I've got the Dying Syngonium Blues.

May 9, 2007

I had a nice, beautiful Syngonium (arrowhead plant) a couple months ago. Long, strong vines, big leaves, one of the few plants that did anything at all over the winter. Which made me happy, so I took some cuttings of it, rooted them in water, and eventually planted them in soil.

Then I decided that the parent plant needed to be a climber, rather than a trailer. So I pulled it from the pot, shook off a lot of dirt, and attached the four or five separate vines to a climbing pole. And since that time, it's been dropping leaves like crazy.

The old soil was thick, heavy stuff that turned bricklike when it dried out. The new soil is Miracle Grow with a substantial amount of perlite in it, and it seems to dry out pretty quickly. But every time I water, a bunch of leaves drop. Sometimes there are also mushrooms. So probably I'm overwatering, but -- it's got drier soil, in a pot of the same material and same size, so I don't see how that's possible.

The cuttings aren't doing so well either. They're growing, and don't drop leaves nearly as often, but the new growth comes in very small and pale, and sometimes a new leaf will form and then go brown and drop before it uncurls. It has, so far, done this irrespective of the kind of light it's getting.

At this point, the cuttings are probably going to make it, I think, but the parent plant has had one (or maybe two) vines die completely, and the ones that are left are two-foot-long vines with like, three leaves on them.

I also have a small variegated one, also a viner, that is doing okay, but it only seems to be able to handle three leaves at a time -- once a fourth starts to grow, the lowest old one develops hundreds of small brownish spots, goes limp, and dies. Which is, let's say, not ideal.

I thought these were supposed to be easy. (They *were* easy, until I tried repotting.) So,

1) Could somebody please tell me what I'm supposed to be doing to make them happy? Specifically, when should I be watering? 'Cause I clearly don't get *that*.

2) Is it possible to plant sections of the leafless vines (like, say, one or two nodes' worth) if the vine is still, technically, alive, and have it sprout new leaves? Or is it game over once the leaves are gone?

Comments (19)

  • hallgal2

    so sorry to hear about your Syngonium. I had a beautiful pothos that was in similar shape last summer. It was potted with a moss pole in the pot, so it was a climber. It was in awful shape when my husband (the plant killer!) brought it home from his office - I cut all the dead off, and tried to rejuvenate it that way, but it was too far gone.

    I hope someone has had better experiences/advice that they can share to help you save it!

  • susancarol

    Sounds like overwatering problem but these have been "diva" like plants for me, too. The latest one I bought is in hard type soil like you described and is doing really well (6 inch pot) and I'm beginning to think they like a smaller pot with their roots crowded. The last ones that I re-potted in the regular soil with extra perlite added in do well but I try not to water them a lot. Maybe I let them go about 1 1/2 weeks to 2 weeks. Of course, if they're outside for the summer, I'll water more. Good luck with yours, tho, I love them! Someone at my office had one that got really thick branches. Oh, I forgot to mention that these plants really like fluorescent lighting.


  • birdsnblooms

    Mr. Sub, I agree w/Suzan about smaller pots.
    If it was my plant I'd repot into a soil similar to that it was orignally planted in..I don't use Perlite in Syns..they prefer moist, (not muddy) soil, which tells me your plant was doing fine in heavier soil. You can probably get by using a standard house plant soil..
    I also think Syns root better in water..At this point it can't hurt trying in water..Just take 4-5" cuttings, place in water. I normally wait for roots to grow at least 2-3" before setting in soil..good luck, Toni

  • mr_subjunctive

    Well, one of the vines, upon inspection, turned out to have no leaves on it at all, so I pulled it out of the soil and looked it over. About three inches that had been under the soil was squishy and rotten (not smelly, but still). Then there were a couple inches of dead stem, and then a foot and a half of leafless stem that was still alive.

    So I cut it into two-node sections and stuck it in water, and that will either work or it won't, I guess. The other stems are going to get taken out -- even if they came back beautifully, the plant would still look like crap -- and turned into cuttings, and we'll just try to start it all over again from scratch. Sigh.

  • susancarol

    Wal-Mart has lots of the 4 inch syngonium starter plants if you need some more.

  • pirate_girl

    I don't think bare vines will sprout leaves. I've grown Syng, Pothos & Hoyas in both water & in mix. To root new ones in water my cuttings always have a minimum of a leaf or 2.

    We were just discussing this recently at Hoya Forum, trying to root leafless vines & consensus seems to be that the vine needs at least one leaf to continue to provide the branch/vine w/ enough chloropyll to stay alive. The bare vines I've tried have all died.

    Wil Syng climb, I've only seen it trailing? Could the attachment to the pole have been too tight & strangled the vine?

  • mr_subjunctive

    Well, I was using rubber bands -- they were about the same size as the pole, so the attachment was solid but not impossibly so.

    It probably does need leaves in order to root, but at this point I don't really have anything to lose by trying -- of the three remaining vines, one is still doing okay, and the other two have two leaves apiece and are each losing one leaf. (I haven't gotten around to cutting them yet.)

    Syngonium do climb naturally; the arrowhead-shaped leaves develop multiple lobes and wind up looking a little less interesting. It takes a while for that to happen, though: most of the plants for sale (including two I've got of the 'Maria' cultivar) are in the juvenile form, which is more or less self-heading. The ones I'm having the troubles with were all vining / crawling when I bought them.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Smallish picture of climber

  • susancarol

    I wish I could find a more mature plant in the stores because I love when their branches start thickening up. I think the key to making them trail instead of being just upright is a smaller pot.


  • pirate_girl

    Funny, how folks like diff. things, I've had a few mature enough to change leaf shapes & I found them far more interesting when the leaves went multi-lobed.

    What does self-heading mean pls?

    Wouldn't a rubberband tighten over time? I tend to use twister ties like from bread bags, orchid clips, binder clips or lately: pipe cleaners (don't look great, but work fine).

  • susancarol

    Isn't self headed like some of the upright philos? I wouldn't say that any of the syngoniums are self heading. They are simply propagated by taking cuttings.


  • mr_subjunctive

    Well, self-heading isn't exactly the word I wanted, but I didn't know what else to call it: I just meant the ones that all emerge from more or less the same spot, without any visible vining, like the difference between a Philodendron scandens and a P. 'Moonlight.'

    Having now dismantled the plant, I can report that:

    The remaining two long vines with leaves were both beginning to rot at the roots; one of them also had a dead stretch above the rotten stretch.

    There was, however, no smell. The soil was a lot wetter than I had expected it to be from looking at the top couple inches.

    Also the bottom of the pot had a crack in it that was open; I'm guessing this was because the support pole got pushed down too hard at some point after the repotting. Probably not the cause of the problems, but who knows.

    So it looks like probably the big one just had a bad soil and watering combination and rotted out. (Possibly there was damage to the roots, too, while I was repotting.) The one I made from cuttings seems to have different problems entirely, but it's not in any immediate danger of dying, so maybe it'll pull out of this eventually. The variegated one, who knows what its deal is.

    At least I won't have to deal with the dying plant giving me those dirty *looks* all the time, now.

  • watergal

    I used to use MiracleGro potting soil, but a couple of years ago they changed the formula so that is it S-O-G-G-Y. I refuse to buy it anymore, and now prefer Fafards if I can find it, or Sunshine ProMix.

    My guess would be that the evil soil was too wet and rotted out your roots. My experience with syngoniums has been that they like to be quite dry on top before you water them again. I've had some get too dry and they leaves will turn yellow, not like yours.

    My mother has one she has tied up, trying to get it to climb. It isn't climbing and I think it looks a bit silly. I have mine in a fern stand, where it sprawls like a hanging basket, because I can't find any hanging baskets I like for indoors.

    I have some cuttings I took from a client that I believe are 'Tri-leaf wonder'. The leaves get a cool duckfoot shape at a younger age, it's got nice variegation, and it's much more of an upright plant with sturdy stems. I like it a lot. Not sure where to buy one - I've never seen one for sale and my client says his plant is 20 years old or so.

  • susancarol

    ok, watergal, now you've made me want one of those. I think Glasshouse Works has it.


  • watergal

    susancarol, yeah, I'm an enabler, what can I say? ;)

    mrsubjunctive, one more idea - is it possible that you could have a fertilizer burn going on? Maybe you accidentally used soil with fertilizer already in it?

  • mr_subjunctive

    The soil had fertilizer in it, yes, but I wasn't fertilizing that plant, since I had just repotted.

  • cyberdancer

    LOL sounds like the makings of a country western song. Very catchy subject title, just couldn't resist Sorry, I don't know anything about your plant.


  • mr_subjunctive

    Well thanks, cyberdancer. My album also includes these other fine songs:

    Me And My Cactus Both Drink Too Much
    Spath-Way To Hell
    Fella Better Run From My Philodendron
    I'd Rather Have My Truck Than Her Dieffenbachia
    My Wandering Jew Ain't Wandering Back
    (Why Can't You) Love Me Like My Pothos Loves Me
    Her Love Was Like Time-Release Fertilizer
    Aloe Will I Go This Time?
    You're The Reason My Ficus Is So Ugly

    and the Top 40 Country hit,

    Her Name Was Fern, But She Broke My Heart Like English Ivy

    Plus five more! Order your copy now!

  • watergal

    TOO FUNNY! Got more?

  • Laurie (8A)

    Fun to have a star among us!

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