How to revive a dying plant.
November 22, 2007 8:20 AM   Subscribe

Is there any way at all to revive my poor plant?

I bought this wonderful plant 6 months ago or so. Unfortunately I can no longer remember what type of plant it is. The leaves have a coleus-like pattern to them that are dark purple and green, and it can grow in indirect light.

It started to grow nicely, but then I did something to mess things up and now its dying if not already dead.

I might not have taken it into the house quickly enough when it started to get cold. I might have given it too much water. The attempted transplant into a bigger pot may have made things worse. I have no idea. But almost all the leaves have dried up. The base of the main stem is turning a sickly tan color, and I think it might be spreading. I started pulling the dead leaves off because I thought that's what I was supposed to do, but now there are hardly no leaves left.

If there's any hope at all, I really don't want to throw it out. Does anyone have any suggestions?
posted by Jenesta to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
You should fertilise potted plants every once in a while. It is normal for non-tropical plants to lose their leaves when days become shorter. Also, sometimes potted plants just get sick and die.

Can excess water get out easily? Is it too hot, too cold? Did it freeze?
posted by stereo at 8:26 AM on November 22, 2007

Is it a bulb plant? Did you notice a bulb when you transplanted it? If it is, what it is doing is perfectly natural. Bulb plants wither and go dormant during the winter and come back in the spring. If you want a vibrant plant in the spring you could take the bulb out of the soil and put it in a brown paper bag and store it in your refrigerator for a few weeks. This mimicks the winter for the plant and you can replant it in the spring.
posted by 45moore45 at 8:31 AM on November 22, 2007

Is it this?. Ficus "sylvie." Get a proper potting mix from a garden shop, then try gently repotting it (do not damage the roots, but get as much of the old soil off as you can) in a smaller pot-- you want to encourage foliage, not root growth. I've had luck cutting dying plants waaaaay back down to just a couple of branches off the original stem. Many plant and garden sites can give you very specific advice on cutting back plants.

Overwatering is the most common reason for plant trauma; if this was outside, you may also have brought bugs in with it, which is why cleaning and repotting are a good idea. Always gently wash your plants (you can get special soaps at the garden store) before bringing them in from outside to get rid of passengers.
posted by nax at 8:35 AM on November 22, 2007

Is the base of the stem mushy? You might be overwatering it if it is. The base f the stem will rot, while the leaves will tend to go crispy, because there is no water getting to them.

Any chance of a picture?
posted by Solomon at 8:40 AM on November 22, 2007

When I replanted it several days ago I used mostly new soil (the top layer unfortunately is older soil because I didn't have enough left.) It was left out in the cold for a day or two a while back before I brought it inside. I'm starting to think I should have left it alone -- once it was uprooted it turned out the roots had more room than I thought they did.

Bugs were getting at the leaves when it was outside. I wasn't sure what to about that at the time. The stem isn't mushy.

Solomon, the plant right now looks like this.
posted by Jenesta at 9:40 AM on November 22, 2007

Sorry, that thing is toast.
I have a feeling it was the cold that got it, depending on how cold it was.
In general, a plant that looks unhealthy to the average person (ie. brown leaves, strange smell, leaf drop) will not benefit from an increase in pot size. If the plant looks healthy but squished (vigorous growth, but not much room) then increasing pot size is a good idea. If the plant is unhappy, then it's roots won't grow quickly enough to fill the extra dirt, and you'll have lots of extra water sitting in that dirt which leads to fungus (and a dead plant).
So, it may have been a large number of things. Luckily most plants are not terribly expensive, so you should give it another try.
posted by nprigoda at 9:59 AM on November 22, 2007

That photo looks like the plant had frost damage from outside. Is that possible? Also--might be white fly infestation.
posted by 45moore45 at 10:00 AM on November 22, 2007

This is going to sound odd, but I sort of recognise the stems. It makes me think of a generic plant, something that you might see in a supermarket. Which isn't much help, is it? Is going back to where you bought it from to pinch (or read) a label from another plant an option?

Have you checked for vine weevil on the roots? They're a pretty common pest, because they're difficult to eradicate. They live on the roots of the plant, eating them all. You often don't know you've got them until the plant collapses. You'd probably have noticed them when repotting, though. The females roam the house at night, and look like black beetles. POI, they're also difficult to squash.

The brown bit on the stem looks like age to me. Try very gently scraping the brown bit with your fingernail to see if it's still green. Only do a tiny scrape, though, or you might to more harm. If it's bone dry and brown, you've probably lost the plant. If it looks green and healthy, you should be OK.

To test for overwatering, push your finger into the compost, up to your first knuckle. If it's wet, then there's too much water. If your fingertip is bone dry, then it probably wants a drink.

What could have happened is that the leaves got frosted (the temperature went below what they could stand) and they've died, but the stems could be hardier, and they'll pull through. Keep pulling the dead leaves off. They're liable to start getting mould otherwise, which really wont help, obviously. Also, cut off any dead branches, back to above a bud, on green wood. Dead wood will also get diseased.

Keep it warm, and in sunny, indirect light, out of draughts. It'll probably start looking better in a little while. There seems to be lots of buds on it, so there's still hope.
posted by Solomon at 10:01 AM on November 22, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yes, toast. Probably from being left outside.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:18 AM on November 22, 2007

Mmm I'm doubtful about the frostbite (It's not a silver-blueish white ect ect).

It may not be toast but it'll definitely be touch and go.

(Another pic would be cool)

IS it an indoor plant?? For now just filtered light just in case.

Sharp clean scissors. All the leaves are fucked. Pick a branch, chop it about halfway down. Keep choppin' til you hit green. Or chop higher on the next one.

It looks rotted. Too much water and not enough light. Could be a dumb question but does your pot have a hole in the bottom? Once it's dried out a bit and stopped decaying then fertilize it just a little. (I like seasol, it's like a stinky fish emulsion thing. Plants like it :) )
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 11:31 PM on November 23, 2007

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