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where did I go wrong

Cris Love
February 9, 2019
Trying to get my green thumb on. I live in PA. BOUGHT THIS SILVER EVERGREEN IN June. Placed in front enclosed porch in an east facing window. Did good until October and started wilting. To the point I moved it thinking to cold as I have no heat on the porch. Kept getting worse. To the point I checked the roots. They were pretty bad and I reported and was left with the last 3 pix which have died in the 2 wks since I did this. What did I do wrong??????

Comments (19)

  • PRO

    I'm puzzled by your user page image. Looks like you have some sunburn on the foliage, or the plants have suffered chill injury. Except when it has occurred recently, it's difficult to tell which by way of an image. Also looks like a case of chronic over-watering. All of the pots have drain holes, yes? Do you know if the water at your tap has been through an ion-exchange water softener? It would be the type that uses salt.

    Hopefully, you'll find this helpful.


  • J Williams

    “Chinese Evergreen” is one of the lowest maintenance plants I’ve ever come across, I can literally forget about it for a while and it does not matter. It does not like super bright unfiltered light. In the winter it hardly needs watering, I know one year I was probably watering it on a monthly basis rather than weekly as some need. I put it out every summer by a fence in a shaded spot, and rainfall almost does the job of watering. It barely gets fed even and it soldiers through. One thing that can happen is people start to think because a plant does not appear to be doing well, they should water it, too much water makes the plant appear unwell, more watering and so on until the plant is dead. It is possible you got an unhealthy plant to begin with.

  • Cris Love
    Yea this is all that’s left. Two of these. Definitely was using water straight for the tap and since I live in the city I’m sure it went thru a plant. Also was in a nice window but then I think the cold weather started to effect it and I was watering the same as the summer and fall. This was my first plant so hopefully I do better next time
  • PRO
    Lion Windows and Doors

    Designer Lori Dennis who wrote Green Interior Design has a lot of good info on caring for houseplants on her blog: Keeping Houseplants Alive

  • Karen S. (7b, NYC)

    Since this was your first plant, it's good to look up where plants come from so you can learn what temps they can take. I don't believe that plant can take PA outdoors in Fall, sorry.

  • J Williams

    I keep my plants out until the end of September, frequently, and I am North of all of you I’m guessing. It was an enclosed porch as well, so cold may have been a factor, but there are a lot of variables.

  • ulisdone

    These plants need very little water; wait until bone dry soil and wilting, then soak and drain.

    May only need water every 6 weeks or less.

  • Lantana

    I did a quick search for the weather in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia PA, assuming you're somewhere in between those two, and both cities had temps drop to the low 40's in mid-October. The rule of thumb for houseplants, which are tropical in nature, is to bring them inside when temperatures dip below 50. It sounds quite possible that your plant was damaged by the cold.

    Additionally, commercial potting mixes are peat based and overly water retentive. The soil can remain soggy for long periods of time and suffocate the roots. Over-watering is a common error for new growers, so it's quite possible over-watering also contributed to the plant's fall.

    Please be skeptical of any recommendations for a time-based watering schedule. Every plant and environment is different so no one is able to recommend a specific watering time schedule without knowing how plants in your home environment and soil environment fair.

    To reiterate some of Al's good growing practices: The best way for you to know when it is time to water for future plants is to insert a sharpened wooden dowel or bamboo chopstick all the way to the bottom of the pot. If the dowel comes out dry and clean, it's time to water. If the dowel comes out wet and dirty, hold off on watering and check again in a day or two.

    When it is time to water, water thoroughly so that water flows out of the drainage holes. Let the plant sit so the excess water can drip out for a few min and discard the water that has dripped out.

  • J Williams

    I can assure you, my plant, the same species, was outside possibly at the exact same time, and I am farther North, I was even looking after tropical plants in ground at around that time period (late Sept/early Oct), before we pulled them out . In fact, I originally acquired this plant through a landscaping co., it was due for the dumpster, it was pulled out in Sept/Oct. Now I’m curious if Pittsburgh is colder than where I am. It is possible this plant was grown somewhere more tropical and was not acclimated, or that they were having a very cold fall, and/or that the enclosed porch was actually holding the cold more than the outside temps in open air would (although my neighbour is using her porch for tropicals and they are fine and it’s February). The damage looks similar to sun damage, I guess cold damage might be similar. You don’t need to use a stick to test for dryness, all you need to do is to stick a finger in, if the top 2” are dry you should probably water.

  • Lantana

    That's wonderful that you have such cold hardy plants.

    Measuring only the top two inches will only tell you whats happening in the top two inches. The bottom of the pot may unknowingly remain constantly soggy and damage roots, which is why the dowel is recommended. It is equally easy to use but measures the moisture of the entire pot.

    Here's some information from the University of Florida extension department that supports the idea that this plant was affected by cold damage:

    1) Chilling injurySymptoms -Mainly mid to older (lower) leaves develop gray splotches and become chlorotic; lower leaves may collapse after 3 to 7 days if damage is severe. `Silver Queen' is especially sensitive to cold.Control -Keep `Silver Queen' at least 55°F to prevent damage and most other cultivars 45 to 50°F. The damage is permanent, but damaged plants will continue to grow unless terminals are affected by extreme cold.https://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/foliage/folnotes/aglaonem.htm

  • J Williams

    Well all I can relate to is my own personal experience, I was also trained with and volunteered for our local Master Gardeners, and have been gardening for over 30 years now just as point of reference, but I make absolutely no claims on being an expert, (I don’t know if anyone can) and can only know what I know. Which is why I said there are many variables when it comes to plant care.

    if you are concerned the plant is not draining, sure, checking right at the bottom makes sense, (you can do that by turning the pot sideways too and looking at the drain holes, maybe give the soil a sniff) but some plants would be very dry indeed, if you routinely waited until the soil was absolutely without mousture. Then you might encounter another issue, and that is (as you may have personally experienced) that peat becomes water repellant once it loses all moisture and will have to be reactivated with a good soak. Cactus soils sure, they dry out all the time, but other plants in more peaty soils well it varies but generally they are retaining some moisture.

  • J Williams
    This plant got sunburned as my hubby was wanting to get it out of the house and chucked it out without finding an appropriate place, this happened early in the year and you can still see the blotchy spots (it looked worse) but the entire plant did not die. If the temps were cold enough to freeze the plant, sure, you’d def. see overall dieback, but I wonder if the temps were actually that cold? That is what I’m questioning. Why did an entire plant collapse.

  • Cris Love
    Would it be worth pulling it out and replanting the roots? And seeing if it’ll live again lol
  • Cris Love
    Also I have an aloe plant and a stag horn fern in the same window. I moved my Dracaena marginata bc the leaves seemed to be browning thought it was due to cold and too much water. Should I move these?

    And yes I’m from philly. My lighting in this house sucks so the enclosed front porch window is the best for light but I can’t control the temp since it’s winter.
  • Karen S. (7b, NYC)

    Hard to say Chris, replanting the roots alone won't do any thing. If you want to try, pull the whole thing out & show us a pic.

    One needs at least a couple of inches of stem to restart it. I was going to suggest you put the remaining stem (if you have any & its base is not mushy) in a small glass of water, & trying to re-root it that way.

    It's in pretty tough shape, so I'll be interested to see if there are any roots left. For the next time, these plants would do better in plastic pots than terra cotta pots (which tend to dry these plants by absorbing some moisture into the clay).

  • Cris Love
    Ok so I went ahead and reported one of the two stems I had left. The one was complete mush and barely any smaller roots. The second I rinsed, cut off the very top and very bottom and a few shriveled up thinner roots and dipped in a tiny amount of rooting powder and replanted. I don’t want to take it back out the soil but there were about 20 thin roots connected to the stem and two “root balls” too. The stem itself wasn’t mushy but the part above that I cut off had a soft spot. Should I shove the entire stem in this pot or leave it out at the top?? Last attempt before tossing. Any suggestions on what part of the house to put it in? My bathroom or kitchen get the best light! Thanks for everyone’s helpful suggestions by the way. I’ll post pictures in below
  • Cris Love
    The first three are the one I threw away. The one in dirt I rinsed and reported. I haven’t watered it yet. How long should I wait to water for the first time?
  • J Williams

    You have barely got anything there, not sure if it will grow from that stump, I would put it in in the smallest possible pot that just holds its roots and water the soil until it’s moist then leave it be to see what happens.

  • Cris Love
    The part I replanted was much more than that. I had twos stumps and the one small one pictured was mushy and done. The one I replanted still looked like it was trying a lil

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