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plantwavy

Full repot of curry plant?

plantwavy
5 months ago
last modified: 5 months ago

Hello hello!


I’d love some advice on whether my curry plant is healthy and how to approach my repot this year!


I noticed that the growth of my 2 year old curry plant stagnated last summer and the leaves began to yellow despite it getting plenty of light, a steady supply of fertilizer, and being in fast-draining soil. The reason I’m worried about the health of the plant is that my mom has been growing transplanted pups from the same plant that were originally smaller than mine was, and hers have grown to be very lush and over twice the size as mine in the same amount of time. I have a couple theories as to reasons/contributing factors for my plant’s stalled growth:

  • I kept the plant outside in direct sun for a month and noticed the growth slow during that time so brought it back inside. Once I brought it inside, it started growing again but very little so maybe it was traumatized from too much sun?
  • The pot is too small.
  • Uneven distribution of perlite particles in the pot means the soil isn’t actually draining properly
  • A weak root system. Last year when I was repotting the plant, I noticed it only had a single long tap root and very short lateral roots.


I’m thinking of doing a full repot (a la @tapla) using gritty mix -- does this make sense to do? As this plant has some sentimental value to me and this would be my first time attempting this kind of repot, I want to make sure I know exactly what I'm doing. Some questions I have:

  1. Should I cut the taproot, assuming it extends directly from the stem’s base? If yes, how much do I cut? My understanding is that this can be done for seedlings, but I’m not sure if it’s too risky to try on a 2-year-old plant.
  2. Should I size up the pot or keep it the same?
  3. How much of the upper plant should I prune, if any?
  4. When is the best time to do this? I live in New York City and last year I noticed new growth start in early March. It still seems to be dormant right now.


Thanks in advance for any insight!

-L





Comments (17)

  • getgoing100_7b_nj
    5 months ago

    I would let it be. The more you disturb the plant, the more its growth will stall. Considering nothing is really wrong with it, just give it time and a summer outdoors when its warm outside. If you really want a bigger plant, just switch this one with your mom's. She obviously has a more hospitable environment for it so it should catch up in her care. Mine sits in SE window so it can get as much sun as possible. It has thrown out a couple of new leaves in the past month or so. These things do grow slowly until they reach a critical mass. I would definitely not repot, cut off any roots or try to prune it anytime soon.

  • tapla
    5 months ago

    I noticed that the growth of my 2 year old curry plant stagnated last summer and the leaves began to yellow despite it getting plenty of light, a steady supply of fertilizer, and being in fast-draining soil. The most likely reason for stalled growth would be root congestion, but watering issues (particularly over-watering) and an inappropriate nutritional supplementation program (what fertilizer do you use?) can also be pivotal.

    I have a couple theories as to reasons/contributing factors for my plant’s stalled growth:

    • I kept the plant outside in direct sun for a month and noticed the growth slow during that time so brought it back inside. Once I brought it inside, it started growing again but very little so maybe it was traumatized from too much sun? Sunburn (photo-oxidation) is quite noticeable as leaves first turn silver/gray then black in leaves with very succulent leaves and brown in leaves that are thinner and less fleshy/succulent. If a large portion of the leaf's area is affected, leaves are soon shed after being subjected to too much sun. Your plant wants all the sun you can give it, but the existing leaves might not be able to fully adjust to full sun. See my comment about leaves and light below.
    • The pot is too small. Root congestion can become limiting to the degree it costs the plant more than 100% of its growth potential. On its face that statement might seem absurd; but the true measure of growth is a plant's increase in dry weight. Since plants are organisms that shed their parts as a survival mechanism in response to extreme stress, stalled growth + what the plant sheds can result in a decrease in the dry weight of the plant, which means not only is it not growing in the true sense of the word, it's actually decreasing in size; thus, more than 100% of it's growth potential is lost. So while the point can be argued technically, the salience of the point remains.

    The proper response to root congestion is not to wait and see if it 'self- corrects'. It won't. Even potting up is a half measure which ensures the lion's share of the stress/limitations associated with root congestion remains interminably, or at least until a pair of hands gets into the root mass to correct the congestion and wayward roots.

    Too, while a full repot represents a short-lived period of stress, the stress associated with root congestion is a forever limitation and far worse from the 2 weeks of recovery time after the average plant is repotted. In fact, plants repotted at appropriate intervals can grow to many, many times the size of plants allowed to languish for years in the same pot as a result of the trepidation brought on in some growers at just the thought of any interaction with a plant's root system. If any grower has any hope of providing any containerized plant the best opportunity for growth and vitality, a full repot or other mechanism that eliminates the stress of root congestion (like dividing some plants) is an essential part of the equation.

    • Uneven distribution of perlite particles in the pot means the soil isn’t actually draining properly The only way this can be true is if the soil near the bottom of the pot has very little coarse material (like perlite or pine bark) and the upper and largest fraction of the medium has a large amount of coarse material.
    • A weak root system. Last year when I was repotting the plant, I noticed it only had a single long tap root and very short lateral roots. This thought begs the question, what, then, caused the weak root system. Undoubtedly is was a cultural condition that, if remedied, makes the weak root system a non issue
    • I’m thinking of doing a full repot (a la @tapla) using gritty mix -- does this make sense to do? Absolutely. In fact, it's essential if you're changing to a different grow medium.

    1) Should I cut the taproot, assuming it extends directly from the stem’s base? If yes, how much do I cut? My understanding is that this can be done for seedlings, but I’m not sure if it’s too risky to try on a 2-year-old plant. Yes, cut the taproot; however, some plants do not respond well to having large chunks of the taproot removed all at once. I would reduce its length by no more than 1/3. During the subsequent repot, remove another 1/3 of the original tap root. Example: Let's say when you do the first repot the taproot is 12" long. You would remove 4" of the taproot, leaving 8". At the next repotting, you will remove all the roots growing from the point where you cut the tap root + 4 more inches, leaving 4" of the original tap root beneath the base of the trunk. The idea is to keep shortening the tap root so the roots are roughly shaped like a flat disc after several repots.


    This is much more refined that your tree would need to be, but it serves as good illustration of the idea the larger roots not attached to the base of the trunk are eliminated to allow fine roots to fill space formerly occupied by larger and unnecessary roots.

    2) Should I size up the pot or keep it the same? The same pot will be more than large enough. If the medium is screened properly, it doesn't much matter how large the pot is as the ghritty mix holds very little to no perched water. I wouldn't get too carried away and tempt fate by moving up in pot size now though. Better to get used to the gritty mix in a smaller pot that maximizes the medium's forgiving nature when it comes to over-watering. If it was a plant that better tolerated wet feet, I'd say it wasn't an issue, but Murraya (or Bergera) definitely likes things on the drier side.

    3) How much of the upper plant should I prune, if any? None. Leaves are the tree's food factories, and until it recovers from the repot, you should allow it to make all the food it can.

    4) When is the best time to do this? I live in New York City and last year I noticed new growth start in early March. It still seems to be dormant right now. This is an evergreen tree/shrub. Are you calling it dormant because it's lost all leaves or because growth is stalled? Repot any time between now and the very first indication of new growth. Better on the early side than late.

    *********************************************************************************

    When it comes to determining when the plant needs repotting due to root congestion, lift the plant from the pot. If the root/soil mass comes out of the pot intact, it wants to be repotted. If half the soil falls away from a smaller soil mass, it can go another year with minimal loss of growth potential or vitality.

    Light Acclimatization

    The degree to which a leaf can 'acclimate' to changes in photo load is limited. IOW, you can't expect a leaf that emerged under a full sun light load to acclimate to light levels in a dim corner, any more than you can expect a leaf that emerged in a dim corner to acclimate to a full sun site; this, no matter how long you allow for gradual acclimation. Too, the plant's ability to adapt to higher light loads is greater than its ability to adapt to lesser light loads.

    Using a 1-10 numerical example to illustrate (numerical value of 1 is low light, 10 is high light): If a leaf emerges where the light level is measured at 5 units, it's range of adjustment might only be 3.5 on the low side, but 8 to 8.5 on the high side. When the level of adjustment required is greater than what the plant is genetically programmed to deal with, the leaf is shed. Whenever a new leaf appears it will be perfectly acclimated to whatever the photo load is where the plant is positioned (within the limits of what it is genetically programmed to tolerate).

    Al

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  • plantwavy
    Original Author
    5 months ago
    last modified: 5 months ago

    Okay I just went through old photos and realized I remembered the timeline incorrectly. Must have been confusing it with one of my other plants. Adding photos here in case they give more info.


    9/1/20 - Just brought it home and kept outside in direct sun. I kept it outside as long as temperatures allowed and then brought it in to a bright south-facing window. I don’t think there was any growth at all until the following spring.


    3/6/21 - Noticed brown spots on leaves. By this point, I suspected there was a drainage issue and had stopped watering altogether.


    4/12/21 - Finally some new growth!


    4/30/21 - Growing pretty rapidly.


    6/17/21 - Repotted. This photo is from right before repotting.


    7/6/21 - Here’s where my brain scrambled things. I think that I moved the plant outside into direct sun right after repotting. Could this have been my problem? I do distinctly remember no growth while it was outside.


    9/11/21 - At some point between 7/6 and 9/11, I brought the plant back inside. If I remember correctly, I noticed new (slower) growth start up again very shortly after bringing it back inside. I think some of the leaf tips yellowed while it had been outside.


    2/28/22 - No growth since the fall. At some point when the weather was colder, all of the leaves on the lower two branches started yellowing from the tips and a few leaves fell.

  • tapla
    5 months ago

    I rec'd notice that you made a reply today, but nothing shows up on the thread. That's happened several times within a span of a couple of weeks - not sure what's up.

    Al

  • plantwavy
    Original Author
    5 months ago

    Ah, sorry about that. I've just spent some time trying to repost and it's still not working. I can't figure out why some of my comments will post and others won't -- maybe because they're longer? I'm going to see if Houzz support can help me. Sorry if you just got a million notifications from me.

  • plantwavy
    Original Author
    5 months ago

    Hi @tapla - one of my replies seems to have posted but the other is still missing. Attempting to repost my other reply here, and you can check out the additional info I shared above.


    --


    Hey Al,


    Thank you so much for your time and energy in putting together this response. I’ve learned more in the weeks since I discovered your posts than I have in my past year of online research. I’m already feeling better about reviving this plant - thank you!!!


    Answers + follow up to some of your notes:


    I’ve been using this 3-1-2 fertilizer. I did recently purchase the foliage pro 9-3-6 and I’m game for switching if that will make a difference!


    My guess as to what could have caused a weak root system: overwatering last winter. December 2020, I noticed that the soil was staying wet but I was a plant newbie and too scared to mess with it. It wasn’t until spring when I repotted that I realized the pot had a plastic part blocking most of the drain hole. Since the overwatering snafu of 2020, I've been careful to check the soil's moisture (previously with a moisture meter, recently started using a tell) before watering.


    When lifting the plant from the pot, the soil does not seem to be intact. But this might be consistent with a weak root system that has little lateral growth, and if it’s so long that it’s touching the bottom of the pot that would still be considered congested, right?


    Noted that I should cut only 1/3 of the tap root at every repot. Suppose when I do the repot, the shortened length of the taproot is still touching/near the bottom of the container — would that still be root-congested? In that case, would it be better to prune more of the taproot off or increase the size of the container?


    I assumed the plant was in a dormant state because the growth stopped completely in the fall and some leaves turned yellow and fell, which my mom said can happen in winter. If that’s not the case, do you think this has been happening due to generally declining health or some other factor that I need to be paying attention to?


    A general question re: your note on pot size - Is there a limit to how small of a container you can continue to repot a plant into (with regular root-pruning) if you want to maximize height? I’m assuming taller trees need wider root systems to be able to counteract the torque of the trunk, so you would eventually need to size up the pot and let the lateral roots grow out? Is there a way to know when sizing up the pot is necessary?


    Thanks again!

    - L

  • plantwavy
    Original Author
    5 months ago

    Hey Al - are you able to see my above two responses? I think they should be publicly visible now. Let me know.

  • plantwavy
    Original Author
    last month

    Posting an update in the hopes that someone can help me figure out what’s going on here.

    To recap, the curry plant had stalled growth since last fall and some yellowing leaves. I did a full report into gritty mix this past March. Since then, I have not seen any new growth and the chlorosis has increased and spread to higher branches. My initial thought was a nutrient deficiency that spread rapidly because I hadn’t been fertilizing in the weeks following the repot.

    I’ve been trying to correct the issue for two months but it seems to be getting worse still. My approach has been: generous dose of Foliage Pro 9-3-6 at every watering (after flushing the medium) and FP foliar spray to the leaves once a week.

    Should I give it more time or try a different approach? Any ideas on what could be causing these issues?

    Photo 1 - before repot in March
    Photo 2 - today

  • tapla
    last month

    The plant looks over-watered and/or over-fertilized. Is it indoors or outdoors?

    What I would do: Move it outdoors into shade, if it's not OD already. Stop fertilizing right away. Flush the soil when you water by making sure the entire soil column is wet and at least 20% of the total volume of water applied exits the drain hole. Do not allow the plant to sit in water that exits the drain hole. There should be no pathway by which the effluent (waste water) can make way back into the soil. I use a set-up similar to this:

    Each time you water, drop a marble, button, other object into the pot. In the summer, fertilize (production strength dose) about every 3rd or 4th time you water and maybe every 5th time in the winter. As long as there is no fungal infection limiting root function, that should straighten the plant out. After a few weeks in shade, you can start acclimating the plant to full sun, which should be additionally helpful.

    You CAN over-water plants in the gritty mix if you work at it. Try using a 'tell' to tell you when it's time to water. Plants over-watered in the spring can survive on only a few scraggly roots, but that doesn't work when the summer heat comes along and the plant can easily suffer drought stress even while the soil is still very moist, so it's important to let the soil dry down to the point the plant isn't dying of thirst, but does need a drink before you water it.

    Al

  • plantwavy
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Thanks Al, that makes sense. It is currently indoors in a bright window but it's worth trying to move it to my balcony.

    By outdoors in shade, does that mean it's fully covered by the shade all day or there are parts of the day when the sun hits it, or do I want dappled light? My space doesn't have trees or natural shade so I have to either place it under my patio furniture or construct a shade myself.

  • plantwavy
    Original Author
    last month

    Hey Al, I’m curious to get your thoughts on this update.
    ​​
    ​​Since our last exchange, I brought the plant outside into shade, stopped fertilizing, and watered only when the tell would come out completely dry. Immediately, the health started to rapidly decline. 3 branches fell off in the first few days and a ~3 more have fallen in the two weeks since.
    ​​
    ​​I’ve resumed fertilizing every 5 waters. I transitioned it to full sun over the last week, which seems to have slowed down the branch yellowing and drop a bit.
    ​​
    ​​Should I bring it back inside or stay the course? Is this just a temporary stress response or a sign of a serious systemic issue?

  • tapla
    last month

    If the soil column isn't fully colonized by roots, you might need to water before the tell comes out dry. In fact, it's a good idea to water that way when using the gritty mix because (if it's properly made/ screened), it really hard to over-water. Most over-watering issues are the result of too frequent watering of unestablished plants in mixes which haven't been screened or mixes which have had fine materials added to them for whatever reason. This combination results in the bottom several inches of the medium remaining wet long enough to hinder establishment of roots at the bottom of the pot, though from what you described, that's not likely to be the issue. It IS essential to make sure the fraction of the soil column populated with roots is moist at all times.

    The way the fertilizer you were using is marketed is seriously misleading. I/4 tsp of FP 9-3-6 makes a gallon of fertilizer; whereas, it takes 8 teaspoons of the original fertilizer to make a gallon. So, it takes 32X as much of the product you were using to make the same strength solution. Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 can be bought for about $.50.oz and the cost of the product you purchased is $2.50/oz; so all in all, it cost's you 160X more to use a product that doesn't even tell you what nutrients it contains. My guess is, they started out with a 3:1:2 ratio fertilizer like Miracle-Gro 24-8-16 or 12-4-8, and diluted it enough to ensure a fantastic profit from every sale. There is a similar product to this, sold specifically as a fertilizer for Fiddle Leaf Figs, that essentially sells water with a few drops of fertilizer in it. Caveat emptor!

    Getting back to your plant ..... I'd stay the course, but make sure it's getting the moisture it needs.

    Al

  • plantwavy
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Interesting! It sounds like I had been watering appropriately when the plant was inside but then not enough when outside. Based on everything you’ve shared, my new working theory is that most of the issues over the last year have been mainly due to chronic over AND under fertilization.

    I was using the scam 3-1-2 fertilizer until this year’s repot. Looking back, I don’t think was fertilizing frequently enough over the winter/early spring. Then I root-pruned and repotted an already nutrient-deficient plant into gritty mix with no fertilizer, which compounded the nutrient stress.

    A month later, I reacted to the visible stress by overcompensating: feeding with Foliage Pro, at a higher concentration than before, too frequently. Too much too soon, and further limiting water uptake during the repot recovery.

    Then the last several weeks outside, the watering (and therefore feeding) was not happening frequently enough, so drought and nutrient stress. This would align with your advice to keep it outside and water frequently enough for the soil volume containing the root mass to be moist at all times.

    Could this explain what I’ve been seeing? Honestly, I’m enjoying playing detective and figuring out where I went wrong, hopefully so I can learn from it.

  • plantwavy
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    Sidenote - what concentration of the foliage pro do you recommend? I know the bottle says 1/4 tsp for a gallon, but I think on a different thread you wrote that you do 4-5 tsps/2 gallons during the warm months. I've been doing just under 1 tsp/gallon.

  • tapla
    last month

    what concentration of the foliage pro do you recommend? Any fertilizer instructions need a lot of qualification or a good deal of knowledge about your grow medium and watering habits. I'll assume that you're watering so at least 20% of the water you apply to each planting exits the drain hole. You actually have 2 choices. You can fertilize at 1/4 tsp/gallon of water in the summer and half that in the winter; or, you could fertilize every 4th or 5th watering with a solution of 1-2 tsp/gallon of water and half that strength in winter, unless you're growing under good light. Then, use 1/2 - 1 tsp in winter.

    What you said in the post above your most recent is as plausible as anything else I've thought of.

    Al

  • plantwavy
    Original Author
    last month
    last modified: last month

    When watering, I usually flush thoroughly with water until there is a steady and generous amount of water flowing out of the drain hole, wait for 10-15 min, then repeat. I can’t say the exact percentage of water that enters vs. exits the pot, but I’d guess it’s well above 20%.

    When fertilizing, I do the same process but the second flush is with the fertilizer solution instead of water. I’ll probably stick with feeding every 4-5 waters and maybe increase my FP concentration to 2 tsp/gallon.

    Thank you so much! I’ll stay the course and hopefully my next update will be a good one.