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mama_z

Root Bound Senecio jacobsenii?

Mama_Z
12 years ago

Hello all,

I'm new here. A few weeks ago I bought what appears to be a lovely Senecio jacobsenii. I've had it hanging in indirect sunlight (across the room from a South sun window) but underneath a tall floor lamp we use some nights. I took it down to water it today because some of the leaves were looking unhealthy after it was flourishing for several weeks and noticed that the soil was still damp and that some new growth leaves closest to the soil were turning to mush. I gave it a light sprinkling with water before googling around and finding this place. :)

I'm in the process of buying a beautiful macrame plant hanger so I'd like to know if this sounds like my newly purchased plant sounds as if it might be root bound. It came to me in a very small pot and I haven't transplanted it because it had appeared to be so healthy for a few weeks. But now I'm wondering...

I bought it from a well-respected garden store but I have no clue if it's been planted in a sandy enough (i.e. succulent potting mix) soil.

So here are my questions: does it sound like it's root bound and if so, how do I transplant it without the very delicate leaves all falling off? Do I just use a normal succulent mix I can buy at the store? Do I ever need to fertilize it and if so, what with?

Thanks so much. Looking forward to hearing back with some advice.

Comments (28)

  • lzrddr
    12 years ago

    doesn't sound root bound to me, but in a situation in which it is poorly draining soil. I would indeed repot it in another pot in very porous soil (not necessarily in a larger pot) with excellent drainage... your plant sounds like it's rotting.. and more water is the last thing you want to give it.. .soil should be periodically very dry, and only should feel moist right after you water it an not at most other times. Dont' worry about losing leaves, worry about losing the whole plant. Repot it today, and maybe even rinse all the soil off the roots first, let it dry out a day or so, and then repot it in dry, porous soil. Don't water it again for at least a week.

  • Mama_Z
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Thank you so much. I'll get a new pot and porous soil today and report back. It's such a beauty and I'd hate to lose it so I'll give your suggestion a whirl.

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  • pirate_girl
    12 years ago

    Broadly speaking, in succulents any growth that gets softened or mushy is rotting. Aside from the good advice above, this is always worth remembering for succulents:

    when it comes to watering, when in doubt, don't.

    They are generally able to come back from underwatering, but not from overwatering (rot usually means the end for the succulents).

  • dcelzinga
    12 years ago

    Mama_Z: pirate_girl and lzrddr give good advice.

    Also, if indeed it's rotting from the soil level, you might want to take a few cuttings of healthy stem & leaves (with no trace of mushiness) so you can attempt to root them in a different pot with fresh, fast-draining soil. Since rot can kill the whole plant from the soil upwards, this might give you a little insurance against the entire plant dying.

    Incidentally, to make soil fast-draining, the best thing you can do is add pumice or perlite. Most sand seems like would help, but actually it makes the soil hold water too long.

    The exception is larger-grain sand -- usually called crushed rock or "grit" -- that's okay.

    For a source (this may be overkill for your purposes here, but for those of us raising dozens or hundreds of succulents), roofing companies or suppliers can be a much cheaper source of grit or crushed rock than retail garden shops.

    You should add a lot of pumice or perlite to make your home succulent mix -- many growers recommend a mix including at least half pumice or perlite, many recommend 75% or more. The mix will seem very light (in color and in texture), but that's okay. That's what you want. (One caveat: perlite floats, so if you're using 75% perlite, you will want to dress the top of the soil with a layer of gravel so it doesn't float out of the pot.)
    --
    DC

  • Mama_Z
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    All I have is a succulent potting soil bought at a chain store. Will that work? I'm going to take it out of the pot tomorrow to see if the roots are salvageable. Perhaps I can do what lzrddr suggested and get rid of most of the soil that's on the root now and then let it dry out before repotting with porous soil.
    Aside from taking cuttings and starting from scratch, is there anything else I can do to save the entire plant?

  • Mama_Z
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    So having been googling around I've been reading how awful Miracle Gro cactus mix is and whaddya know...that's what I have at the house. I'm trying to figure out what I need to buy to create my own mix that will be more porous but my eyes are glazing over reading all these posts trying to figure out the right recipe for my jade. Can someone please point me to what I want to buy? And, will I be able to buy this stuff locally at regular garden centers? TIA. :)

  • dcelzinga
    12 years ago

    Don't worry too much. Your soil mix is not rocket science.

    People have strong opinions about potting soil, but your Miracle Gro cactus mix will work fine as an ingredient. Simply lighten it... add 1 part of this potting soil (your Miracle Gro cactus soil) to 1-3 parts pumice (or perlite).

    On the question of pumice versus perlite, use whichever is cheaper, or whichever is available. I use both, or either -- whatever I have on hand. To obtain perlite or pumice, ask at your favorite (or biggest) garden center. Availability may depend on your area.

    Stir the potting soil and lightener in a bin, wheelbarrow, or bucket. Use it in a clean pot, with firm (not rotted) plant.

    You can also order pumice from Grigsby Cactus Garden or other suppliers, but you can probably satisfy your needs with local suppliers. That way you don't have to pay shipping.

    Don't sweat it too much... This is not a priceless, rare plant, and we all learn by trying and making mistakes with our plants. In my case, very often. :-)

  • Mama_Z
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Heading out to buy some pumice. I'm going to try and spray it down at the root to remove the old soil and let it dry on my warm and sunny deck. Two questions: If I do take cuttings, should I let the ends heal (by themselves or with a sprinkle of cinnamon?) before re-potting? And dcelzinga mentioned upthread not to water for a while after replanting. Not even just once after I get it set up in the new, better draining soil?
    Thanks everyone. Really appreciate your help with this.

  • cactusmcharris, interior BC Z4/5
    12 years ago

    Mama Z,

    Yes, it's best to let the cuttings callous - you can (or not) use cinnamon, but fresh, warmish air will do, too.

    In the case of cuttings, I wouldn't water them at all but just spritz them every few days - they don't have roots so the soil doesn't need watering. And that's correct, not even once.

    A belated welcome aboard here.

  • Mama_Z
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Thanks for the warm welcome and helpful info, cactusmcharris! Tell me, how come I don't get email notifications when someone posts on my thread? Thought I checked the box that does that. Is this forum glitchy?

    So, no pumice. Went all the way out to a garden center who told me they have it only to find they do not and may never have. I bought perlite and some pretty rocks to set on top of the soil once I've reached some sort of permanence with this little cutie. The owner of the garden store (their focus is on exotics) told me to mix my cactus soil and the perlite together and water to make everything come together. Do I follow that advice? I really want to stay away from water (feeling like Gremlins over here).

  • cactusmcharris, interior BC Z4/5
    12 years ago

    MZ,

    Yes, we got glitches, but that's an acceptable burden of a free site, I reckon.

    Yes, pumice can be hard to find in a number of areas. If you do a search here for Turface, you'll find a number of posts by users of same (including me, who used to be able to get pumice by the cubic yard but now uses Turface). Perlite is an acceptable substitute, but I don't use it myself.

    No, I wouldn't follow that advice, unless you're going to wait several days before you use the soil for planting - the soil should be dry for planting and you shouldn't water established plants (i.e. those with roots) for several days after planting them. Then it's OK to water.

  • Mama_Z
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Absolutely. I'm used to glitches and don't mind much. Just wanted to make sure it wasn't something I did or didn't do.

    I will check out turface. Thank you for the suggestion. :)

  • pirate_girl
    12 years ago

    I wouldn't even use water to take off the old mix, likely to make more root rot. Simply crumble it off w/ your fingers, DRY, that should do fine. I always do mine like this, it's no problem.

    Then use perlite instead of pumice. And NO WATER, not mixed in nor until a week later. It's the water combined w/ the poor drainage that's making the problem.

    The vendor suggested watering in 'cause that's what you do w/ houseplants & (likely most) exotics. NOT what one does w/ succulents. We wouldn't steer you wrong on this.

  • Mama_Z
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Awesome. You rock, pirate_girl.
    T-minus 10 for transplant. Hold me in your thoughts, I'm going in.

  • dcelzinga
    12 years ago

    One drawback of perlite... it's dusty. Don't breathe in too much of that silica dust. Perlite is not perfect, but it works well for succulents and it is usually inexpensive. Also, for large containers, perlite's light weight is an asset if you ever want to move the plant & container again.

  • Mama_Z
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    No kidding, dcelzinga. Dust city over here. I divided the plants and got off as much old soil as possible -- a little is still clinging on. Gladly, I didn't see any sign of rot, but I bet it was on its way to that fate since the soil was sopping. I have them each laying in a pyrex dish on my deck table under a 9 ft umbrella. I'll bring 'em in tonight to sit on my counter. So I made up a mix approx. 1/4 cactus soil and 3/4 perlite. I'll put some pebbles on top once I get it in the dirt. My new container isn't as shallow and wide as I wanted but the only ones I've seen around here fitting that criteria were ginormous.

    It was hanging under a floor lamp across from (about 15 ft) a sunny window and diagonally (about 25 feet) from a sunny sliding glass door. I was thinking about asking my husband to put another hook right next to that sunny window -- or should I not bother because it will still thrive across the room?

    I know I seem a little attached to this plant, but that's how I get. :)

  • dcelzinga
    12 years ago

    On light requirements... I'm trying to envision your sunny windows, but I'm not completely sure about your specific case.

    I was just chatting about Senecio jacobsenii with a seller and club officer at the Los Angeles club show & sale. She finds, outdoors, this plant likes shade. But outdoor shade is still very bright light compared with indoors 15-25 feet from windows. That sounds like the equivalent of deep shade outdoors.

    I'd recommend closer to the window, but no direct sunlight until it's recovered from the transplantation.

    Incidentally, I just transplanted a small Senecio jacobsenii of my own. Mine is outside in sunlight shielded under a layer of nylon screen.

    Bright, indirect light is probably best.

  • Mama_Z
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    It's been 9 days since I repotted. I haven't touched it -- it's in a cool, dark basement with a small amount of filtered light. I've pulled a bit on each piece to see if it's taken hold in the soil and none have. But I see LOTS of new growth...little leaves popping up all over. Do I spritz the soil/plant with some water now? Should I leave it in the basement a little while longer or should I hang it in the sunny window (not so sunny today, unfortunately)?

  • jojosplants
    12 years ago

    Tugging or pulling on it is one of the worst things you can do to it right now, no matter how gentle. You run the risk of breaking any new roots it may have formed.

    It's going to be a while before it has enough roots to have a strong hold in the pot.

    New leaves is a great sign! :-)

    I'm not sure about watering it yet, i'll have to leave that to the more experienced.

    I'm not sure about your water, but ours is very hard, and it turned my plant a awful brown color when the leaves got wet, so you may want to be careful and keep them dry.

    JoJo

  • Mama_Z
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Thanks, JoJo. I'll stop tugging. Is there any other way to tell if things are rooting? I thought that would be my sign that it was ready to get some gravel on top and go in front of a sunny window.

  • jojosplants
    12 years ago

    Hi!
    New growth is a sign it's rooting, but just not enough roots for it to have a good hold.

    I'm really not sure about going in front of a sunny window just yet. I haven't rooted very many succulents, to feel comfortable giving advice.

    If it were my plant, i'd probably give it bright indirect for now.

    Hopefully another member who knows more will be along soon.

    JoJo

  • cactusmcharris, interior BC Z4/5
    12 years ago

    Mama,

    Some indirect bright light is great. Spritzing it is great. You'll be able to tell from the new growth that it's rooting. Practice benign neglect. Remember, it's a gradual introduction to full sun that will allow you to not have your plant sunburned.

  • amanzed
    12 years ago

    That sounds like progress! I would spritz the soil near the plants a little, sure. I wouldn't water deeply yet. No direct sunlight yet -- bright indirect light sounds good: bright shade or a spot near an East-facing window (or South- or West-facing if they're covered with curtains or filtered through blinds).

  • Mama_Z
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Great. Thanks for all the fantastic advice. How often should I spritz? Just once?

    My new mantra is benign neglect. This is why I love these succulents. I CAN DO benign neglect. :)

  • cactusmcharris, interior BC Z4/5
    12 years ago

    Every few days, precisely when the sun is in the fifty-seventh quadrant.

  • Mama_Z
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Nice one, cactusmcharris. You made me spit out my drink.
    I swear I'm not normally this anal-retentive. Although I'm sure that's what all the anal-retentive people say.

  • Mama_Z
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    DRATS.
    I went to go give it the first spritz today and noticed that some of the bottom leaves closest to the soil were mush. What's the deal? Did I not let them dry out enough before repotting? If so, what can I do now -- just start over? Like I said, it has been sprouting new leaves and some of them have even tried to "stand up" to get some sun from the tiny window in my basement. So that leads me to wonder if it wasn't getting enough sun -- even in this precarious state. I just put in on my deck table (south facing) under an umbrella. I removed the smooshies as gently as I could.
    Now what?

  • amanzed
    12 years ago

    It may just be the lowest leaves... These plants naturally lose their lower leaves sometimes. Don't panic. It can take weeks to build roots. Some plants take months.

    A patio umbrella, right? (Not a rain umbrella covering it completely.) Bright light is good. If it's bright, filtered light, they shouldn't stretch too much. Outside on a south-facing deck under a patio umbrella sounds just right to me. We're just trying to avoid direct, hot sunlight. Plants recovering from other issues don't have the same resources to deal with full sun as full, healthy, established plants.