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TN
Plantnewbie
Jan 14, 2018 11:42 PM CST
Can you please help me identify what is going on here and how to fix it?
It was doing great for over a year until I noticed it was root bound and decided to repot. I haven't changed lighting or watering and I only went up to the next size container. It's losing leaves left and right and the spots are multiplying. Any help is appreciated! Thank you so much.
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Name: Laurie b
Western Washington (Zone 7b)
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lauriebasler
Jan 15, 2018 2:47 AM CST
How is the soil, is it drying out for you quickly enough? Is the new soil similar in content as the old one was?

How recent was the repotting. Is it in draft free/heat source free location?
It is still showing signs of health, so someone here will know just what to do. I will say if the soil is wet and has been wet for a few weeks, I would lay the plant on its side, gently with some support so you don't damage leaves, and slip off the pot to get that soil dry, and while it's drying, try to figure out why the transplant has been traumatic.
Good luck.

Laurie b




Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Jan 15, 2018 8:37 AM CST
There are so many posts about plants not doing well after being potted-up. If the new soil said "moisture control" on the bag, it may have silicone bits or balls in it that retain moisture. If the new soil was packed forcefully into the container, the roots may not have enough oxygen. I would remove the damaged leaves at this point to be better able to assess if it continues to spread, and keep the foliage dry.

If the floor is cold, putting the pot on anything that will raise it up off of the floor even a few inches could help. Dracaenas like warmth. If you were watering on a schedule and the plants' needs have changed due to weather and/or the disturbance, it could now be too much or too little. A pot this size looks heavy to lift, but tilting it sideways should help you gauge if it still feels heavy, or has dried significantly and feels lighter.

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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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Jan 15, 2018 10:09 AM CST
As long as there is enough soil to retain moisture around the roots for several days or more, there is no reason to repot. This is especially true of Dracaenas that have small root systems. I have dozens of Dracaenas that I have cared for for over a dozen years and they have never been repotted and they are thriving.

So many things can go wrong when repotting is done unnecessarily and incorrectly. Tender root hairs can be damaged inadvertently; roots don't integrate properly with the new soil; the quality of the new soil is inappropriate; watering adjustments are not made.

There are certainly times when repotting is appropriate, but not nearly as often as is commonly believed and recommended. Professional growers don't repot until the roots make up 80% of the rootball with soil being only 20% because they understand that plant growth is maximized when plants are moderately potbound.

Unless a plant is showing specific signs of stress from root constriction, it is best to avoid repotting.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Tiffany purpleinopp
Opp, AL 🌵🌷⚘🌹🌻 (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Jan 15, 2018 11:28 AM CST
Will, I am confused. If you've never repotted the trees, how could you feel so familiar with their roots or the potential speed at which or size to which they could grow if never given more space to do so? Being so vehemently against something you said you have not done can only come from a belief that you hold.

"...growth is maximized when plants are moderately potbound" To what are you comparing these plants if there are no plants with a different regime to which to compare them?

I disagree wholeheartedly with the quote because it's illogical, does not match personal experiences of many more years than a dozen, and goes against any and all scientific info I've gathered on the subject. Instead of reinventing the wheel, I will paste something:

"How many of us actually work toward an established goal when it comes to our plant's appearance? Probably only a few. Most of us water when we think the plant needs it, fertilize using the same method, give our plants the best light we can, and maybe pot up now & then. We want our plants to grow fast, stay nice and green, and look attractive at all times.

Growing fast doesn't necessarily equate to good health, and surprisingly .... neither does a plant's being vividly green. In both cases, we can manipulate nutrition to the plant's disadvantage in order to achieve faster growth or greener color, so when the advice to add Epsom salts or ferrous sulfate (Ironite) to plants to 'green them up' comes along, remember that the advice is usually coming from someone who really doesn't understand nutrition .... or they would be suggesting an approach with less potential to be limiting; or would understand that the odds of there being actual magnesium or iron deficiencies based on a scarcity of the elements in the soil are in most cases very remote.

The first aspect to consider when it comes to keeping our plants attractive is their health, that is, their vitality. A plant's vitality is measured in how well it is able to function within the limiting effects of its cultural surroundings. While the word "health" covers a LOT of territory, the 3 primary cultural influences that most affect the appearance of the plant are soil choice and watering habits, light, and nutrition.

Root health is key to an attractive plant. There is no chance for a healthy plant unless the root system is healthy, so find a thread that addresses how water and soils interact & gain an understanding of that relationship so you can consistently provide a healthy root environment. Learn to do full repots instead of potting up. Find a good thread about nutrition and establish a GOOD nutritional supplementation program that ensures your plants are getting all they require. Resist adding a little extra this and that - TRUST your program once you're sure it's supplying all nutrients in a favorable ratio. Light is very important, but not something we can change much. You either have good light or you don't. Many of us supplement lighting where we can. It's important to understand that lack of light can be extremely limiting. Do the best you can. Ask, if you want referrals to threads that cover soils & nutrition.

Note that all issues so far relate to health/vitality. If you maintain the considered effort to ensure your plant's good health, keeping it as your focus, the rest will take care of itself - until it comes to controlling your plant's growth habit in order to keep it looking attractive. If you think a 25 ft long vining plant that winds around itself half a dozen times before it strikes out across the mantel and back, or perhaps that Ficus that has hit the ceiling 3 feet ago, or even the Aeonium stalk bearing that single rosette on the end of a 2 ft stalk you have lashed to a stake illustrates growing prowess, there's no need to read on. ;-)

The growth habit of some plants is such that they offer little opportunity for guidance toward a more attractive appearance, but many plants DO. In fact, many plants require regular intervention if the grower has any sort of vision of how they want that plant appear, or they require intervention to return them to something you feel is appealing to the eye - rejuvenation. We all approach growing differently, but if I have a plant that doesn't look good - that doesn't have eye appeal - you can bet I have a plan in place to change that. For me, because I'm able to maintain a high level of vitality in practically everything I grow, it mostly comes down to pruning and understanding how to manipulate plants so the will of the grower instead of their growth habit prevails.

There are two hormones (growth regulators) that control how a plant grows and how it responds to pruning. Understanding the relationship between these hormones forms the basis for all intelligent pruning; that is, all pruning with a plan. First though, I want to touch on something that is an important consideration that has to do with vigor.

The most vigorous part of your plants is and remains the tissues closest to where the stem transitions to roots - the basal part of the plant. Plants do not age like people, they age ontogenetically as opposed to chronologically, like us. W/o getting complicated, this means that a plant's tissues tend to retain their ontogenetic age. The tissues nearest the base will always be youngest (ontogenetically) so they retain their juvenile vigor. That is why when you cut many plants back to the ground, they virtually explode with juvenile growth. It's no accident that this type of pruning is called rejuvenation pruning and can be applied to a significant % of house plants.

Note too, that pruning roots back closer to the junction between roots and shoots has the same rejuvenating effect on both roots AND shoots. Many think it's utterly taboo to fuss with a plant's roots, but they couldn't be more wrong. Root pruning and full repots, including removal of all soil as opposed to simply potting up, have a rejuvenating effect and are an important part of long term maintenance - a far superior approach to potting up. We can talk more about that if there is interest - especially about timing repots.

I mentioned that there are 2 growth regulators that primarily determine how a plant grows. Auxin, is produced primarily in apical meristems (the growing tip of a stem or branch), but is also produced in leaves. Its movement in plants is 'polar', which means that it moves downward toward roots. As it moves downward, it prevents buds proximal (closer to the roots) to the growing tip of the branch from becoming active.

Cytokinin is the other hormone we need to consider. It is produced in the roots, its movement is also polar - upward. It tends to stimulate growth of dormant buds. It's easiest to understand the relationship between these two hormones as an antagonistic one. Think of them as always fighting against each other for control of how the plant grows. If auxin is dominant, the plant grows long as it suppresses the buds that turn into lateral growth and make the plant bushy. If cytokinin is dominant, we get a bushier plant with more lateral branching. In most plants, auxin is the dominant growth regulator ...... but it doesn't HAVE to be.

As the grower, WE can take control and tip the balance in favor of more lateral branching and a fuller, bushier plant by reducing the downward flow of auxin that suppresses back-budding and allows cytokinin to stimulate buds to grow. We do this by pruning or pinching. In the case of very vigorous material, we can also even go as far as partially or completely defoliating to eliminate nearly all auxin flow and maximize back-budding. This is an important trick in the tool box of bonsai practitioners who use it to increase 'ramification' - the number of leaves and branches. Pruning and pinching simply removes the apical meristem where most of the auxin is produced, which forces back-budding.

Pruning and pinching permanently truncates growth of each branch pruned or pinched. That branch can never extend again. Usually, the first bud proximal to the pruning cut becomes the new branch leader. This is an important consideration because we can use the information to determine the direction of the branch. If we want the branch to grow left, we truncate it just distal (further from the roots) to a left facing bud or leaf - the opposite for right. When you're pruning your branching plants, try to prune back to a downward facing bud. Upward facing buds tend to produce vertical growth and can spoil appearances if allowed to become the new leader.

These practices can be applied to most of the vining or branching plants we grow. Pruning and pinching isn't difficult, and the response is very predictable. The grower just needs to understand the options and be confident enough in how the plant will respond to make a plan and take the leap."
- Al (Tapla)
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[Last edited by purpleinopp - Jan 15, 2018 11:29 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #1621329 (5)
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Jan 15, 2018 12:11 PM CST
Tiffany - I am not inclined to engage in a long (and no doubt boring for most others here) dialogue about the merits of repotting. That said, I do want to clarify one thing. I cited as an example the many Dracaenas that I have not repotted and they do fine. However, I am also very experienced in repotting lots of plants over the years. I have learned when it is appropriate and when it is not. I know how to do it and how not to do it. I consult with many non-professionals and find that the single most common cause of their plant problems (such as the one here) starts with unnecessary and improper repotting.

I am here to share my professional experience and knowledge, not to win converts or arguments.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Jan 15, 2018 5:12 PM CST
Confused Blinking Crying
Taking a deep breath after reading the recent posts...

I'm not getting in the middle between two experts, but seriously folks. are we trying to scare away the new person Plantnewbie ? Blinking Confused

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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
Jan 16, 2018 3:28 PM CST
Arguments? Crying? Are there posts in this discussion that I can't see?

👀😁😂 - SMILE! -☺😎☻☮👌✌∞☯🐣🐦🐔🐝🍯🐾
The less I interfere, the more balance mother nature provides.
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