Houseplants forum: Encouraging Root Development -- Rescued Money Tree

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Name: AJ
New York City (Zone 7a)
Houseplants Dog Lover Region: New York Foliage Fan
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SleepyWhippet
May 31, 2018 1:07 AM CST
Hello everyone,

I recently found this forum and I only just signed up. I apologize if this is been discussed before, I did try to search.

A couple of weeks ago I rescued a Pachira aquatica from the garbage room of my apartment building. It was in a massive pot with no drainage and all but one of the trunks were dead (I assume for a while because they were hollow when squeezed).

So I brought it home and repot it in the smallest pot I had on hand (not as small as I wanted tbh) using this potting mix which I had leftover from before: FoxFarm FX14053 (I am unable to post a link because I just joined to forum)

During the repotting process, I got rid of as much of the previous soil I possibly could and a whole lot of dead roots. This left the plant with very little root, so after potting it I dug up this product, which again I had under the sink from way back and fed it a diluted solution in order to encourage fast root growth/recovery: Voluntary Purchasing Group Fertilome 10640 Root Stimulator

However, I immediately regretted that decision because I am not sure it is a good idea to be feeding a stimulator/fertilizer formula to such a sickly plant? What do you guys think?

The plant is in a corner of the apartment that has double exposure (NE) and I also have a grow light pointed at it 24/7. The tiny wispy new growth that was clinging to life on the very top seems to have started to grow slowly over the past week.

Still obsessing about finding a way to facilitate root growth I remembered that back when I grew orchids, one of the best ways to encourage root growth was to keep the potting medium at a consistent moisture level — which goes agains the conventional care instruction for most orchids, but works wonderfully for encouraging root development. I thought perhaps the same thing might apply here, so I dug up a couple of the Hydrospikes I use when I travel and stuck them in the money tree pot to keep the soil at a consistently moist condition.

But again, I am second guessing that decision because it seems like a lot of water is being taken up into the pot; since I put in the spikes two days ago, every morning the 1/2 gallon reservoirs seem to be about half empty. I don't know if this is normal because the soil was on the drier side when I put them in initially or what..

What is the best watering protocol for encouraging root development? Should I take the Hydrospikes out?

I really don't want to end up killing this plant now that it seems like it's clinging to life, so any input would be great appreciated.

Thanks,
AJ

PS — it's night time and dark here but I tried to take some pictures which I will post below, let me know if better ones are needed and I shall take some in daylight.


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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Profess plant consultant & educator
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WillC
May 31, 2018 5:18 AM CST
There are no quick fixes for ailing plants or root development. Optimum light and proper watering are all that is required. Also patience. The stimulants are more likely to do harm than good.

Pachira does like evenly moist potting mix and can tolerate damp soil better than most. The water spikes may work, but I recommend watering from the top the traditional way when the top inch of soil feels dry.

I don't know the specifications of your grow light so I don't know if it is appropriate.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
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plantladylin
May 31, 2018 7:01 AM CST
Hi AJ, Welcome!

The container your Money Tree (Pachira aquatica) is planted in doesn't appear to have drainage so I'd be careful about watering, especially if there is very little root structure.
~ I'm an old gal who still loves playing in the dirt!
~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot!


Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Cat Lover Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Region: California Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all!
Composter Cactus and Succulents Dragonflies Hummingbirder Amaryllis Container Gardener
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tarev
May 31, 2018 10:32 AM CST
Hello SleepyWhippet, looking at the photos, 2nd photo shows new leaves, so it is promising. Just continue to provide a warm environment, no direct sun for now. Your hydrospike watering is not bad, it all depends on the condition of the root zone at the time you planted it. I do hope your glazed container have drain holes and that there are no rocks blocking the drainage. Just be patient, it may take the whole summer season for it to fully recover from all the stress and transplant shock it got.

Use bamboo skewers too to test if your soil is still moist, if you stick it in and comes out wet then you have to delay watering for a couple of days to allow the soil to dry out a bit and get more air at root zone area. Glazed containers tend to hold the media moist a bit longer, so be very careful of watering, whether you use hydrospkes or not. I do not use any fertilizers or stimulators to my plants when they are undergoing rescue/recovery efforts. Your timing to do the recovery is good, Spring is always good time to do it when temps are slowly going much warmer and light levels increasing, so it will provide warmth all over the plant,
Name: AJ
New York City (Zone 7a)
Houseplants Dog Lover Region: New York Foliage Fan
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SleepyWhippet
May 31, 2018 12:20 PM CST
Thanks everyone for your replies. Thank You!

I think my suspicion about Hydrospikes overwatering was true because the pot does have drain holes and a saucer and today I noticed the saucer was overflowing with water!! I immediately removed them, emptied the saucer, and used a "Soil Sleuth" to try and aerate the soil as much as possible. Fingers crossed that this episode hasn't hurt the tree too badly.

I'm sort of confused about how this happened tho because I thought Hydrospikes work with capillary action and do not indiscriminately over water.

I'm going to go back to manually checking the soil moisture level as you suggested, so I should stop using the Fertilome 10640 Root stimulator (it's a 4-10-3 formula) as well, correct?

I'm attaching some more daylight pictures of the plant, soil, and grow lights -- the light has 6 red LEDs: 620-630nm + 4 blue LEDs: 450-460nm -- I don't know if they're actually helping? I figured why not since I have them.

Edit: Typos
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[Last edited by SleepyWhippet - May 31, 2018 12:40 PM (+)]
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Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

Region: United States of America Deer Region: Florida Charter ATP Member Million Pollinator Garden Challenge I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Procrastinator Birds Butterflies Bee Lover Hummingbirder Container Gardener
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plantladylin
May 31, 2018 12:37 PM CST
It might have to do with the soil that you are using; some potting soils are denser and much more water retentive than others.

Years ago I was very heavy handed when it came to watering my plants ... they "looked" thirsty to my eyes so I was watering them every week ... a lot of water!! After practically drowning and killing many plants, I then began reading gardening and plant books (this was long before the internet and gardening websites or google Green Grin! ) and I learned about different plants and their native habitats and tried to figure out what conditions my particular plants required to thrive. I had a heavy hand when it came to watering (and I learned that I was watering way too often) so I began adding lots of perlite and/or chunky orchid bark mix to my soil to aid in aeration and drainage which seemed to have positive effects. As I've gotten older, I seem to be at the opposite extreme now and I never remember to water my plants on a regular basis but they seem to thrive on less water than more ... and I rarely, if ever fertilize.
~ I'm an old gal who still loves playing in the dirt!
~ Playing in the dirt is my therapy ... and I'm in therapy a lot!


Name: Will Creed
NYC
Profess plant consultant & educator
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WillC
May 31, 2018 2:15 PM CST
Hydrospikes are misleading. They can help supply water for an extended period of time, if you go away, for example. They are not a good idea for routine use with most indoor plants because they supply a constant stream of water and potted plants need to dry out regularly. As Lin pointed out, how much water they supply depends on the consistency of the soil.

The Soil Sleuth may help a bit, but proper potting soil has enough porous material, such as perlite, mixed throughout so that there are thousands of tiny air pockets. That is better than some larger holes poked in by the soil sleuth.

The Fertllome is just fertilizer, that your Pachiras doesn't need, and is marketed as "root stimulator." Don't use it.

The LEDs are probably fine, but unnecessary if the plant is moderately close to a window.

Overall, my advice is not to employ artificial devices to make your plants grow faster. Only the sun can do that.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: AJ
New York City (Zone 7a)
Houseplants Dog Lover Region: New York Foliage Fan
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SleepyWhippet
May 31, 2018 3:38 PM CST
Thank you. Should I repot the plant again with a different potting mix? Or is it better to leave it alone at this point?

This potting mix ( FoxFarm Ocean Forest FX14053) does have some perlite in it on visual inspection and the description on the packaging says the ingredients are as follows:

Aged Forest products, sphagnum peat moss. Pacific Northwest Sea-going fish emulsion. crab meal, shrimp meal, earthworm castings, sandy loam, perlite, fossilized bat guano, granite dust, Norwegian kelp meal, and oyster shell.

Is there a good readymade potting medium that you'd recommend for indoor houseplants in general? I keep reading on the forums about custom homemade potting mix recommendations but I live in a small NYC apartment with no outdoor space, so mixing my own would be a difficult and messy project.
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Cat Lover Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Region: California Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all!
Composter Cactus and Succulents Dragonflies Hummingbirder Amaryllis Container Gardener
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tarev
Jun 1, 2018 10:17 AM CST
Whenever I see sphagnum peat moss in the content of the potting mix, it already tells me the media will hold water a bit longer. It is not that bad actually, after all container planting does require a bit more watering, but not too much.

I just add some pumice or more perlite with the regular potting mix, just to increase aeration and drainage at root zone. A perfect potting mix will only work if you also incorporate proper watering habits.

Good luck! Give time for your plant to adjust! Keep us posted!
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Profess plant consultant & educator
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WillC
Jun 1, 2018 11:11 AM CST
The Fertilome has lots of good stuff in it that appeals to us, but not so much to the plants. It's called marketing!

I also live in a small NYC apartment. If you want o make your own, avoid the exotic recipes that are abundant online. All you need is a small bag of peat moss and a bag or perlite. Mix them together in a ratio of about 4:1. Otherwise, look for a packaged potting mix that has only peat, perlite, coir and lime in it and nothing else listed in the ingredients list, which seems to always be in fine print on the bag!
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care
Name: AJ
New York City (Zone 7a)
Houseplants Dog Lover Region: New York Foliage Fan
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SleepyWhippet
Jun 1, 2018 12:07 PM CST
Thank you again for all the info and advice. I think I will keep it in the same container and medium for now and I'll be extra cautious with my watering... I don't want to risk disturbing the plant by repotting it again. The new shoot on the top seems to have grown a little more over the past couple of days, so I'm cautiously optimistic.

I will keep you all posted on the progress. Crossing Fingers!
[Last edited by SleepyWhippet - Jun 1, 2018 12:08 PM (+)]
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Name: AJ
New York City (Zone 7a)
Houseplants Dog Lover Region: New York Foliage Fan
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SleepyWhippet
Jun 24, 2018 9:43 AM CST
UPDATE: So the little new growth on top grew to a proper mature set of leaves (top left in the first picture). But there's been another bud right next to it this entire time that hasn't grown at all, which is kind of strange (second picture).

I do think the plant might need a smaller pot or a different potting mix because it takes longer than 7 days for the top inch to dry out, but its root system is really damaged already so I don't know what to do.





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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Cat Lover Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Region: California Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all!
Composter Cactus and Succulents Dragonflies Hummingbirder Amaryllis Container Gardener
Image
tarev
Jun 24, 2018 10:59 AM CST
The plant looks okay for now. Just leave it alone, let it continue on adjusting. Your media staying wet is the effect of glazed containers, making the media staying wet longer, that is why in my original advice was to make your media grittier by adding more pumice to hasten dry out time.

Anyways, just add more intervals in watering, sometimes the hardest part in growing indoor plants is leaving them alone. I would be more worried if I see drastic leaf drop and any part of your plant going mushy. I see none of those, so the plant is just fine. Delay any attempts to repot to Spring. Just let it get the feel of summer time indoors.
[Last edited by tarev - Jun 24, 2018 11:00 AM (+)]
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Name: AJ
New York City (Zone 7a)
Houseplants Dog Lover Region: New York Foliage Fan
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SleepyWhippet
Jul 9, 2018 9:03 AM CST
UPDATE 2: I think the recent heatwave did the trick! Two sets of new leaves have emerged from that bud and they're going strong. In general, the plant seems to love the eastern window it's sitting in, and it's become my dog's favorite canopy to snooze under!


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Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Cat Lover Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Region: California Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all!
Composter Cactus and Succulents Dragonflies Hummingbirder Amaryllis Container Gardener
Image
tarev
Jul 9, 2018 4:45 PM CST
New growth fun! Glad to read about the update! Thumbs up

Terasa
Aug 21, 2018 9:28 AM CST
Hey everyone I'm new here trying to find a solution for my overgrown money tree. She's SO happy. I've taken her from a 3 foot to almost 6 foot tall over the past 2 years (reported once) but now she's top heavy and started bending over the last two days and I haven't been able to find any great places that tell me what to do about it. She has new growth at the top of the braid and I'm thinking maybe I trim her down to that? And take the three long stems and pot them separately until they root and then braid those for second money tree? I just don't know what to do. But also one of the stems never grew to begin with so one of the four stems are dead. Any advice is much appreciated.
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Name: Will Creed
NYC
Profess plant consultant & educator
Image
WillC
Aug 21, 2018 1:26 PM CST
@Terasa - Pruning is the only solution for overgrown plants and yours is past due. You can prune back some or all of the healthy stems to any point on the stems that is still green. New growth will then emerge at the point of the pruning cut and grow upward from there.

The best way to propagate is to use tip cuttings with no more than 4-6 leaves and a 3-4-inch bare stem stub to insert in damp soil or water.

Any stem that is dead can be cut off and removed.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
www.HorticulturalHelp.com
Contact me directly at [email protected]
I now have a book available on indoor plant care

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