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What’s wrong with my snake plant?

Lana Ho
2 months ago

Seems healthy and growing but shouldn’t it be growing straight up? I bottom water it for 20-30 mins every two weeks. Is that too much? Thanks for any advice!

Comments (12)

  • Tiffany, purpleinopp Z8b Opp, AL
    2 months ago

    There's nothing wrong with this plant, and agree it's a Dracaena, some form of massangeana. Very pretty!


    When you water, does the top of the soil get moist? If not, I would just water the regular way, by adding enough from the top so that all of the soil gets moist.

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  • Sherry
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago
  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    When you water from the bottom, ALL dissolved solids (salts) from fertilizer solutions and your tapwater (if you use tapwater) remain and accumulate in the grow medium. This raises hob in a number of ways. A high level of dissolved solids/ salts in the soil solution limits the plant's ability to take up water and nutrients. It also skews the ratio of each nutrient to the other nutrients such that a surplus of nutrient a can cause a deficiency of nutrient B (search "antagonistic deficiency"). Finally, the reservoir in the bottom of the cache pot or collection saucer displaces air in the root zone, which limits root's ability to function normally. Symptoms of this issue show up after a time in the form of spoiled foliage, shedding leaves, limited growth, limited vitality (poor health) and eye appeal; not that your plant is unattractive in any way, but why tempt fate. I did notice that some of the leaf tips have been trimmed back, likely due to symptoms of over-watering or a high level of dissolved

    solids or fluoride in the soil solution, fluoride being a particular issue for your plant

    It is best to water from the top. Water so the entire soil column is thoroughly soaked, and at least 20% of the entire volume of water used during the watering session exits the drain hole, then allow the pot to drain before putting it back in the cache pot or the collection saucer. This flushes accumulating dissolved solids out of the pot and limits fertilizer ratios in the pot from becoming badly skewed, which limits the potential for the antagonistic deficiencies I mentioned. If a planting utilizes a cache pot/ collection saucer and you don't want to bother with emptying either, it's best to situate your main pot on some sort of blocking such that the bottom of the pot is never in contact with water that collects in the cache pot/ saucer. This denies the salts flushed out of the soil from a pathway by which they can make way back into the grow medium. Example:


    If you have any additional input or questions you think I might be able to answer, don't hesitate to share.

    BTW - what are you doing about fertilizing? It's a very important part of the care regimen for plants grown in containers.

    Al

  • Lana Ho
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    This is all super helpful and greatly appreciated. I started out top watering but I was never sure how much to give and would sometimes see gnats which made me think I was overwatering. I will try watering and letting it drain as you suggested. How often would you recommend and should it just take a few seconds or so to completely soak the soil or should I be letting the water run through for longer?

    I haven’t fertilized. If you have recommendations on types/brands etc, pls let me know as well as the best regimen. As you can tell, I’m just starting out as a plant parent.

    Thank you so much!!!

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    2 months ago

    I started out top watering but I was never sure how much to give and would sometimes see gnats which made me think I was overwatering. Gnats are a fair indication the upper portion of the grow medium is remaining too wet for too long. This can be due to the medium being overly water-retentive, the grower watering at intervals too short, or a combination of both.

    I will try watering and letting it drain as you suggested. How often would you recommend and should it just take a few seconds or so to completely soak the soil or should I be letting the water run through for longer? The ideal way to water is slowly, so you're evenly covering the entire top surface of the soil column. When water appears at the drain hole, stop watering and wait a few minutes (10 or so) and then add additional water. Ideally, at least 20% of the entire volume of water applied in both applications should exit the drain hole and not have a pathway back into the pot, which would be the undoing of the reason for watering to beyond the point of soil saturation. If you are still getting the sense the soil is holding too much water, the simple act of just tipping the pot to a 45* angle after watering will force additional water from the medium.

    A and B are the same pot, except that B has been tipped to a 45* angle. Notice the difference in how much less excess water B holds in comparison to A. This is a simple way of making a big difference in limiting the amount of excess water a planting can hold.

    For pots the size of which are easily managed, try taking advantage of Newton's First Law of Motion. Immediately after a thorough watering, hold the pot in one hand over the sink, lawn ..... and move it downward, then sharply reverse the direction to upward. You'll immediately note that a good measure of 'excess' water will “continue downward in a straight line” and exit the drain hole. The sharper the reversal of direction, the more water exits the drain hole. When you have repeated the exercise until water no longer exits the drain hole on the reversal of direction, you will have eliminated all excess water and your plants will regard you with a newfound sense of awe.

    To easily determine what watering intervals are, follow instructions (below) re making/ using a wooden tell. Proper watering is a critical aspect of any plant care regimen.

    Foliage-Pro 9-3-6 is a complete nutritional supplementation program from a single source. It is arguably the best 'go to' all purpose fertilizer product on the market for a variety of reasons. If you water as I mentioned and fertilize about every 3rd or 4th watering in the summer and about every 5th or 6th watering in winter, you should be fine. That will be on the low side, giving you room to increase the solution concentration if you think it's required. To keep track of when it's time to fertilize each plant, drop a marble or button in the pot whenever you water, that way you'll know what watering is 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc. When you fertilize pick up the objects and start over until it's time to fertilize again.

    Using a 'tell'

    Over-watering saps vitality and is one of the most common plant assassins, so learning to avoid it is worth the small effort. Plants make and store their own energy source – photosynthate - (sugar/glucose). Functioning roots need energy to drive their metabolic processes, and in order to get it, they use oxygen to burn (oxidize) their food. From this, we can see that terrestrial plants need plenty of air (oxygen) in the soil to drive root function. Many off-the-shelf soils hold too much water and not enough air to support the kind of root health most growers would like to see; and, a healthy root system is a prerequisite to a healthy plant.

    Watering in small sips leads to avoid over-watering leads to a residual build-up of dissolved solids (salts) in the soil from tapwater and fertilizer solutions, which limits a plant's ability to absorb water – so watering in sips simply moves us to the other horn of a dilemma. It creates another problem that requires resolution. Better, would be to simply adopt a soil that drains well enough to allow watering to beyond the saturation point, so we're flushing the soil of accumulating dissolved solids whenever we water; this, w/o the plant being forced to pay a tax in the form of reduced vitality, due to prolong periods of soil saturation. Sometimes, though, that's not a course we can immediately steer, which makes controlling how often we water a very important factor.

    In many cases, we can judge whether or not a planting needs watering by hefting the pot. This is especially true if the pot is made from light material, like plastic, but doesn't work (as) well when the pot is made from heavier material, like clay, or when the size/weight of the pot precludes grabbing it with one hand to judge its weight and gauge the need for water.

    Fingers stuck an inch or two into the soil work ok for shallow pots, but not for deep pots. Deep pots might have 3 or more inches of soil that feels totally dry, while the lower several inches of the soil is 100% saturated. Obviously, the lack of oxygen in the root zone situation can wreak havoc with root health and cause the loss of a very notable measure of your plant's potential. Inexpensive watering meters don't even measure moisture levels, they measure electrical conductivity. Clean the tip and insert it into a cup of distilled water and witness the fact it reads 'DRY'.

    One of the most reliable methods of checking a planting's need for water is using a 'tell'. You can use a bamboo skewer in a pinch, but a wooden dowel rod of about 5/16” (75-85mm) would work better. They usually come 48” (120cm) long and can usually be cut in half and serve as a pair. Sharpen all 4 ends in a pencil sharpener and slightly blunt the tip so it's about the diameter of the head on a straight pin. Push the wooden tell deep into the soil. Don't worry, it won't harm the root system. If the plant is quite root-bound, you might need to try several places until you find one where you can push it all the way to the pot's bottom. Leave it a few seconds, then withdraw it and inspect the tip for moisture. For most plantings, withhold water until the tell comes out dry or nearly so. If you see signs of wilting, adjust the interval between waterings so drought stress isn't a recurring issue.

    Questions?

    Al

  • Tiffany, purpleinopp Z8b Opp, AL
    2 months ago

    It is absolutely not a snake plant (Sansevieria.) It is Dracaena fragrans.

  • rusty_blackhaw
    2 months ago

    Fluoride "toxicity" for plants is supposed to be manifested by leaf edge or tip burning, but this can also be due to improper watering or excess fertilizer.


    Tips on when/how much to water:


    https://rustyblackhaw.substack.com/p/when-should-i-water-my-plants

  • Tiffany, purpleinopp Z8b Opp, AL
    2 months ago

    Rusty, just to clarify, I think you meant to say that fluoride toxicity can manifest the same outward symptoms of root rot (overwatering) or excess fertilizer. Not that fluoride toxicity can manifest due to watering, fert. If that is it, I agree.


    With around 200 pots, I don't have time to "decide" when to water each one, or try to intuit the nuances of each plants' individual needs. All of them (aside from a couple of genuine cacti) get watered often enough so the soil never dries out. So simple. If that plan does not lead to beautiful, vigorous plants, it's a soil problem, not a person/water problem.


    Rotting roots (overwatering) are not caused by moisture, but by lack of oxygen. If one suspects this, re-read what Al said, and if he didn't say to also try clay pots, I'll add that. Clay pots allow oxygen to reach the roots on all sides of the root ball, much more similarly to being planted in the ground. It would be very difficult even if one tried to do it, to cause the average houseplant to suffer "overwatering" in a clay pot.

  • tapla (mid-Michigan, USDA z5b-6a)
    2 months ago
    last modified: 2 months ago

    Necrotic leaf tips and/or margins are far more often caused by over-watering or a high level of EC/TDS (salts/ dissolved solids) in the soil solution than a fluoride toxicity, which too often bears the burden of blame that rightly belongs to the influences I already mentioned.

    I noticed you list 6 factors to be taken into account when deciding when it's time to water; but, by my estimation you neglected to mention the most important - which would be the current level of moisture in the grow medium. In most cases, that will be the ONLY important factor.

    Al

  • Lana Ho
    Original Author
    2 months ago

    Thanks for all the advice. I just ordered the 9-3-6. I have a moisture meter but hadn’t been using it much because I was watering on a schedule and the plant seemed to be doing well. I will follow the watering tips you suggested. Thanks again!!

  • Tiffany, purpleinopp Z8b Opp, AL
    25 days ago

    That's too silly to participate. Just ignore it.

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