Yesterday, I presented you with this email for your consideration:

READER QUESTION:

>>>>Hello!

I Have a sensitive plant with yellow leaves! I found your blog online and saw that you had a similar situation. She was green and fine yesterday and now a bunch of her leaves are yellow! Do you think it’s from overwatering? How often am I supposed to water one of these plants? Any help would be greatly appreciated! Should I leave the yellow leaves? Will they turn green again?<

I responded with a request for more information, including a photo.

>>>>This is what it looks like now, it was totally green yesterday. How often should i water it? Thank you for any help you have to offer!
>>>>

The leaves are falling off! Is it too late? I’ve had this plant for about 6 days, I can’t believe I’m killing it already.>>>>

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Let’s see how you answered:

Joseph Brenner wrote, “I’m going to hazard a guess, and say overwatering is her problem. If that is the case, it may be too late, at the leaf drop stage. However, I would try allowing the soil to dry before giving up hope.”

Ginny Burton of Burton Optician in DC wrote, “I’m baffled. It happened overnight and she’s had it only for six days, so maybe it was already sick? Or it got sprayed with some chemical? In the background shot I see something that looks like maybe some hand sanitizer, so maybe that’s it.

It’s hard to believe that she could be overwatering it in just six days, especially since it doesn’t look overpotted. I’ve overwatered many a plant and I’ve never had it turn yellow overnight.

Can’t wait to hear your diagnosis!”

It was a tricky one. In some ways, they’re all tricky questions because it’s hard to diagnose a problem when you haven’t seen the conditions that led to the problem. That’s why I always ask for more information and photos – I need to know if the plant is indoors or outdoors, what size pot, whether it experienced a temperature change or shock of some kind, how often the person waters the plant – the list goes on and on to get closer at the cause.

In this case, I didn’t get much information except the photo and the fact that she’s only had the plant for six days.

This was my actual response (afterward, I’ll show you how I should’ve answered).

ME:

>>>>You’re probably not killing it. There’s a delay between when a plant has a problem and when the plant shows the problem.

Whatever problem there is probably happened before you brought the plant home. Maybe it was stressed at the nursery. Maybe someone overwatered it. It’s hard to tell.

Usually, when the leaves look like yours, it’s from overwatering. If the plant had been thirsty, the yellow would look more solid yellow, not mixed with green like yours are. I would snip all those off because they won’t go back to green.

If you remove the damaged leaves, you’ll be able to see new problems when they come up.

Mimosas drink a lot of water, and they like heat. So if you have a sunny window, it will grow better.

Let me know if that helps. And good luck!>>>>

I never did hear back from her so I don’t know what ended up happening with it.

In hindsight, I should’ve taken a little more time to talk to her about the Mimosa’s water needs. She had asked, but who knows, maybe I was feeling rushed back then. Or it could be that I zeroed in on the “I’m killing it” refrain and got a little bugged by it. (I hear that all the time in the plant biz – a plant will get one yellow leaf and suddenly it’s in the throes of a wretched death with people freaking out all over the place. It’s annoying.)

I should’ve also taken into account that with Mimosas, she could actually kill the plant practically overnight. They grow so fast, it’s conceivable that her plant could be overwatered one day and have yellow leaves the next. So maybe she did drown it. Overwatering can kill some plants very, very quickly. Once the roots, particularly if they are small roots, are deprived of air, plants can go downhill fast.

At the time, though, I’m pretty sure I was focused on what may have happened to the poor plant before she got it, since she’d only had it a short time. Maybe it was stressed from the drive, or from its time at the nursery.

It’s next to impossible to say with any certainty. But I do stand by my diagnosis of overwatering – that’s a classic look that plants get when they have too much water.  Who did the overwatering is anyone’s guess.

Hmmm, looking over all this, it’s not terribly satisfying, is it? C’est la vie. I tried to help with the info provided and with whatever knowledge I had at that moment.

Joseph, I agree with your overwatered assessment. Ginny, yeah, I think something probably happened before she got the plant. Thanks to both of you for playing along!

I’ll be back tomorrow with an all-new Ask the Experts post, and a new puzzler. If you haven’t guessed the current puzzler, you still have time to do so. Just leave your best guess in the comments section. I’ll reveal the answer and the winner(s) tomorrow. Hope to see you back here.

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