jackE990
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Location: Savannah, GA

Newbie with tons of questions

Hi all I'm new and I have a bunch of questions on how to keep my plants alive. I tend to ramble so I'll bold my main questions so they stand out more :)

The first plant is a Calathea (Calathea concinna). I've had it for several months in the original pot but now the leaves are starting to curl and turn brown and the roots are coming out of the pot. Here are some pics: (you can click to make them bigger)
[url=https://s970.photobucket.com/albums/ae182/jh9264/?action=view&current=plants095.jpg][img]https://i970.photobucket.com/albums/ae182/jh9264/th_plants095.jpg[/img][/url][url=https://s970.photobucket.com/albums/ae182/jh9264/?action=view&current=plants096.jpg][img]https://i970.photobucket.com/albums/ae182/jh9264/th_plants096.jpg[/img][/url]
[url=https://s970.photobucket.com/albums/ae182/jh9264/?action=view&current=plants097.jpg][img]https://i970.photobucket.com/albums/ae182/jh9264/th_plants097.jpg[/img][/url][url=https://s970.photobucket.com/albums/ae182/jh9264/?action=view&current=plants100.jpg][img]https://i970.photobucket.com/albums/ae182/jh9264/th_plants100.jpg[/img][/url]



I think it needs to be re-potted but every time I've done that before my plants have died :oops: . How do I re-pot a plant without killing it?

The tag it came with says its a low light plant so I keep in in my living room where a lot of natural light comes it but I put the plant on a table away from the window... should I move it closer or further from the window?

Should I fertilize and if so what brand and how often?

My next plant is a beautiful Silver philodendron (Scindapsus pictus argyraeus). I just bought it so its doing well for now but I want to know how to best take care of it. Pic:
[url=https://s970.photobucket.com/albums/ae182/jh9264/?action=view&current=plants101.jpg][img]https://i970.photobucket.com/albums/ae182/jh9264/th_plants101.jpg[/img][/url]

How often should I water it? Fertilize?

Where should I put it (regarding light)?

How do I know when to re-pot?



Sorry for all the questions... I'm really a newbie and I don't want to kill these plants like the ones before them :(

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Kisal
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I think the drying leaves are a water related problem, not due to the light exposure. The symptom can be the same for too much water as it is for too little water. How often have you been watering it? If you tap water is high in minerals (hard), or if you use a water softener, it is better to switch to rainwater. If that isn't possible, then use distilled water. Don't let the soil dry out, but don't keep it soggy, either. When you are near the plant, touch the soil with your fingertips. If it feels dry to the touch, water it. If it feels even slightly moist, leave it alone. Calatheas like light, friable soil, so that air can get to the roots. They're kind of touchy about the amount of water they want.

Calatheas like high humidity. (This is a plant that might do well in your bathroom, depending on the light that's available there. ;) ) Some people like to mist their plants, but IMO, all that does is raise in humidity for a few minutes. In addition, you may get white residue spotting the leaves. In fact, mine was that way when I bought it. I noticed that the white spots were easy to wipe away with my fingertips, or I wouldn't have purchased the plant. I prefer to place humidity-loving plants in shallow trays filled with gravel. Pour water in the tray until it's just below the surface of the gravel, so the pot doesn't sit in the water.

If the roots are coming out the drainage holes, then it's possible that it's time to repot. (The only other circumstance under which I've seen a plant do that was a moisture loving plant that wasn't being watered properly. The owner was watering by filling the drainage tray with water, so the roots grew out the drainage holes in an effort to get to the water.) If you repot, don't increase pot size by more that 1" in diameter -- 2" if the old pot is over 6" in diameter. Use a light, fluffy potting mix, and be very gentle with the roots.

As for lighting, I keep mine at the south end of a large west-facing picture window, but the window never gets direct sunlight, as it's shaded by the roof of my porch. Give your plant a lot of bright, indirect light, but no direct sun. A north window is good for providing such lighting, as long as it isn't blocked by trees or other buildings.

Don't fertilize your plant at this time. It's always best to avoid fertilizing any plant that is displaying symptoms which indicate that it is not doing well. As a general rule of thumb, newly repotted plants don't need fertilizer right away, either.

BTW, Calatheas are known to be somewhat difficult to grow, so don't be hard on yourself if yours doesn't make it. :)
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

jackE990
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Thanks for your reply :) I think I am going to re-pot it. When I bought it there were a few roots coming out but as you can see now they've really grown.

I do have a tray and I'll fill it with gravel and water. I live in Savannah, GA so its pretty humid during the spring and summer.

My water is very hard and since I'm living in dorms I can't really collect rain water :? but could I water it with used water from my fish tanks? I treat the water in my tanks so its not so hard plus the old water would have some fish waste which I hear can help fertilize plants a little.

My window is east facing so there is a lot of morning light but the pot sits away from the window.

About the Philodendron... should I be fertilizing that since it is healthy? I can water it with old fish water as well if it needs soft water.

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Kisal
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You can use the aquarium water if you like. I don't think it would do any harm to the healthy plants. They don't really need it if they were recently repotted, though. I wouldn't use it on the Calathea -- or at least not very often. I'd buy distilled water for that plant. Distilled water isn't very expensive -- not like bottled water, anyway. I'm pretty sure I paid less than $1 for a gallon jug of it just a few months ago. It's very common stuff, so just look for it at your local grocery store. Walmart carries it, too, I believe. If you can't find it in the store, ask a clerk or the manager.

How do you soften the aquarium water? Do you have living plants in with the fish? If you use some kind of additive, check the label carefully to make sure it's safe for plants.

An east window should be fine for the Calathea, especially if the plant isn't right on the sill.

Sorry I missed the pic of the pretty philodendron! Lovely little plant! I may have to go looking for one of those for myself! :) Again, it would probably like a little food, but not really necessary if it was recently repotted. I don't know that it would be especially sensitive to the hard tap water, but the minerals in hard water can build up in the soil and burn the roots. If in doubt, use the distilled water.

Even healthy plants only need fertilizer when they're actively growing. Most houseplants grow slowly during the winter, and don't want fertilizing during those months. It can lead to weak, spindly growth.
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

jackE990
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I got the philodendron at Lowes :D it was like $9 I think? The had a much bigger one for $20 but thats way out of my price range.

I haven't tried the fish water yet but some fish hobbyists have said they use it and their plants love it. My tanks are completely natural.. I don't use any additives. To soften the water I use natural driftwood and peat pellets. I have a few live plants in my tanks but I'm about to add a lot more. I also keep pet snails in my bigger tanks because they absorb some of the minerals in hard water also.. so the hardness is brought down entirely by natural means.

The philo is still in its original pot and I don't think it will need repotting for a while. From what I've read the roots like to be compact.

I also read to fertilize in the late spring then again in mid and late summer and to not fertilize during the winter.. is this right?

I'll look for some distilled water when I'm at walmart next time to water the plants with.

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applestar
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Just a thought that the Calathea might like sitting on top of the aquarium lid if it's glass and the light from the aquarium is bright enough.

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Kisal
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jackE990 wrote:I also read to fertilize in the late spring then again in mid and late summer and to not fertilize during the winter.. is this right?
Yes, that's a good basic schedule. You may have to adjust it a bit for each plant, though, depending on their performance. :)
I'll look for some distilled water when I'm at walmart next time to water the plants with.
The Calathea will especially thank you! The aquarium water sounds like it will be fine for the other plants when they're actively growing, but you might want to switch to the distilled water during the winter.

I usually begin feeding my plants sometime during the first week in April. If the weather is bright and sunny the last 2 weeks of March -- a real rarity where I live! :lol: -- I will begin feeding then. I use fertilizer mixed at half the strength given in the directions, but feed a little more often. Whether I feed a particular plant all depends on how much light is available to it, and whether it is producing new growth. For me, it's a judgement call each time, except in the summer months. :)
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

jackE990
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applestar wrote:Just a thought that the Calathea might like sitting on top of the aquarium lid if it's glass and the light from the aquarium is bright enough.
Unfortunately all my tanks have the standard plastic hoods with the light built in. The Calathea actually sits next to a tank that has a desk lamp over it for light and I put a daylight CFL bulb in it.. I was keeping the light away from the plant but I can adjust it so that it covers both the plant and aquarium.

@Kisal.. Thanks :) I'll wait a little longer before I give either of the plants any food. Spring here will be in full swing in a week or two but I'll wait till mid april to break out the plant food. The kind I was using is the miracle grow stuff that is a blue powder you mix with water... is this good or should I look for something else?

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Kisal
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I've used the MG stuff on my outdoor flowers, but for my indoor plants, I prefer Schultz's. It's a concentrated liquid and mixes easily ... just a few drops per quart of water, and the container takes up very little space in a cabinet.

I've used it for ages, and my plants do well on it. I'm pretty sure it's not organic, though. (I'd have to go check the label, which I'll be happy to do if you like.) I'm sure one of our many organic gardeners will be able to suggest a good organic product for you, if that's what you want to use. :)
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

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