plants continue to die

emee(7)July 25, 2014

I purchased 10 plants from Walmart Sat July 12 about 13 days ago. The following Thurs (5 days later) one plant had turned black & died. The others are dropping leaves & turning yellow. I have not watered since purchasing them.

I repotted into well draining soil. The only thing I changed about my mix was I used poultry grit instead of pumice. Is it possible there is something in the grit causing this? The soil they are in feels dry & I haven't watered since repotting.

I hate to do nothing & watch them die.

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Here is a picture of a few of the plants.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 12:18PM
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What are the ingredients in your mix, and at what ratios? It looks like I'm seeing peat moss in the pictures, which would be a problem.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 1:29PM
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The Adromichus christa looks to be doing very well They are usually very very happy in any form of sharp gritty mix, are also capable of lasting a few good outside sun blazing days with out a drop.

In part of repotting some roots may have been lost in the repotting stage. Roots need to recover or re-establish as well.
( Other than the Adro) Not sound info by any means but you may want to re-intro some water by misting the surface but only near the base of plant not to close to avoid misting the plant crown outward to the edges of the pots in question.

Anouther concern is good air flow from open windows as an example.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 1:55PM
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My mix is 1/3 each of soil, perlite, pumice or grit.

I'll try light misting of the soil & open a window. Thanks very much.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 2:39PM
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I'm not sure what constitutes the "soil" part of your mix, but if it's standard bagged peat moss soil, or actual garden soil, that is a problem. That soil part of your mix will only fill in the space between the more coarse ingredients, negating the effects they have. The key to a well drained mix is particle size, and mixing tiny particle with the larger particles defeats the whole point. Think of a bowl of pudding, and it's consistency; you can add marbles to it, but the consistency is still the same.

With proper soil, you can water very thoroughly, with no threat of rot, and in fact, a very thorough watering is what plants need, not small sips. Succulent type plants don't actually like drying out, they just tolerate it better than most plants.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 5:26PM
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I use a bagged soil for cacti which may have some peat. Should I be putting the soil through a screen before using? thanks.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 8:11PM
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I can't recommend even using bagged soil at all. Bagged soil has peat, and other organic ingredients, which will decompose and turn into muck. Screening it will not help that fact. The "cactus & succulent" mix is the same stuff, with sand in it, which is just as bad. For the long term health of your plants, you'll want to search this forum and gather up some information on "gritty mix".


    Bookmark   July 25, 2014 at 11:30PM
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Your mix sounds ok to me and the plants you show (for the most part) look ok to me. When you repotted, did you remove all the old soil off the roots of the plants?
I'm wondering if the plants that you purchased were on their way out before you bought them, and now you are seeing the mass die-off. My reasoning is that your Faucaria (Tiger Jaws) is etiolated and the plant pictured above it (a Sedum?) looks like it has rotting bits on it.
It could very well be that you did nothing wrong, you just unwittingly bought bad plants.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 12:46AM
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Keep in mind if they do die, take them back. Walmart still has a 1 yr guarantee!

And I don't think it's your mix either. That is exactly what I use. It isn't the best compared to gritty mix but it works!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 1:40AM
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kwie2011(8a/8b W. OR)

I agree with brody and teisa. Maybe hour mix is or isn't the best, but I don't believe it could kill your plants so fast whatever it is. Plants from Walmart are going to be growing in a peat mix already, so...

My bet is that they were over-watered in the store, and beginning to rot. Looks like the Crassula tetragona has stem rot. Walmart will take them back. That's probably your best bet. If you're attached to them, you might de-pot, remove diseased portions, allow to dry, and pot in a coarse pumice mix. C. tetragona roots super easy from stem cuttings. I'm not so familiar with the others (I can see why you bought them though - lovely).

Good luck.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 3:14AM
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Thanks everybody! I called Walmart & they told me they are not returnable. I made the comment that someone in their garden dept seemed to be overwatering their succulents & the man didn't comment just grunted.

It's probably my fault. I didn't remove the soil that was on the plant when I repotted them. The reason I didn't, the first succulents I bought I removed the old soil from them, trying not to disturb the roots, & some of those died. My thoughts were that maybe if I had not disturbed the roots they would have lived. I'm going to try more plants but next time order them online.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 9:16AM
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hijole(9 Sunny California)

So sorry for your experience emee, and don't want to add any confusion but it could also be a combination of the to much or not enough'.
to much water, Or not enough filtered light (No direct sun.)

And you know I've always heard the same rule about peat moss in the mix but the guy at my farmers market his plants all look strong and healthy so in asking him what he uses he said Peat moss, Perlite & Cactus mix.
I thought huh! You sure? :/ he responded, yup :) so I bought me a bale of it and mixed it together and about 6 months later I have to agree with him, not alot. Just a mixture of it.

Just easy on the watering tho we sometimes think there like reg plants and run to give them a drink but they love to be short on water. Kinda like Camels, they can go a long way with a little.

I saw a nice little slogan the other day that read,
"When in drought grow succulents. :)


    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 11:14AM
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Disturbing roots doesn't kill plants, unless you do it very excessively. The important thing is what kind of soil roots go into after being disturbed. Every time I repot any plant, including succulents, I not only disturb the roots, I cut out plenty of them. Though people will dispute the soil argument because they use bagged soil and their plants are ok, you're never going to grow plants to their full potential, and without rot risks, unless you learn more about the ideal soil and implement it. Trust me, I grew plants in typical bagged peat soil for years, and while it worked ok, I lost plenty over the years to rot, or unexplained decline. I didn't truly see great results until I addressed the soil issue, and ever since then, literally every plant I own is happy and healthy. Plant growing success should be measured in many of years, not just a couple seasons. So, while some will continue to argue against a porous, well drained soil like gritty mix, without ever using it, I will continue to attempt to help people see the light.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 11:26AM
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The first problem is you bought the plants from a super store. They don't have any one on their staff that knows a thing about cacti & succulents. Our local B & Q in England has small cacti with artificial flowers glued on the top of them. I bought some just to stop the plants suffering and teased the dummy flower off with a small flat ended screwdriver.. Fortunately I have saved all the ones I bought.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 12:16PM
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kwie2011(8a/8b W. OR)

Hey emee, I still believe you can salvage most of what you have there. As others pointed out, some plants look mostly pretty good. The C. tetragona (aka miniature pine tree) with the brown stem is toast, but save the pieces without brown stems, and cut off just the clean, green top of the ones with brown stems. Leave a nice wide margin to be sure you don't have any rot on the cuttings. Set them out to callous a few days in dry air. You want the scar nice and dry. They're succulents. They're fine with this treatment.

Once you have a good scar, pot them in a well-draining soil like Joe described. If you don't want to make your own, there are some cactus and succulent growers/sellers on ebay that will send you a Flat Rate Priority box of their own mix. If you email me at my user name here, I'll suggest a couple favorite eBayers with good mixes (and advice, and lovely succulents to sell).

Once you have the rot all removed from the cuttings you're salvaging, you have time to wait for soil to arrive in the mail. Succulent cuttings can be soil free for a week or two, or even more depending on the environment. (I've seen some produce roots lying, forgotten, on a table or rock.) Pot the cuttings and barely water them. For cuttings, I sometimes just use the stream of a spray bottle and squirt a few times into the soil at the base of the cutting about once a week. You should be able to use more water with a more porous mix though.

The jades will take 4-8 weeks to sprout small roots. They are winter growers, and dormant during the long days of summer (an adaptation to their harsh environment), so they may be slower to root this time of year. That's fine. They may even shrivel slightly. Don't worry about them and don't water them more. You'll know they've rooted when you see a little new growth. The C. tetragona grows pretty fast. I potted some cuttings in January that doubled in size and branched several times before going dormant for the summer. They're fun. Everywhere you remove a leaf, a new branch forms. Makes them good for bonsai and sculpting.

I'm sorry Walmart gave you trouble. I'd stick the plants back in their Walmart pots and take them back anyway. Make them get a manager. There is no way you turned a jade plant brown and mushy in 5 days of having it, and 5 days didn't turn roots black either. There was something wrong already, and the store should refund your money. I've brought plants back after a month solely because they were an impulse buy I later regretted. They never gave me any trouble. The plants were healthy, but nevertheless.

Whatever you decide to do, I hope you've gotten enough info here to help you save these plants, or grow some lovely new ones.

They're nice plants, before giving up and just tossing them out, email me.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 1:10PM
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kwie2011(8a/8b W. OR)

Joe - where are the recipes for gritty mix and 5-1-1 on here? I see them often mentioned, but without a recipe.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 1:14PM
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If you search the forum for "gritty mix" you'll find it. Many use a variation of the famous "Al's a Gritty Mix", such as myself. The important thing is the particle size. For succulents, I use 1 part Turface, 1 part lava pebbles, and 2 parts chicken grit. They are all screened on the low end through 1/16" insect screen. The lava rock I screen through 1/4" mesh on the high end, and the Turface and grit don't need screening for large particles. That's my variation of gritty mix. The original recipe is equal parts of Turface, grit, and pine bark fines, all sifted at 1/16" on the low end. The bark I think is sifted at 3/8" on the high end, but don't quote me on that, because it don't use the bark due to lack of a supplier, and a lack of need in my opinion.

Remember though that fertilizer is important also. You need one that provides all of the needed nutrients, including Ca and Mg. Dynagrow Foliage Pro 9-3-6 fits the bill, and is what I use.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 4:33PM
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kwie2011(8a/8b W. OR)

Thanks for the info, Joe. I appreciate your slant on the gritty mix. I'm thinking of a variation myself using pumice since it's the base of the mixes some of my favorite succulent growers use. Don't want to hijack emee's thread though. Thanks very much for the insight.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 10:23PM
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Thanks for all the great info. I admit I bought some of these plants because they had a flower glued on them & I wanted to remove them. The flowers were easily removed, but there was what looked like burned leaf under some of the flowers. Surely they did not apply the flowers with a glue gun.

This has been a great learning experience. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 10:25AM
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I don't use the "gritty mix" which many people on this forum use for succulents. I live near the equator (tropical rainforest) and make my own mix which contains cactus mix, pumice, coir, regular potting soil, humus, pine bark and my succulents grow like weeds and look healthier than ever.

I used to use gritty mix but the mix was too dry and the plants eventually died. I managed to save some by replacing the gritty mix with a mix that keeps more moisture but isn't too wet.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 8:48AM
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In point of fact, the growing substrate is mostly irrelevant, it's just how to apply water to it (how much, when, how long to let it dry) that the different mixes and the growing environment affect.

Obviously the safest to prevent overwatering would be a very sharply drained mix. And, overwatering does kill more succulents than anything else...very few die of underwatering.

You could theoretically grow plants in a finely ground glass sand, and provide nutrients and water yourself. There would be NO water would probably need water daily (lol), but it could certainly be done.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 8:55AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I think you would find that fine sand will retain a lot more water than you think it does. Try putting some play sand in a cup. Add a known amount of water to the dry sand and measure what can be drained out. It will be less than you put in.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 10:51AM
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penfold2(4b, MN)

"In point of fact, the growing substrate is mostly irrelevant, it's just how to apply water to it (how much, when, how long to let it dry) that the different mixes and the growing environment affect.
You could theoretically grow plants in a finely ground glass sand, and provide nutrients and water yourself. There would be NO water would probably need water daily (lol), but it could certainly be done."

The particle size of any container soil is very relevant. Take a clear plastic cup, punch a hole in the bottom, fill it with sand, and then water it. You'll see a line, below which water does not drain away from the sand. This is the perched water table. In a fine soil, like sand, the PWT will be very high, but in a gritty soil, it is small to nonexistent. Roots will die in the PWT unless they are able to quickly remove it by absorbing the water, and thus returning air to the entire soil mass. This may work for plants that transpire lots of moisture under warm, sunny conditions. But under conditions where plants are not madly sucking up water, rot can happen very easily, even from just a single watering. A gritty soil, however, has a lot more leeway because the entire soil mass has air filled pore spaces, even immediately after watering.


    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 11:17AM
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