Ask a Question forum: Norfolk Pine Stem Dying?

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Name: Francis
Ohio (Zone 6a)
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bouncyshamrocks
Feb 15, 2018 3:35 PM CST
I noticed this while inspecting my plant a little bit ago, that one of its three stems appears to be dying and/or drying up. Not really sure what I should do about it. First of all, is it more likely that its a stem of a single pine or do I have three pines in this pot? Should I just remove the dying stem? I don't want it to progress if it's all one plant.

I've had this pine for a little over a year now. I keep it as a houseplant. It's about nine inches tall. I have not yet fertilized it since I got it. I water it weekly (usually saturday or sunday) and drain its saucer after an hour or so of watering, and periodically mist its branches with water. Aside from this arising issue with this one stem, the plant appears to be pretty healthy. The other two stems appear to be fine.

I would like advice as to what I should do with this stem, whether or not I should remove it, and how I should go about removing it if I should remove it. And if there's an idea as to what caused this, that would be useful too. My only idea at this point for a cause is that my shamrocks sit on the coffee table right next to my pine and that maybe they obstruct sunlight from reaching this side of the plant. Could a lack of sunlight do this to my pine?

As far as pests go, I am pretty certain that my pine is without mites. I was super paranoid about them when I first got this tree because the last tree I had adopted was infested with them and died within a couple months of getting it. I am aware that mites could do this sort of thing, though I think it would be more widespread (as in all three stems would be affected), and signs of this would have definitely shown up sooner.

Thumb of 2018-02-15/bouncyshamrocks/6b6d7c Thumb of 2018-02-15/bouncyshamrocks/ed7da3

Here are two pictures of my tree. Because it's a bad time of day for pictures, I included one with and one without flash. It's the stem on the rightside of the plant. I have a feeling it's not something I can revive, so I'm just hoping for advice on what I should do with this stem, and advice to keep it from happening to the other two stems.

Thanks for any feedback.

Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Feb 15, 2018 3:44 PM CST
I'm sure there are 3 trees in the pot and the other two have out-competed the smaller one for water and nutrients. Cut the failing stem at ground level.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Francis
Ohio (Zone 6a)
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bouncyshamrocks
Feb 15, 2018 3:50 PM CST
Hey, Daisy. Thanks for your response. I was kind of hoping this was the case, but I have the tendency to think worst case scenario because I'm kind of a plant hypochondriac of sorts. Anyway, after I cut it, would it hurt the remaining two trees to leave the root system of this dying tree in there? And, do you think I should separate the remaining two, or are they fine to share a pot? According to my research, Norfolk pines usually don't need repotted for at least three to four years so I would like to avoid putting the tree(s) under any stress of a transplant if it is not necessary.
[Last edited by bouncyshamrocks - Feb 15, 2018 3:51 PM (+)]
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
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DaisyI
Feb 15, 2018 3:53 PM CST
Leave the roots - they will rot and add nutrients. Smiling

Don't try to separate the other two - Their roots will be so intertwined that you will never be able to unwind them.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Francis
Ohio (Zone 6a)
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bouncyshamrocks
Feb 15, 2018 3:56 PM CST
Alright, thank you for your help. Smiling
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Feb 15, 2018 5:58 PM CST
Thumbs up
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Feb 15, 2018 7:55 PM CST
Yes, there are multiple plants in the same pot. The roots are so intertwined that it is as if they are one plant. There is no disease involved and it is not something that will spread. The plants do not compete with one another.

The cause is inadequate light and/or improper watering. Whether it is a light or watering problem it will always affect one part of the plant first. Unless the problem is corrected, the rest of the plant will follow.

Your NIP must be within a few feet of a sunny window and it should not be blocked by any objects or window coverings. I'm not sure that yours is getting adequate light and if it is not, nothing else you do will matter.

It looks like yours should be watered thoroughly only when the top half-inch of soil is dry. That may or may not be every week, Water as needed, not by the calendar.

The health of the overall plant will not be affected by your decision to remove or leave the dead portion. For aesthetic reasons, it certainly makes sense to cut off the dead portions. I certainly agree with Daisy that you should leave the roots undisturbed.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Feb 15, 2018 8:05 PM CST
Sorry Will but I have to disagree. In a closed environment, there is competition for water and nutrients and the smallest and weakest of the pot mates is the one that loses out.

Francis' plant looks very healthy and isn't showing any signs of stress or stretching. I don't agree with the "water on a schedule" concept but it seems to be working for this plant.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

Webmaster: osnnv.org
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Feb 15, 2018 8:14 PM CST
Daisy - When roots are completely intertwined and sharing the same environment they are no longer separate plants. Sometimes shorter or lower sections are in reduced light and suffer accordingly. In that sense, there may be some competition for light.

I am not sure if the scheduled watering is working or not. A good portion of the total plant has died so something is not right. Maybe it is inadequate light, but it may also be a watering problem.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Francis
Ohio (Zone 6a)
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bouncyshamrocks
Feb 16, 2018 10:15 AM CST
I water most of my plants on a schedule of sorts but it's something I determine after having the plant for awhile, so it's usually based on the relatively consistent interval where I have observed my plants to need watering. I sometimes postpone watering depending on how the soil feels, but my pine usually gets watered on a weekly basis, as the soil is usually dry by the weekend. I always check soil before I water, so it working out to be once a week on average is just a convenient coincidence.

My pine is not situated incredibly close to a window, but the main reason for this was because it was winter when I got it (december 17th 2016) and since it is a tropical tree, I didn't want it to get cold. It seemed to like being on the coffee table (which is about 1.5 to 2 meters away from a sliding glass door that illuminates the entire room quite well), so I never relocated it closer to said window during the warmer months.

I can consider relocating, but I'd like to wait for the weather to warm up a bit. Since the plant is probably accustomed to its current location, moving it where there will be also a temperature change seems like it could put a bit of stress on it.

EDIT:
There could be a potential issue with light arising because my sleep schedule's been kind of all over the place again, so I don't always get to open the blinds as early as I should be. There were a few times within the past month that I've slept in past dark, so my plants in the living area didn't get any direct sunlight on those days. I'm currently working on fixing my sleep, so if this played a role at all, hopefully it will come to an end here soon.
[Last edited by bouncyshamrocks - Feb 16, 2018 10:23 AM (+)]
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Feb 16, 2018 11:45 AM CST
Francis - Your NIP is not as cold sensitive as you think. As long as the nearby window is not open on very cold days or unusually drafty, then keeping it within a foot or so of the window will not be a problem and would certainly improve the light that it requires.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Francis
Ohio (Zone 6a)
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bouncyshamrocks
Feb 16, 2018 2:21 PM CST
Just curious though, is there a reason that this problem hadn't shown until now? If it is indeed environmental factors, why has a year passed before this happened? My only other suspect could be low humidity issues because of the winter time. I almost misted my tree daily last winter when I first got it, but I have not been misting quite as often this winter. Do you think this is a contributing factor?

I'll definitely see what I can do about my tree's location, though. I currently have a free spot near the sliding glass window (like less than a foot from) because I recently relocated the plant that used to be there, so I'll go place my tree there after I remove the dying stem. It's an east facing window so it'll get a lot of direct sun in the morning. I just gotta make sure I'm awake to open the blinds by then.
[Last edited by bouncyshamrocks - Feb 16, 2018 2:22 PM (+)]
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Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
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sallyg
Feb 16, 2018 9:51 PM CST
Plant's 'body systems' don't work on the same clock as people, I think the 'sudden' death of one of the trees in the pot is simply a long term event related to conditions not quite enough for all three to thrive. Or simply that one had its own weakness that this long to manifest.

You seem to have a good sense about watering. Misting doesn't make any significant difference to the plant.

But we all (except a few of us like Daisy and Will, lol) fail to realize how dim a human's nicely lit home interior is, in the plant's opinion.
Many plants, in their natural setting, thrive with full direct sun for many hours. A person would get sunburned or tanned if she laid in full sun for many hours every day. Would you ever get sunburn or tanned sitting in your living room, or on your kitchen windowsill? The intensity and length of light it takes you to get burned, is the intensity and length it takes for the plant to complete enough photosynthesis to give itself lots of energy. It drinks water and 'eats' light. You could survive on water and a starvation diet a long time, but eventually it would affect you.

Had it 'A little over a year' - if I may play supersleuth--it came from a greenhouse (professional care) fall or winter, then lived in your house where, after enduring a couple months, it had spring and summer with longer , brighter daylight coming into the room. Now it is going through its first (gloomy at times, short days) winter in your typical home lighting. Yup, sounds about time for possible crisis.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Name: Francis
Ohio (Zone 6a)
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bouncyshamrocks
Feb 16, 2018 11:23 PM CST
Hey, Sally. I think I understand what you're saying about this being my tree's first true winter with me. That does make sense, thank you. I have removed its dead/dying stem, and relocated it by the sliding glass door. Do you have any suggestions for what else I should be doing for the longevity of my tree? Could I avert this 'possible crisis' from happening to the rest of the plant? Even though it's only been with me for a year, I am quite attached to it, so I'd like to do whatever I can to ensure it is happy, and for as long as possible.

Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Native Plants and Wildflowers Region: Mid-Atlantic Composter Region: Maryland Birds
Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: United States of America
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sallyg
Feb 17, 2018 6:36 AM CST
Glad that made some sense. I didn't mean to imply there's more crisis coming for the rest of it, only that the one stem maybe reached its limit. The group opinion seems to be that improving the light as you are doing is a great idea. And days are getting longer and brighter now.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional indoor plant consultan
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WillC
Feb 17, 2018 7:58 AM CST
Sally has provided an excellent answer to your question. It is not commonly understood that plants often react slowly over many months or longer before symptoms show up. It depends on just how severe the environmental condition is. For example, if you had kept your NIP in a dark corner, then it would have started to deteriorate much faster. You had yours where it wasn't' getting quite enough light, so it took a long time for the symptoms to appear.

It is also common for folks to think that when symptom do emerge it was due to something that happened in the last day or so - "it must be because I watered it a day late" or "it was very cold last week."
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Francis
Ohio (Zone 6a)
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bouncyshamrocks
Feb 17, 2018 10:41 AM CST
Alright, thank you so much, guys. :)

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