Adeniums forum: New adenium arabica - all leaves yellowing— help!

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Name: Mandy
Illinois (Zone 5b)
Mnk88
Aug 15, 2018 5:34 PM CST
Hello,

I recently bought a plant (about two weeks ago?) from Costco which was marked as a baobab and supposedly "easy care"—I loved the interesting fat root (which I later learned is the caudex) and eventually reidentified it as an adenium arabica.

I watched many videos on adenium care and tried my best to follow them because I have come to love this curvy plant!

However, all of the leaves are beginning to yellow and I have already lost two. I live in Illinois with no porch/garden, so I keep it by my one and only window — which is a floor-to-ceiling window that covers my entire wall and faces northeast.

1) I watered the plant a few days after I got it, while it was in its original container, and noticed the roots were coming from the drainage holes so I decided to repot it.
2) So, a week after getting it, I repotted the plant from its original container to the new one seen in photo—one that has a wide base, as I read was appropriate. I covered the base of the planter with smooth stone before filling with a potting mix (I had cactus soil on hand, and then I added additional perlite and sand and fertilizer recommended by an adenium grower, the 14-14-14 Osmocote) — I knew I needed to be well-draining and not hold on to moisture as it's a hardy plant that uses the caudex as storage. I did not water it after repotting it.
3) after I lost two leaves to rapid yellowing, I wondered if I was underwatering it. I can't seem to find a straight answer on Water schedule, as the yellow leaves could be a sign of over watering or underwatering. I would rather err on the side of underwatering, but now I am noticing all of the leaves beginning to yellow.
4) I set up an additional light source using 4000K LED bulbs thinking that maybe it is lacking in light, and that I should supplement it. This is a plant that thrives in hot, bright sunlight, so I was concerned that being an indoor plant in Illinois in a constant 70°F temperature is not enough for it.
5) I'm now considering buying a heat mat for it to keep it closer to 80°F. But I need to figure out if there's something very basic I am currently doing wrong that I should change first, before putting this plant through more changes.
6) The caudex feels strong and firm, not squishy, which is supposed to indicate its health. It has the start of some blooms (albeit very very small) at the top, but they aren't growing bigger.

What could it be? Is it shocked and adjusting to the new environment and this is temporary? Am I overwatering it? Am I unserwatering it? Is it not getting enough light or heat? Please help if you have any ideas or suggestions for me, I've never had a plant look so sad Crying


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[Last edited by Mnk88 - Aug 15, 2018 5:38 PM (+)]
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Name: James
North Louisiana (Zone 8b)
deepsouth
Aug 16, 2018 10:53 AM CST

A.arabicum prefer dry, well lit conditions .... the potting media must drain very quickly - draining away almost as fast as putting it on

the example in the pictures look to be over-watered ...& not getting enough sunlight

but to check for over-watering - pull the plant from pot - and examine potting media -
if its damp, the problem is over-watering - if potting media dry, then the problem is not watering enough

while out of the pot also check the caudex & roots below the soil line .... sometimes the symptoms of root rot are below the soil line

move the A.arabicum outside - (or south facing window) gradually ease the plant into full sun - water thoroughly once every 10 days - never allow the pot to sit in water

If outside - if it rains on the plant - add 10 additional days until the next watering



Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Aug 16, 2018 1:27 PM CST
Hello Mnk88, looking at your container, I do not really recommend that type of container where the tray is attached, it takes much longer for the water to drain out. You also mentioned in your number 2 description that you covered the base of the planter with smooth stones before you put in the potting mix. I would suggest you consider uprooting the plant again, and remove those stones. You have created a higher water perch table, so the water is actually staying below soil level much longer, unable to drain out properly. Adeniums like frequent watering during summer but it absolutely hates sitting in too wet media. Glazed containers too tends to keep the water longer at soil level.

Over and underwatering manifests similarly on the leaves. The plant being new is also trying to acclimate to its new growing environment. In your case, the media is staying too wet, so overwatering is happening.

The plant likes very strong direct sunlight, the hotter the better. It ably handles our very dry triple digit heat outdoors here, and the blooms will come out faster and bigger in such conditions, while it gets daily watering during summer time. I am not sure you will get the desired results in a northeast window. The light levels there are just too weak. If you do very long watering intervals at a time when it should be actively growing, you might instead cause it to go semi-dormant.

You have gotten extra lighting, so that may help in its lighting needs, but do improve the container and media. Otherwise there is a very high risk of root rot that may eventually spread all over your plant and kill it in the process.

Also, be prepared that when the outside light levels starts going shorter and temperatures fluctuating to the cool side, Adeniums will naturally start going dormant. It may lose all its leaves, or it may retain some, it may be blooming but still dormant if there is no new leaf being formed. So you have to gradually scale down watering, to fully stop watering when cold season has arrived. It will naturally rest. It will resume active growing in mid Spring.
Name: Karen
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plantmanager
Aug 16, 2018 1:31 PM CST
From the look of the leaves, I would also check carefully for Spider Mites. They are very small and there may be tiny webs too. I had my Plumeria and Adenium leaves look like that once, and it turned out to be spider mites.
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Name: Mandy
Illinois (Zone 5b)
Mnk88
Aug 16, 2018 5:07 PM CST
plantmanager said:From the look of the leaves, I would also check carefully for Spider Mites. They are very small and there may be tiny webs too. I had my Plumeria and Adenium leaves look like that once, and it turned out to be spider mites.


Hello plantmanager, thanks for your reply! I have checked my plant each day since receiving it (I am obsessive about looking at my plants daily, oops) but I do not see any spider mites. Thank you so much for your reply and giving me something specific to look for! I feel confident this is a care issue on my end, *Blush*
Name: Mandy
Illinois (Zone 5b)
Mnk88
Aug 16, 2018 5:09 PM CST
Update from today, the yellowing has progressed very rapidly and it makes me sad to see! I know plants are pretty resilient, so I think I can turn this around, I just feel so bad as I did my best to find as much care info as I could and only did what I thought was right D'Oh!


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Name: Mandy
Illinois (Zone 5b)
Mnk88
Aug 16, 2018 5:14 PM CST
Deepsouth,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write out basic care information. I will remove the adenium today to check the roots for rot as you have recommended and also to see whether the soil is holding on to water. If it is holding onto water, I will have to make an even better draining soil, as I have only watered it once (last week). If it is bone dry, then it may be that I am underwatering it ... which doesn't seem quite right yet as I haven't had it very long.

I cannot move it outside due to the fact I live on the third floor of an apartment with no porch, and my only windows are northeast facing. I hope my plant can adjust to the lighting conditions.
Name: Mandy
Illinois (Zone 5b)
Mnk88
Aug 16, 2018 5:19 PM CST
Hello tarev,

I didn't realize this was a poor container to have! I will start looking for another container that allows full detachment from the base. As deepsouth has recommended, I will be taking my adenium out of the mix to check on its roots and see if the soil is holding onto water. I will remove the rocks from the base like you have recommended and add more sand and perlite to help with the drainage.

I think there is a chance that it may be going dormant too early. I only have my one northeast window, and I have no porch, so I will try to adjust things inside for my adenium as much as I can. I am looking into a heat mat to help with temperature, do you think that may be a good idea?


I will update later after I've had time to take the adenium out and look at the root system closer.
Name: Mandy
Illinois (Zone 5b)
Mnk88
Aug 16, 2018 5:49 PM CST
The roots are firm and pale, it doesn't look like there is any root rot, I am attaching a photo.

The soil wasn't bone dry, nor was it wet (it does not stick together or hold shape), but I will improve drainage potential by adding more perlite. There was no standing water in the base of the planter and it felt very dry to the touch after pouring out the potting media.

My fear is that the adenium is going into early dormancy or is in shock due to its environment change, or maybe a combo of both Crying Sighing!
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Name: James
North Louisiana (Zone 8b)
deepsouth
Aug 16, 2018 6:33 PM CST

looks like your potting mix has a lot of peat moss in it .... try to avoid peat moss when ever possible ( wet peat moss holds too much water - once peat moss dries out completely, it is very difficult to re-wet it)

if there is feed store near you - pick up a 5 pound bag of poultry grit (which is crushed granite) - now mix about half of your existing potting media with all of the poultry grit ...should see mostly poultry grit ...re-pot your plant with this mixture......

try to avoid fine sand too ... on top, fine sand will actually harden into a "crust" ...while mixed in soil it will migrate downwards and clog up drainage .... fine will hinder drainage and not improve it ...sand about the size of the head on a pin, or about the size of a BB (0.180" ~ 4.6mm) will work fine

I use volcanic cinders in the bottom of pots - about an inch deep with potting media on top of that .... elevate the pots up off any plant dishes .... so water is free flowing

my adenium spend most of the year outdoors ....leaves do yellow if there has been heavy rainfall, over an extended period of time

am guessing your plants leaves will all turn yellow and will eventually fall off ...but do not give up on them ...just provide more lighting - and less watering



Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Aug 16, 2018 6:55 PM CST
Good to see the root base, glad it looks good. Give it time, as long as there is no mushy part in its roots, caudex or branches, there is a big potential for recovery.

Strongly suggest when you repot, do not put anything to block the drainage. Got to keep it as free draining as possible. If you are trying to conserve the soil, just use a little mesh to cover, that way water still drains out.

It is still August, so there is a bit of time, before it goes truly dormant in Fall. It may arrive earlier on your side, but don't worry, as long as the caudex stays firm, even though it is leafless all the way to winter, it will come back in Spring. That will be the stage when your utmost patience is needed, and avoid the temptation to water when it is dormant.

The media I use is very coarse and gritty, combination of cacti mix, some compost and lots of pumice. I have also added some japanese bonsail media called kanuma and akadama, which has similar properties that allows good airflow at root zone.

Name: Mandy
Illinois (Zone 5b)
Mnk88
Aug 17, 2018 9:03 PM CST
Hi deepsouth,

I did not add any peat moss to my potting mix! I used some cactus mix but added sand and perlite to increase drainage. Maybe the cactus mix had peat moss already in it? But I see what you're saying about sand. I will look for poultry grit like you have advised.

I had held off on watering and have only watered it one since repotting a week and a half ago, but I can continue holding off on water if needed!

You are right, by the way. More leaves have turned yellow and they have fallen off. The caudex feels firm and strong and the root system looks good so I definitely am not giving up on my adenium Smiling Thank You!
Name: Mandy
Illinois (Zone 5b)
Mnk88
Aug 17, 2018 9:10 PM CST
Hi tarev,

I was definitely checking for mushy roots and was glad to not find any. I do use a small mesh over the drainage hole to not block it, but I will be repotting to an even grittier mix soon.

Since my last post, the leaves turned even more yellow and a few came off with a slight tap Crying I do think it will be leafless soon. But if I'm understanding correctly, as long as I resist watering too often and the media allows the roots to breath, it will be okay. When it is dormant, how often do I water?

Thank you again for your help!
Name: James
North Louisiana (Zone 8b)
deepsouth
Aug 17, 2018 10:11 PM CST
if you are using Cactus, Palm & Citrus Potting Mix .... it has peat moss in it .... as well as "forest products"

can be used in a pinch ....but an amended, grittier, chunkier mix is better for adeniums .....

pet stores sell aquarium gravel a tad bigger than poultry grit ....together they make a pretty good mix ...

adding sand is okay ...as long as all the fine stuff has been sifted off, and only larger granules are used .... sift using either a screening frame or old pasta strainer

if all the leaves fall off ...assume the plant has entered dormancy ..... during dormancy, the plant will not grow more leaves or grow longer limbs - so do not water or add fertilizer at this time .....
in 3 months (mark it on the calendar) ....water with less than a half cup of water - then wait another 3 months before watering again

also keep the area around the plant cool ... adding heat is not necessary - any lighting should provide enough heat

think - dormant = dry season

during these "dry months" ....the caudex will shrivel a little ... but all is well ....

I have lost more plants during the dormant period just because I could not resist the urge to water ..... resist the urge and your plant will make it








Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
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tarev
Aug 18, 2018 11:33 AM CST
Hello Mandy, as mentioned by James, no watering when dormant. As long as the caudex and branches stays firm to your touch, it is okay. Sometimes, the plant reacts to changes in its growing environment like that, then it acclimates once more and grows new leaves. But being indoors, it is a very slow process.

In my area, after overwintering indoors, once it is safe to be outside, I bring it out. Actually coaxing it to form leaves is okay with just part sun/shade. It builds up gradually. This year we had a rather prolonged cooler conditions in May, it stayed just in the high 60F's to mid 70F's, my Adenium really took its time to wake up properly. It was already in June when it started to show more active leafing when our temps finally started going into the higher 80F's to high 90F's. Then as more high 90F's and triple digits came, along with our dry heat, it started to do its blooms in July. I was just glad to see some new leaves forming, so that was the only time I can resume watering actively. It is a test of patience, you feel like it is dying when dormant, since leaves are falling and gradually the caudex maybe shrinking a bit. But it is normal. Shrinking caudex but staying firm still okay..it will be worrisome if it is shrinking caudex and feeling mushy soft, that will indicate rotting is happening at root zone.
Name: Mandy
Illinois (Zone 5b)
Mnk88
Aug 19, 2018 12:58 PM CST
I have an update for everyone who is helping and following along.

First, all the recommendations have been really great and already have given me guidance for how to improve the care on my adenium. I am on the hunt for a better pot with the right diameter and depth, so no new pot yet—but I am looking! And I will be repotting to a grittier mix.

But it does look like plantmanager was onto something earlier! They suggested to check for spider mites, and when I looked, I didn't see any webbing or tiny tiny little moving mites at all... the beginning of the yellowing of the leaves must have been the very early infestation of them, and it probably was only slowed down by the fact I was removing the leaves that had turned yellow (as I just learned that spider mites suck the life out of leaves)

This morning when I went to check on my adenium, I saw some tiny beginnings of webs and saw with my own eyes a handful of spider mites crawling around. I don't have any neem oil on hand, but instantly went to read on removal. I learned they can spread VERY quickly so it was important to me to work ASAP on trying to remove them. I didn't have a garden hose as I live on the upper level of an apartment, so I removed my adenium from the planter (poor thing has been removed twice now in one week—first when I checked roots, and now today!)

After removing, I turned the kitchen faucet on and began to fill the basin with a mix of mild dish detergent and water. I turned the adenium upside down to keep root system out of the way while I rinsed all of the leaves and branches, dipping into the dish detergent/water mix occasionally, and re-rinsing. I tried to be gentle but also very thorough to try and get every nook and cranny. I also made sure to remove all yellow leaves since I assumed those leaves had been compromised. After finishing with the heavy rinsing, I gently wiped the leaves top and bottom.

Below is a picture of my adenium now. Hopefully I stopped the spider mite infestation but I will be watching like a hawk. I am taking this afternoon to check my other plants very closely, and I will be very thankful if my adenium was the only victim.

This adenium has certainly been a new experience and I know I have a lot to learn!

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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Aug 19, 2018 1:13 PM CST
Sounds like you may have solved your problem for now, but keep your eyes open in case the eight-legged monsters come back. Smiling We do not get spider mites here because (I'm told) they hate humidity and ours averages around 80%. Lots of nighttime and morning fog.

I prefer cocofiber (coir) to peat when I have the choice, but almost all potting soils on the market are peat-based. I don't see it is any particular problem. The important thing is that there be lots of rock (perlite, pumice, etc. to about 50%) mixed in with the organic components. Those who complain about problems re-wetting their potting soil would probably benefit from a different approach to watering where they do the job in more than one pass. More details in the thread below, but the bottom line is this: bone dry peat and coir do not absorb water efficiently, but once they've had a chance to become moist, they are much better at it.

The thread "Sunday afternoon experiment: watering in multiple passes" in Gardening Ideas forum

Adenium arabicum flowering on the patio right now...

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Cheers! Smiling
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Aug 19, 2018 2:04 PM (+)]
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Name: Karen
NM (Zone 7b)
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plantmanager
Aug 19, 2018 1:29 PM CST
I'm glad you got the spider mites, Mandy. I've done the same sink dunk with some of my plants. Like Baja said, keep a close watch because it's hard to eradicate them with one treatment of anything.

That's a beautiful Arabicum on your patio, Baja. The caudex is so wide. How old is it? Does yours grow all year, or does it take a winter rest?
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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
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Baja_Costero
Aug 19, 2018 1:37 PM CST
I have had it for 7 years. I got it in a 5 or 6 inch pot and it's currently in a 12 inch pot. It actually broke the last one because like usual I was waiting until the last minute to deal with it. Rolling my eyes.

I would credit lots of direct sun, limiting water, and genetics for the overall low shape and short arms. I have never pruned and don't intend to. An indoor Adenium will never end up looking like that (wide, low). Which is fine, just different.

My plant never really is particularly leafy, because we get zero summer rain and I'm not a big fan of watering a lot. It does go leafless in the winter for a few weeks at a time, and does take a while to get as leafy as it currently is. I water half as often when it goes leafless in winter, but I continue to water deeply through the deciduous phase because I know the plant is not really dormant, just napping. I would not recommend this care to those without the benefit of an extremely mild climate, just sharing my experience. Smiling
[Last edited by Baja_Costero - Aug 19, 2018 2:17 PM (+)]
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Name: Mandy
Illinois (Zone 5b)
Mnk88
Aug 19, 2018 5:49 PM CST
Plantmanager—

If one treatment isn't normally enough, how often should I do the rinse? Should I do it again tomorrow or wait a few days?

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