpleinopp
Dec 5, 2017 9:30 AM CST
Soap and detergents are not the same things:

http://www.gardenmyths.com/dis...
http://extension.uga.edu/publi...
http://www.aos.org/orchids/orc...
http://www.clemson.edu/extensi...
http://vric.ucdavis.edu/pdf/fe...
http://www.hortmag.com/weekly-...
https://www.todayshomeowner.co...
https://www.harvestingrainwate...
http://www.organicauthority.co...

I would consider what I described as effective because I've never lost a plant to SM's that I've treated as described. Leaves no residue. When alcohol and showers worked, I quit seeking further solutions. If I had tried (real) soap (not detergent) first, that might be my go-to if it is as inexpensive as rubbing alcohol. I've spent a total of about $5 battling SM's over the decades I've had potted plants and the only times I've lost is when I did nothing at all.

👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
The less I interfere, the more balance mother nature provides.
👒🎄👣🏡🍃🍂🌾🌿🍁❦❧ 🍃🍁🍂🌾🌻🌸🌼🌹🌽❀☀🌺
☕👓 The only way to succeed is to try.
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
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Baja_Costero
Dec 5, 2017 9:59 AM CST
Insecticidal soap differs from your average dish soap (technically a detergent) in one crucial respect: it replaces the sodium in the recipe with potassium or another cation with much lower toxicity to plants. There are other differences... the surfactant is based on fatty acids not organosulfates, the other random ingredients are mostly missing. I like to use the dedicated product but I suspect it matters much less if you properly dilute the dish soap before use. Too concentrated and you start to see residue and toxicity to the plant, without any benefit against pests.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Dec 6, 2017 4:11 PM (+)]
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Greece (Zone 10b)
Houseplants Foliage Fan Cactus and Succulents Tropicals Aroids Bromeliad
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Faridat
Dec 5, 2017 10:01 AM CST
Very informative @purpleinopp, thank you for the links! Smiling
In some Native languages the term for plants translates to "those who take care of us."
Robin Wall Kimmerer

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