A fairly long-winded request for urgent Peace Lily help...

Discussion in 'Indoor and Greenhouse Plants' started by Mary Jo, Mar 9, 2013.

  1. Mary Jo

    Mary Jo Member

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    Hello,

    This may be odd my posting in here as I'm in the UK but there seems to be quite a few resident spathiphyllum experts here and I'm desperate for help.

    I have a peace lily I rescued from an Ikea store over a year ago, it was in one of the displays, almost completely brown, withered and forgotten about and believing it would not get the attention it needed, I took pity on it and purchased it. I know very little about houseplants and stood it in water for the weekend as it had completely dried out. Luckily this worked and it literally sprang back to life after 2 days.

    After a week or so I trimmed away all the broken foliage and repotted it into a similar sized pot with some fresh compost. (Please note that I used some basic peat-based stuff which it didn't seem to have a problem with at all for about 6 months - I now know it prefers a much better-draining soil). It flourished, and went from pitiful and sparse to lush and green and grew lots of new leaves, and I thought my mission had been a success.

    As it got into winter over here, it started to not do so well. It lost vitality and started to droop and leaves started to die, and it also seemed to be forever drying out (due to indoor heating I assume) so I probably over watered it, and despite the obvious signs, I didn't realise until it was too late that it had root rot. By the time I inspected the roots, 2/3 of it was beyond help. (I'm still not sure what caused the original decline in health, though - fluctuations/drops in temperature perhaps? It was spring when I originally brought it home).

    There was one last piece of the plant that had escaped the rot and looked fine, so I discarded the rest and repotted this little survivor in some fresh soil (the same crappy peat stuff again however) in a much smaller pot (about 3 inch diameter) and kept it relatively dry with the occasional misting. The potting mix is quite damp stuff and it's quite cold here at the moment so I assumed it best to not completely dowse until I had some better stuff to plant it in.

    So this seemed to be going okay until yesterday when I got back from a few days away and it looked droopy. As I'm on high alert for the dreaded rot I took it out and had a look - and sure enough, despite being scarcely watered for the past month the roots had started to turn brown. I hastily took it out and rinsed it off, and cut away all the bad roots which has left about 50%. Not wanting to plant it in more of the same peat-based stuff (and having nothing else) I stood it in a glass of water, and it actually does seem to have perked up a little overnight and is not quite so droopy.

    However!! I am sure that a tiny bit of its roots have turned a little more brown overnight. I've cut these pieces off now too.
    I'm baffled as to what is causing the rot, unless it's a fungus of some kind in the plant itself?
    What should I do now? Can I keep it in water for a while, or would it be best to repot again asap (in a better medium)? Is there anything I can put in the water that might help? Should I keep the roots shaded from light? Or should I take it out of the water and let it dry out?

    I was going to go out today and buy the ingredients to make a good peace lily potting mix if I can find them, but I guess I need to know it's not going to die anyway, or if there is something else I should do or buy.
    It's so small now compared to how big and healthy I had gotten it after rescuing it (there are just 3 leaves) and I would be sad to lose it completely.

    I'm very sorry about the lengthy post but I feel it deserved a bit of back story...
    If anyone could offer me any advice that would be great. I can upload a pic if need be.

    If you got all the way through this, well done and thank you!

    Mary-Jo xx
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2013
  2. Tom Hulse

    Tom Hulse Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi Mary-Jo. Read Steve's article first, but keep in mind that with the soil mix he recommends there, that he has to water every day or every other day, plus he has greenhouse humidity. They will do best with a much more porous mix than you have, that dries out faster and then is watered more often, but the trade-off is that you have to be more perfect on watering. There is much less buffer with this method, so if you are a lazy waterer (like me), you need to either step up your game or get a mix that holds more moisture; hopefully something in-between Steve's and what you have now.
    My mix for these is something like this: 2 parts water retention (1 long-fiber peat, 1 coconut coir), 2 parts drainage (1 perlite, 1 pumice), 1 part pure compost; with some natural slow-release fertilizers like alfalfa meal and kelp meal, plus a tiny bit of both slow & fast-release lime; plus a little Osmocote slow release fertilizer. A more reasonable mix for a non-crazy plant person could be something like 2 parts of a good quality peat-based potting soil, plus 1 part perlite; watered maybe once a week in winter here.
    Try to at least make sure your forced air heating vents are not blowing on the plant at all. Also, ramp up the light. If it is a north, east, or west window; add some fluorescent light. You can get a $3 clamp light reflector and a $3 100-watt-equivalent bulb at the home center that can make a huge difference when added to the light it already gets from being close to a window.
    Also consider a whole-house humidifier for all your plants and for your family's health. They're worth the investment. :)
     
  3. Mary Jo

    Mary Jo Member

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    Hello Tom,

    Thank you so much for replying. I actually read that colossal article a few days ago and while the principle of recreating nature's conditions is a very good one, I think being presented with so much information at once I felt more confused than enlightened as to how to help my specific little plant!

    I went to a little independent garden centre and the lady there I spoke to seemed to think buying sand, bark and anything else to mix through would be a rather large expense for one small plant and just advised a better compost specially for indoor plants, but I bought some perlite as well. OH another thing - she advised always watering from the bottom and not from the top. What do you make of that?

    An update on the plant itself: since living in a glass of filtered water for 3 days, it's come back to life and looks very happy.

    Would I be okay to leave it in there to sprout some new roots, or would you advise repotting sooner rather than later? How much perlite should I mix through the compost? And with such a tiny plant, how big a pot should I use? Am I right in thinking the smaller the better?

    Does it need fertiliser at this point or should I wait until it's growing well again? I'll take note of the light suggestions and also the humidity, thank you.

    Can it get root rot living in the water? I'm forever checking for discolouration but I can't tell if it's just saturation or not.

    I'm frightened to put it back into any soil as it's so small and weak and seems to prefer the water!

    Thanks again and sorry for all the questions!
     
  4. Tom Hulse

    Tom Hulse Active Member 10 Years

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    I don't know about these specifically, but most plants grow different kinds of roots for growing in straight water; and it is usually better to just get them started in the one kind of media you plan on using long-term, and save them from the additional transplant shock of going from water to soil.
    Usually you wait until you have evidence of new growth before you start fertilizing. I would transplant asap. 2 parts potting soil to 1 part perlite for average watering skills; or 1:1 if you are a most-excellent waterer that never forgets and can do it more often, and would like to benefit from the faster, healthier growth.
     
  5. Mary Jo

    Mary Jo Member

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    Okay will do that and thank you again =]
     

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