Thursday, August 8, 2013


Hi Y'all,

Got a new thing comin' at 'ya.

I thought I'd try posting some questions that I've received from people, and the answers I've given.  I figure a lot of other people probably have the same sorts of questions.  I also expect, in the future, to be making these common questions the subject of short videos.

 I have both a Peace Lily and a Neon Pothos with browning tips that continue to get worse, but it's odd because I feel like I water them very sparingly already. My Peace Lily will sometimes even start to "collapse" a little, the sign that it needs more water. However, both are in non-draining pots. Was just wondering if you could help me.
Solving problems with plants is always a matter of trial and error.  First thing would be to get them into pots with drainage holes.  New pots should be the same size, or no more than 2" more in diameter.  New soil should have as much drainage as possible.  Don't use moisture retentive potting soil, use cactus soil, and add a quantity of perlite equal to about 1/4 the amount of soil your're using. Or if you want to learn some more about soil, here is a great place to start -

When repotting, cut off any brown or mushy roots, and remove as much of the old soil as possible, either by teasing it out from the roots with your fingers or a stick, or by gently washing it out in a bucket of water.  The old soil may contain fungus pathogens - we call it root rot - that is causing the leaves to tip.

One thing you may not know is that when you buy a plant, don't bring it home and repot it.  If you want it in a pretty container, just slip the plant and growpot into it - see our video #7.

Now we need to consider watering, especially if you don't have the time right  now to put your plants into pots with drainage.

What has probably happened is that when you started watering them, the moisture accumulated in the bottom of the soil mass and rotted the roots there. That's why you started to see brown tips.  The reason you get wilty leaves is that the only live roots are in the top of the soil, so when those get dry, droop goes the plant.

What you want to do (if you can't repot immediately) is to encourage the roots to grow back into the lower region of the soil.  So try it this way.  Don't water until the leaves start to droop. Before you add water, check the soil in the bottom of the pot with a kebob skewer - it should be almost dry.  If it is, go ahead and water your plant with maybe 1/2 to 1 cup of water, (I'm making a guess here because I don't know how big your plants are,) just enough to perk up the leaves.  The next day, check the soil in the bottom again.  You're trying to get an idea of how much water you need to moisten the roots, but not wet the soil in the bottom too much.

If, when you check the soil before you water, it is anything but almost dry, put just a little water on the plants to moisten the roots, then test again the next day.  Hopefully the soil underneath won't be any wetter than it was before.  Your objective is to give the live roots enough water to continue functioning, but not add more water to the bottom soil, so that it will dry out enough that roots can reinhabit it.  Of course, as I already said, the best thing is to repot into a pot with drainage.

The brown tips won't go away unless you cut them off, which you should do, in an artistic way so as to preserve the natural shape of the leaf.  This is a good way to tell if the roots are getting healthier.  When the trimmed ends get more brown tips, roots are still troubled; when trimmed ends don't tip again, plant is getting healthy.

Changes you make in plant environments take awhile to become visible to you.  In other words, you won't see an end to tipping for 3 - 4 weeks, at least.

There are a few other things you can do to help your plants dry out/use extra water more quickly.  Move them to a spot with more light, but watch out for direct sun, it can burn leaves.  Place a fan to circulate air around them.  Take them outside to a shady spot, just remember to bring them in before it gets cold (below 40 F).

Hope some of this helps. I'd love to know how your plants are doing, or if you have any questions or any ideas of subjects you'd like me to address.  Comments space is at the bottom.  (hint, hint)

                                                                                                                     (by Marlie Graves)

1 comment:

  1. Great details and advice. I am really interested in putting it in to action. Your info. on root rot at the bottom and dry good roots on the top makes so much sense now! (I should 'tip' you!) ~ Amanda