Can these plants be saved?
August 3, 2018 11:08 AM   Subscribe

In need of a plant doctor. Pictures inside.

I don't have a good history with plants, but decided to get some again to get better. These are all indoors and I get good light inside. I have here two small cactus ( don't know the variety) and one mini orchid. The orchid flowers have limped, but maybe they are just out of season. The leaves are a bit wrinkly though. The others just look limpy and weird.

mini orchid

mini succulant

medium succulant
posted by fantasticness to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Could you maybe provide a photo showing them where they are usually located, so we get a (very incomplete, but at least it's something) sense of the path the light takes, containers' locations relative to each other, and other conditions?

It would be good to see a little down into the containers, too -- I'm getting a vague sense that there's maybe not enough soil, but I can't be sure.

Also, are there holes in the bottoms of the containers? What are you doing for drainage?

How often are you watering these?

Is the soil usually soggy or dry?
posted by amtho at 11:17 AM on August 3, 2018

Hard to say from those photos, but the succulents look like they're living in ceramic, non-draining hanging containers. Is that right? Because if so, that is a recipe for Succulent Death, unfortunately. They should be in pots with drainage holes, and these pots should ideally be made of terra cotta, which allows soil to dry out faster than less porous materials.

Both succs look a bit etioliated, which suggests they haven't been getting enough sun and are straining/reaching for light. Are they in the sunniest, most Southern-facing window possible?

I highly suggest checking out r/succulents on Reddit. The regulars there are incredibly knowledgeable and may have more specific advice than you'll get here.

Good luck with your plants!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:23 AM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

The soil is usually dry because I hear succulants are meant to be dry. Same for the orchid. They all have drainage. The Medium cactus was recently re-potted to a larger pot and it seemed to get weaker after that. The mini cactus hasn't been repotted, but the bottom leaves are falling off even though the top of it seems fine. Perhaps the bottom leaves weren't getting enough sun.

I can't really post new pics because I'm not there right now, but the light you see is the light they are getting. (Though the pictures were taken on a somewhat cloudy day. I've had these plants for 3 months so far.
posted by fantasticness at 11:24 AM on August 3, 2018

I know you're supposed to keep your succulents in well-drained terra cotta pots but most of mine are in weird non-draining bowls and whatnot from the thrift store and honestly they do fine. As long as you get a feel for how often they need watering, it's probably ok. Letting them stay on the dryer side is certainly safer.

Neither of your succulents look that unhappy to me. The smaller one looks kind of stretched out from insufficient light. The air roots at the bottom might mean it wants more water less frequently; how much do you water when you water? (Some succulents just air-root all over the place because they want to tip over and spread out but that one looks more like it might feel thirsty.) Both of them look like they'd respond well to trimming back and propagating so if you think they're getting too leggy just snip off the tops and stick 'em back in the pot.

I had one orchid from Home Depot and it died; I am unauthorized to comment on orchids.
posted by little cow make small moo at 11:35 AM on August 3, 2018

Orchids need to be watered from below by soaking them in a pool of water. Never, ever, water from above sending the water into the center of the plant between the leaves.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:07 PM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

The orchid looks like it is in too small of a pot to me. The plant looks healthy enough and the flowers might just be at the end of their life span. I think that they usually bloom for a month or two. Google images of orchid soil. It looks like small wood chips. If the orchid is planted in orchid soil in a pot with good drainage holes, you should be able to water it every few days or weekly. Thoroughly water it with the spray nozzle of your sink or hose, let the excess water drain off, and put it back where it normally lives. I'm not sure what the best lighting is for orchids.

For the succulents, they should be in a sunny south window. If you need to move them from a low sunlight to higher sunlight area (or outside) do it gradually over a week or two by slowly increasing the hours per day that the plant spends in the sunnier location. Sudden changes to more sunlight can burn plants.

Soil for succulents should be a soil type that drains easily - maybe 1/3 sand mixed with 2/3 normal potting soil? The pot should have holes in the bottom for drainage. Give it enough water to get the soil wet, but the pot shouldn't set in standing water. Let the soil dry out between waterings. Try setting the leaves that fall off on top of the soil or stick the end that was attached to the plant into the soil. They might grow into a new plant.
posted by Blue Genie at 12:36 PM on August 3, 2018

The Medium cactus was recently re-potted to a larger pot and it seemed to get weaker after that.

FYI, you have two succulents and no cacti. :)

Anyway, both cacti and succulents (somewhat counterintuitively) like to be in the smallest pot possible, so I suspect re-potting was a mistake. I recommend moving your medium succ back into its original pot.

...the light you see is the light they are getting...the pictures were taken on a somewhat cloudy day

In that case, I think they are just not getting enough light. Those photos look almost as dark as our basement does when all the blinds are drawn! Even on a relatively cloudy day, there should be far more ambient light if you want these guys to thrive.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:09 PM on August 3, 2018

My succulents love these grow lights. I use these clamps for them.
posted by sockermom at 1:53 PM on August 3, 2018

Your succulents are fine, they just need a LOT more light. Remember, unless you go crazy with pro gear and have huge bay windows, indoor+ Supplemental light is still nowhere close to as bright as partial shade outdoors.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:06 PM on August 3, 2018

After visiting a botanical garden that had an orchid greenhouse which was so humid water just dripped off...everything, I started misting my orchid daily with a spray bottle, and filling the little saucer at the bottom every 2 - 3 days in the warm months. Maybe every 3 - 4 days in the cool months. It's in bright diffused light (by a bright window that has a sheer curtain over it). It's done well enough that it grew another shoot and started blooming again.
posted by frobozz at 3:31 PM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

For the orchid: If you're watering it pretty regularly and it constantly looks wilted and thirsty, it may actually have root rot. If that's the case, watering more will only make it worse. The roots on top look healthy and plump, but try repotting the orchid (into the same pot is fine as long as the roots fit), and check the roots below the surface. They might be brown and mushy, or just hollow dry tubes. Use clean scissors to take off any roots that aren't firm (I even leave the yellow ones as long as they feel turgid) and repot with fresh media such as orchid bark.

I agree with others that it also looks like it could benefit from more humidity, but simply not having a fan or AC vent blowing at it is a perfectly good place to start. The leaf color looks okay so the light level seems good.

r/orchids is a good place to get additional questions answered. Phals can be pretty tough plants so don't give up hope yet :)
posted by Drosera at 9:37 AM on August 4, 2018

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