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Since 2001, I’ve owned a small plant care business in Albuquerque called Good To Grow. Since 2009, I’ve maintained this indoor and outdoor gardening blog.

Each Wednesday, I’ve been posting emails from readers who had questions about their houseplants. Most of the letters came from people who are not regular readers, but who stumbled across this blog because they had a specific houseplant question. When I could, I wrote them back with advice tailored to their specific question. I saved all these emails in a file.

Since my regular readers are so sophisticated with their houseplant knowledge, and because everyone has their own take on caring for plants, I wanted to turn the emails over to them and see what their advice would’ve been had the email come to them. On Wednesdays, I’ll post the original question, and on the following Wednesday, I’ll reveal the advice from the regulars, as well as my response, so we can see how we match up. It’s been an interesting experiment so far, I hope you enjoy. If you have advice, please leave it in the comment section or on my facebook wall.

Here’s a recap of the exchange I showed you last week:

>>>>

Hi Liza

I recently bought some house plants but I don’t have a clue how to take care of them.  One is a bougainvillea and I have noticed recently there are a couple of tiny black flies around it.  It has also started to lose its flowers. We have had it only a week and it was re potted by the garden centre when we bought it.

Any advice seems to say just water regularly which isn’t that helpful as I don’t know if I’m watering it too much or too little.

I would really appreciate your advice.

Many thanks
>>>>

I asked for photos, then she added:

>>>>

Hi Liza

Thanks for your reply.  I live in the UK.  We have gerbera daisies which seem to need watering more than we thought they would every second day at the moment or the flowers start to droop.  I have put potato on the soil of the bougainvillea as I heard that will draw out the larvae from the flies.  I’ve removed all the dead flowers. The leaves still look healthy.  I know they lose flowers eventually but it is still quite warm here mid twenties at the moment.  

I have attached some pictures.  The third plant we don’t know what it is as it didn’t come with a label maybe you know?!

Many thanks
>>>>

photo(57)

photo(56)

>>>>

So what advice did you have for her? Let’s take a look:

Claude from Random Rants and Prickly Plants wrote, “Well, the no id plant is a croton.The gerber came from greenhouse, retai. Outlet, home. It is still in its growers pot,and probably rootbound. Water everyday, until it can be ripped with more soil.

All three of these plants like a lot more light than they’re gonna get in their current locations. At the very least get rid of that lace curtain, but they’d be better off outside on the patio if possible. And consider finding some lower light plants…”He added, “To correct… the gerber came from the greenhouse, to retail outlet, to home. And it doesn’t need ripped, it needs repotted. There’s a tiny little demon in my phone and it calls itself auto correct.”

Gennafer31 wrote, “Well I have all those plants and grow them outside in the ground except the third one who I also don’t know the name of. My house is pretty dark all the time despite living in sunny CA and none of those guys do well inside my home. I’m not sure what her weather is in the UK but I am guessing it’s not hot and arid like here where we grow our bougainvilleas outside and don’t bother to water them so I don’t know if she can put them outside. The third mystery plant I leave in the most sunny window ledge where I also forget to water it for weeks at a time and it does best when I don’t fuss with it.Long story short I think she is overwatering the bougainvillea and all of the plants need to be moved to a much sunnier location but I think if she was looking for shady house plants she should return all of those and get pathos, ficus, ferns etc..

And Claude added, “You know, where she’s got that croton? I’m thinking a Sanseveria would look really handsome and striking. And it would do much better there than the croton ever dreamed of.”

Excellent! Claude, you’re right, the no ID plant is a Croton. I knew you’d get that, they are a common houseplant. They have attractive multi-colored leaves and are sold nearly everywhere. They do tend to be susceptible to spider mites, but those are fairly easily controlled.

And you’re right, the Gerber daisy needs a bigger pot, and the Bougainvillea needs a sunnier location. Well done, Claude – I think your advice is spot on. I also like your suggestion of replacing the Croton with the more reliable Sansevieria.

Gennafer31, you, too, hit upon the most important aspect, which is that these plants need more light. The only thing I would disagree with is the assertion that the reader is overwatering the Bougainvillea. At the point that she wrote to me, she’d only had it a week so I don’t think she would’ve had time to overwater it just yet. But I do agree that overwatering a Bougainvillea would cause the bracts to fall off.

I mentioned last week that I generally use kid gloves around houseplant rookies, because I want them to develop a love of houseplants. I don’t want them to be scared away or too intimidated. I hope to encourage them to experiment so they can realize the joys of nurturing another living creature.

>But sometimes, I just need to tell it like it is. As was the case here. Here’s some of our email exchange (there was a lot of back and forth):

>>>>

Hi (name withheld for privacy)! Would you be able to send me a photo of your new plants? It would help me to see what’s wrong.

I can tell you that Bougainvilleas make difficult houseplants. They go dormant in places with cold winters (which means they’ll lose all their leaves and look like they are dead) and come back in the spring. They prefer to be outdoors, but you have to be careful that your climate isn’t too hot or too cold for them. Where do you live?

What’s the other houseplant?

Liza>>>>

(She responded that she lives in the UK, and sent photos.)

>>>>

Hi again! I can see why you would like the Gerber Daisy and the Bougainvillea – they are very pretty! The third plant is a Croton, also a pretty plant.

The Croton is a common houseplant. You’ll want to keep a little on the moist side, and it would love some bright light to keep its coloring. Crotons are susceptible to spider mites, but those are easy to get rid of if you do spot them.The Gerber and the Boug are pretty, but they really aren’t very good houseplants. The Gerber Daisy is very difficult to grow indoors – it would much prefer to be in the ground outside. The Bougainvillea will lose all its leaves in the coming months and remain dormant through the winter. Or, some varieties will lose their bracts but not their leaves in the winter depending on how much light they get. Bougainvilleas drink a lot of water. If the lower leaves get crunchy, that means the plant is thirsty.I’ve kept Bougainvilleas indoors during winters and the plants have kept their leaves. But they’ve never flowered.

You should experiment with the plants and see how long you can keep them happy indoors. When the Gerber Daisy is done blooming, snip the dead flower off and see if the plant will send up another shoot. You may have to fertilize it to help it along.

I hope that helps! Liza

>>>>
——-
Hi Liza

Thank you for your email.  Your advice is really helpful.  That’s annoying that the gerbera and bougainvillea are better as outdoor plants as we bought them from the indoor plant section!

Does the bougainvillea still need to be watered when it loses all its leaves?  We are finding the gerbera needs quite a lot of water at the moment as well as the flowers start to droop and look dead and then come back to life when given some water.

We are very new to plants so really appreciate your advice!

Many thanks

——
>>>>

Hi!I find it frustrating that the nurseries sell them as good houseplants, too. They just want to make money, they’re not thinking about the welfare of the plants. And they do make lots of money – they are pretty plants when they are healthy, which makes people want to buy them.

You may be able to keep the Bougainvillea green all year (I had one that was green but lost all its flowers). But if it does go dormant, I would water it about once a month, maybe once every two months, then start vigorously watering it again in February or March. Depending on your climate, you could stick it outside in the summers to get the blooms you want, then bring it back inside in the fall. They do not like the cold. Also, they bloom off of frequent pruning, so keep that in mind for next season.

The Gerber Daisy probably needs a bigger pot, which is why it’s drinking so much water. You could repot it, and it should stabilize. You can grow them indoors, it’s just takes extra attention. Fertilizing will help it bloom.

If these plants don’t work out, I hope you don’t give up. Plants are a great way to decorate indoors. And there are lots of plants that flower reliably without being fussy. I’ve got all sorts of recommendations on my blog. Good luck!
Liza>>>>

——–
Hi Liza

That’s very annoying about the nurseries. They had the gerberas in that pot so we just assumed it was the right size! Don’t think ill be trusting then again any time soon! 

Thank you very much for your help. Ill be sure to check out your blog if these ones don’t work out! 

>>>>

Well…the thing about the Gerber being in that size pot is that’s the size the grower probably sent it over in. It could’ve been at the retail nursery for a long time. They are not in the business of repotting their own plants – they expect you to do that when you get the plant home.

They shouldn’t sell Gerbers in the first place, but in fairness, they can’t be expected to do that much labor with their inventory once they have them.

I’m not sure what soil brands you have available, but it’s worth it to pay a little extra for soil that’s not left outside in the rain (because the bags get infected with fungus gnats, which are annoying in the home).

Good luck! Liza>>>>

Ok, could you follow all that? Basically my point was that she should’ve never bought those plants in the first place. They’re inappropriate for houseplants, especially since she had no prior houseplant experience. She couldn’t have chosen more difficult plants. It’s frustrating because the nurseries aren’t usually staffed with people who can say, “hey, maybe you should try this starter houseplant first.” They’re going to sell the expensive Bougainvilleas every single time.

As much as I wanted this reader to fall in love with houseplants, I felt I had to be honest with her about how they are not particularly good indoor plants.

What do you think? Do you agree with what I laid out for her? Does it make you mad that lots of nurseries sell inappropriate plants to newbies? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

——————————–
Good To Grow is an Albuquerque-based interior and exterior landscaping service. We use plants and flowers to decorate offices, homes and patios around the city. We also offer memorial garden services, meaning that when a loved one passes, we can plant a customized garden in his or her honor. If the person who passed was an avid cook, we can plant an herb garden to honor that person’s memory. If a Veteran dies, we can plant a red, white, and blue perennial garden. If you lost a beloved pet, we can plant a garden around the burial site.
If you’d like to know more about the landscaping or memorial garden services offered, please send an email to lizatheplantlady@gmail.com. Thank you for your consideration.

Since 2001, I’ve owned a small plant care business in Albuquerque called Good To Grow. Since 2009, I’ve maintained this indoor and outdoor gardening blog.

Each Wednesday, I’ve been posting emails from readers who had questions about their houseplants. Most of the letters came from people who are not regular readers, but who stumbled across this blog because they had a specific houseplant question. When I could, I wrote them back with advice tailored to their specific question. I saved all these emails in a file.

Since my regular readers are so sophisticated with their houseplant knowledge, and because everyone has their own take on caring for plants, I wanted to turn the emails over to them and see what their advice would’ve been had the email come to them. On Wednesdays, I’ll post the original question, and on the following Wednesday, I’ll reveal the advice from the regulars, as well as my response, so we can see how we match up. It’s been an interesting experiment so far, I hope you enjoy. If you have advice, please leave it in the comment section or on my facebook wall.

Last week I shared the problem that the lovely Alissa is having with her Plectranthus plant. Here’s her email:

>>>>I have a concern about my swedish ivy (is that the name?) you gave me cuttings of. It used to be right in an east facing window receiving some direct morning light. I noticed the leaves that were not in direct light all seemed much happier so it’s now sitting just below that window sill. I water it when I remember to lol. It gets very dry between waterings. It usually loses one or a few leaves when I let it get too dry. I thought it had spider mites at one point because a nearby plant had them right around the time the ivy started getting black spots on his leaves. I treated it twice along with the other plant. I don’t see any bugs now, but he still gets black blotches on his leaves. I usually pick off the sick leaves. Do you know what the problem might be? >>>>

Uhhhh, no, no I don’t Alissa.

Spider mites cause leaf damage, but not like that!

We emailed back and forth, and at one point, I asked her about fungus in the soil. Here’s what she replied:

>>>>I just checked out the soil, and it does not appear to have any fungus. Although I did now notice a bunch of little crawly guys all in the soil….yuck! I don’t know what they are and they are very hard to see. I tried scooping soil onto a plate to get a better look at them and now they are very hidey and hard to spot. The one I saw crawl across the plate was like the tip of a sharpened pencil and red I want to say. >>>>

100MEDIA$IMAG7598

100MEDIA$IMAG7599

I turned to you for help. Here’s how you answered:

Ginny Burton, of Burton Optician in Washington DC, wrote, “I don’t think it has anything to do with the bugs. I think water gets splashed on the leaves and the droplets act as magnifying glasses and burn the leaves. Or, if she’s using fertilizer, she may be spilling some on the leaves and it’s strong enough to damage them. The plant itself looks perfectly happy, so I’d just do what she’s doing: pick off the damaged leaves.”

Alissa replied, “Thanks for the input! I haven’t used any fertilizer, but it is definitely possible that the leaves get wet often since it is next to the kitchen sink.”

Claude from Random Rants and Prickly Plants wrote, “If this was an outside plant I’d say this was caused by allowing the plant to get too dry and hot. Ive never seen it on an inside plant though. as for the creepy crawlers… eeeeewwwwww! Consider taking cuttings and rooting them in a new pot, with new soil, and sans ickies. have you seen any gnats? it could, I suppose, be maggots of fungus gnats, but that doesn’t make sense with the hot, dry theory. if it’s by the kitchen sink, they may have picked up something from foods prep… but again, eeeeewwwwww”

Thank you Ginny and Claude for your advice. I think you are both right that there are two different problems with this plant – the black spots problem and the bugs. Changing the soil eliminated the latter.

We may never know for sure what caused those black spots. But Ginny’s right that the plant looks great and that she should continue picking off damaged leaves like she has been.

Alissa, I’m sorry we don’t have anything more conclusive for you, but hopefully the problems are already in the past.

If anyone would like to add to the discussion, please feel free to do so in the comments section.

I’ll be back tomorrow, I hope to see you here.

Man, you guys are so awesome!

Yesterday, I asked what advice you would give to the KOB employee who asked:

>>>>“Hi Liza!  Here’s that picture finally.  If you could look at it & let me know how to cut it back without killing it, I sure would appreciate it!”>>>>

wild plant

Let’s see how you answered:

Joseph Brenner wrote, “I bought one of these at a yard sale, about a dozen years ago. I have been blessed to be allowed to live in his home, ever since.

I started by cutting all but a few main stems off — they root easily in water or planted directly. Then I divided the roots by three( one for each main stem ). It seems brutal, at the time, but Phil always responds by growing even more. The toughest part is finding room for his children( also named Phil )each fall. I’ve given quite a few away, but always have a few in each room through winter.”

Claude from Random Rants and Prickly Plants wrote, “Basically I’d cut the stems to root the cuttings, and put the new cuttings all in one pot and keep that. The roots will probably resprout , so you’ll end up with two huge plants…soooooo, I guess I’d look into getting one adopted?”

Cass McMain from Albuquerque wrote, “What a beautiful monster it is, too. Monstera deliciosa (Split-leaf philodendron) does like space. It’s very easy to take cuttings or divide as described above. I had one about eight feet across once. As Claude said, best to find some adoptive parents for all the cuttings unless you want two (or three or ten) of these beauties…Although you could get a large trellis and train it in an upward direction as well, to open up some floor space! Google some images of it growing in the wild, and you won’t feel yours is very large at all.

Just as an aside, the name ‘deliciosa’ comes from the fact that in its native habitat, these produce a fruit that is supposed to be delicious.”

See what I mean? You guys are awesome.

Here’s my actual response to her:

>>>>Wow, what a beautiful plant! It’s appropriately named Monstera deliciosa (Splitleaf Philodendron), as it’s quite the monster!

A couple things. One, you don’t have to prune it. You can try to train it to grow up instead of out by giving it a pole or trellis to climb up.

Two, if you do want to prune it, just prune little bits at a time. Pruning bit by bit will help strengthen your confidence. If you cut one stem off, and then watch to see what happens, that knowledge will help fuel more pruning in the future.

There are a couple of ways to prune. One is to remove individual leaves. You would cut the leaf off all the way down at the base. Another option is to prune the stems. You can make the cut practically anywhere, but keep in mind that wherever you cut, you’re going to encourage a lot of new growth. That means you’d want to cut near the soil to encourage growth inside, as opposed to encouraging the plant to grow out like it is already.

You can try to root the cuttings in water or a vermiculite mixture so that you can start a whole new plant.

Let me know if that helps. I would also recommend taking before and after pictures so you can see how the plant changes.
Liza>>>>

I think we all nailed that!

Joseph, I appreciated your first-hand knowledge. Phil seems like quite the generous plant, letting you live in his house and all.

Claude, I’m not surprised that you would know exactly what to do. I didn’t think to warn her about all the “children.”

Cass, I liked how we both suggested growing up! And thanks for the info – I didn’t know why it was called that.

The employee later told me that she did get her nerve up to prune her monster, and has since given away lots of cuttings. She’s a pro now at shaping her big plant.

Well done everyone! Thanks for sharing your advice!

If you’d like to participate even more, you can also leave your best guess for last week’s puzzler, in which Ivynettle from Letters and Leaves asked if this plant was real or fake:

Good To Grow To Grow, Ivy's photos, real or fake plant puzzler

It’s a tough one! I’ll reveal the answer and the winner(s) tomorrow after an all-new Ask the Experts panel, Mother’s Day edition.

Hope to see you back here.

Hello! Yesterday, I shared this email query, and the accompanying photo:

READER:

>>>>Hello Liza,
I adopted a huge aloe Vera plant from my mother in law today and by looking at it, it’s in great need of repotting. I happen to stumble on your website today and saw your entry Sam the Aloe Vera Plant and his Quintuplets. Thanks for your great ideas. I just have one question for you if it’s alright. By looking at my picture of my aloe plant, can I transplant it into smaller pots like you did with Sam? I think I have a different type of aloe plant here and it has thick stalks. Also your plant has speckled white on the leaves whereas mine doesn’t. In any case, can I still transplant mine the same way? Thanks for your time. Btw, I’m new at this and not an expert but I do enjoy saving plants and see them healthy again.>>>>

photo(1)

And asked what your advice would’ve been.

Let’s see how you answered:

Claude from Random Rants and Prickly Plants wrote, “It looks like this is an Aloe veta ( actually Aloe barbarensis) that is etoliated, which, if I spelled it right, means its stretching for sunlight. That would also account for rhe lack of the white spots. By all means repot it, but don’t just throw the poor thing out in full sun, it’ll fry. I’d recommend putting it under a shady tree for a few weeks, then a less shady tree. if it Stuart’s turning pinkish, it’s getting too much light.”

Ginny Burton from Burton Optician in DC wrote, “Holy cow! I’ve never seen anything like that. I don’t see how its stalks could be repotted and wind up looking attractive. Can it be air layered? Or possibly just the top could be rooted. I once got a tiny aloe that had no roots, but it managed to develop roots.

Can’t wait to see what you recommended!”

Carmen wrote, “I’m not very familiar with the whole aloe family…but I know their’s a few that look like that naturally..they’re something like climbing aloes….or it could be stretching from not enough sun but I don’t see that too often on aloes(it’s hard to tell from the picture)…But you can remove the baby aloes from the mom as long as they have roots…When you go to repot it,clean all the dirt off the roots and just look at the root system and carefully pull away the babies with the roots and repot into their own pot…it’s very easy. I do it all the time with all different kinds of aloes and they do fine.”

Cass McMain from here in Albuquerque wrote, “My suggestion would be to cut the tops off and root them, cut the rest way, way back and force it to regrow from the base… and throw out the middles.

Aloe vera roots very easily in water or soil. The spots will only develop fully in a sunny location, and the stretching does look like a light issue to me. As mentioned above, don’t move to lots of direct sun all at once! A gradual increase in light would be ideal.”

Gennafer31 wrote. “I would lop off the top foot or so and remove all the leaves except for the top three then peel any brown paper on the stalk to reveal the nubby rootlets (if there are any) and pot it with just the leaves above the soil.

Just yesterday i found a huge aloe plant dying in a corner and I’m hoping to save it, maybe I should post a pic and see what you think I should do (or should have done).”

Excellent advice, everyone.

Claude, I like how you mentioned not putting the plant in full sun, and how Cass picked up on that, too. If a plant is used to living indoors, it’s important to protect it from the glaring sun. Introducing a plant to more and more light in a gradual method is smart. I also liked how you noticed that her plant was reaching for the sun – a sign that it wasn’t overly happy with its placement indoors.

Ginny, the best aspect of succulents is that most of the time they don’t need roots from the getgo. They’ll grow them once the leaves hit soil or water. (I prefer soil because it’s faster.)

Carmen, I would go a step further and say you really don’t have be that gentle with the plants and their roots. They are extremely resilient plants – they can handle a little manhandling (much more so than they could handle sun exposure) during repotting. I have no problem cutting or tearing roots apart, and the plants don’t seem to either.

Cass, Gennafer31, that’s pretty much exactly what I said to her.

All of you guys are so smart. I’m not surprised. I think it’s really cool.

Back in September of 2011, I wrote about how my Aloe plant, Sam, needed repotting. Here’s the link to that site. Here’s what Sam looked like before the editing job:

And shortly after, with his offspring:

That was the article the reader stumbled across when she was searching for answers to her houseplant questions.

We have different types of Aloe plants, but that didn’t matter.

Here’s my actual response:

>>>>Hi [name withheld for privacy]! Hey, thanks for your question. It’s great that you’ve adopted an Aloe!

Your Aloe is a little different from mine, but the same techniques apply.

If I were you, I would take all the plants out of the pot they are currently in and separate them. Mostly, they will come apart by themselves but you may have to use scissors on the roots. If there are some branches that are too tall for your liking, simply cut them and set the cuttings aside for a day or two to scar over. Then they can go directly into soil.

Cut off anything that’s brown – it won’t return to green. And use high-quality potting soil from a local nursery because the Miracle Gro soil they sell at Lowe’s and Home Depot is always infected with fungus gnats (because they leave those bags out in the rain).

You can prune those stalks way back if you want – Aloes let you cut anywhere and they will find a way to live.

You should take lots of before and after shots (thanks for sending a photo, btw) with your camera. Let me know if you have any more questions or if you need anything.
Liza>>>>

Much to my surprise, she wrote back. And sent an “after” photo!

READER:

>>>>Hi Liza,

Thank you very much for taking the time to reply back with great information. Well, here they are, all separated although i had to cut all of them since they didn’t break apart easily. The roots were impressive. It was massive and coiled around. Hope it was okay to trim the roots back. The leaves all appear dehydrated from neglect so I do hope they’ll plump up soon. Thank you once again for your website , it was very encouraging !>>>>

-7
Awesome!

My final response to her:

>>>>They look great! You could use them as gifts, too, if that’s too many for you.

The roots will be fine. It’s like cutting their hair – they’ll grow right back.

They’re obviously in good hands with you! Thanks for sharing the photos! >>>>

It’s so rare that anyone writes back after the work is done! Thank you, doll! I’m so glad you let me know how it went.

So once again, you regular readers recommended pretty much the same thing that I did, and for that you rock! Thanks! You continue to be impressive week after week.

That does it for our Reader Q & A session. I’ll be back tomorrow with an all-new Ask the Experts panel, as well as a new puzzler. If you haven’t already guessed in the current puzzler, you have until midnight tonight MST (that’s 2am EST) to do so. Leave your best guess in the comment section or on my facebook wall. I’ll reveal the answer and the winner(s) after the new panel.

Hope to see you back here.

Since 2001, I’ve owned a small plant care business in Albuquerque called Good To Grow. Since 2009, I’ve maintained this indoor and outdoor gardening blog.

Each Wednesday, I’ve been posting emails from readers who had questions about their houseplants. Most of the letters came from people who are not regular readers, but who stumbled across this blog because they had a specific houseplant question. When I could, I wrote them back with advice tailored to their specific question. I saved all these emails in a file.

Since my regular readers are so sophisticated with their houseplant knowledge, and because everyone has their own take on caring for plants, I wanted to turn the emails over to them and see what their advice would’ve been had the email come to them. On Wednesdays, I’ll post the original question, and on Thursdays, I’ll reveal the advice from the regulars, as well as my response, so we can see how we match up. It’s been an interesting experiment so far, I hope you enjoy. If you have advice, please leave it in the comment section or on my facebook wall.

Let’s try another of these. Here’s the question posed:

READER:

>>>>Hello Liza,
I adopted a huge aloe Vera plant from my mother in law today and by looking at it, it’s in great need of repotting. I happen to stumble on your website today and saw your entry Sam the Aloe Vera Plant and his Quintuplets. Thanks for your great ideas. I just have one question for you if it’s alright. By looking at my picture of my aloe plant, can I transplant it into smaller pots like you did with Sam? I think I have a different type of aloe plant here and it has thick stalks. Also your plant has speckled white on the leaves whereas mine doesn’t. In any case, can I still transplant mine the same way? Thanks for your time. Btw, I’m new at this and not an expert but I do enjoy saving plants and see them healthy again.>>>>

photo(1)

Ok, smartyplants. What would your advice be?

Leave your best guesses in the comments section. I’ll share your answers tomorrow, along with my response to the reader, and we’ll see how we match up. Good times!

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.>>>>

IMAG1034

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.

Since 2001, I’ve owned a small plant care business in Albuquerque called Good To Grow. Since 2009, I’ve maintained this indoor and outdoor gardening blog.

Each Wednesday, I’ve been posting emails from readers who had questions about their houseplants. Most of the letters came from people who are not regular readers, but who stumbled across this blog because they had a specific houseplant question. When I could, I wrote them back with advice tailored to their specific question. I saved all these emails in a file.

Since my regular readers are so sophisticated with their houseplant knowledge, and because everyone has their own take on caring for plants, I wanted to turn the emails over to them and see what their advice would’ve been had the email come to them. On Wednesdays, I’ll post the original question, and on Thursdays, I’ll reveal the advice from the regulars, as well as my response, so we can see how we match up. It’s been an interesting experiment so far, I hope you enjoy. If you have advice, please leave it in the comment section or on my facebook wall.

Mimosa pudica plants, or Sensitive Plants, have been a favorite of mine for a long time. I love how their leaves fold when you touch them, and how the whole plant “sleeps” at night. I can’t help it – they make me giggle!

I wouldn’t recommend planting Mimosas outdoors, because they’ll take over everything. But maintaining a cute little plant in a pot is totally cool.

Since I like Mimosas in containers so much, I’ve blogged about them a bunch of times. Which means that sometimes people searching for Mimosa information find me and email me their questions.

Here’s an exchange from last year. Names have been withheld for their privacy.

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 asked for a photo, and she responded:>>>>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.>>>>

IMAG1034Hmmmm…tricky, eh?

I’ll give you a hint: I don’t think you need to have direct experience with a Mimosa pudica to be able to correctly assess the damage to this plant, or to suggest a remedy.

What do you think? What would your advice be?

Leave your suggestions in the comments section, and tomorrow I’ll post your thoughts. Then I’ll reveal my actual response to her and we’ll see how we match up. See ya then!

Thanks everyone, for your input on continuing Wednesday posts. I guess I’ll keep going with them until I run out of material.

None of you offered any ideas on what was wrong with this Epipremnum ‘Pothos’:

IMAG0467

So we’ll go straight to what I wrote her back.

Me:

“That looks like sunburn to me. Pothos are indoor plants, they shouldn’t be outside in the sun – they can’t handle it. If it’s a hot day, their leaves can melt in minutes (and by melt, I mean turn black). They are happiest in indirect light, not direct sunlight.

It’s hard to grow a full plant from just a cutting or two, like what you have. It’s best to group a bunch of cuttings together so the plant is full from the getgo. Gives them a better chance of success. If you can salvage any of the burnt plant, try planting it with other cuttings.

Thank you for your photos! They were helpful. Good luck with your plants. Liza”

Do I know for sure it was sunburned? No. Because I wasn’t there. But I’ve seen sunburned Pothos before (and sunburned other houseplants), and that’s what happens – the leaves turn black, or a sickening brown. And she did say she left it outside. As a general rule of thumb, plants that are accustomed to living indoors do poorly outside. They can be fine on a porch, but not out in full sun. Dracaenas, I’ve noticed, are particularly sensitive to sun damage.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? What would you have told her?

I’ll be back manana with plant puzzler action. You still have time to guess the current puzzler. The deadline is tonight at midnight MST (that’s 2am EST). Leave your best guess in the comments section or on my facebook wall. Hope to see you back here.

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About Me

Hi! My name is Liza. Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting! I'm a Midwestern gal now living in Arizona, after many years of living in and owning a plant care business in New Mexico.

Plants are living, breathing creatures, and if they're indoor plants, they are 100% dependent on human care. They cannot water themselves.

I can beautify your home, office, or patio with plants and flowers. I have 13 years of experience growing plants, and friendships.

Please let me know if you have questions or if you would like help with your plants or garden. You can reach me at lizatheplantlady (at) gmail (dot) com or follow me on Twitter, Lizawheeler7.

All photos are mine unless otherwise noted. All content is also entirely my hard work. If you'd like to use any content or photos, all you have to do is ask. If you take without asking, you are a thief. And thieves suck. So don't suck. We have a deal? Good.

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