Dried leaves at base of rosette

pennyhal(11Sunset23)September 25, 2011

I have a Echeveria glauca blue that may be my first overwatering fatality. It had 6 pups. I had removed and rooted/potted 4 of the pups a while ago.

Mom and the other two started looking yellow and when I investigated realized that I had overwatered them and they were turning yellow. In clearing the debris that had accumulated on the top of the pot I noticed that the lower leaves of all three rosettes were dried up but still attached to the stem. I removed them to allow more air circulation. Then I thought that maybe that was the wrong thing to do, but it's done.

Today, one of the pups looked sicker yet. Just a few little leaves in the center looked healthy. I cut it off, set it where all the cuttings are supposed to be rooting or dying as the case may be.

So, should those dried leaves at the base of the rosettes of succulents be removed? It sort of tidies them up.

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I no sooner posted then I picked up a book and right there was the answer. It was in an older book by Gordon Rowley. It said that the leaves shade one another, and dead outer leaves protect the growing point during drought.

Drought? Phooey. I'm drowning this plant in water.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 2:23AM
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Hold on there. You are jumping to conclusions. Because of the sudden shift to more yellow leaf colors, I think your initial worry about overwatering was probably correct. But maybe not.

First, Echeveria and related plants recycle the contents of the oldest leaves. It is normal. The rate of this can pick up a bit if conditions are very dry, but it does not necessarily mean to the plant needs more water.

Second, dessiccation of lower leaves can be caused by root or stem rot. That will prevent moisture from getting up to the rosette, leading it to an increased the rate of leaf resorption.

So, the symptoms of overwatering and overwatering can appear similar. Removing completely dried leaves is a matter of personal preference. Removing them when growing outdoors in wet climates it may help prevent rot problems. I pop them off of most plants, but leaving a long red 'beard' on some plants looks cool. Perhaps it helps protect the growing point, but that is usually and inch or more above the lowest dried leaf. It's true that pups (branches) are often found under a mass of dried old leaves, and they may be protecting young tender tissues both from the sun, and from loss of moisture.

If you think you have root rot problems, there is only one thing to do. Take the plants out of their pots, knock off most of the soil, and have a look. If there is sign of fungal infection, you need to cut the stem above the rot, dry the cut end in the air for 3-5 days, and place on top of dry soil that is 75% or more inorganic material like pumice, perlite, gravel, etc. Do not water until you are sure the plant has grown at least some new roots.

If there is no sign of rot, replant in dry soil as described, and don't water for about a week to make sure any damaged or nicked roots have time to callous over which will prevent fungal infection.

Succulents can better survive prolonged drought than even a few days too long with wet feet. It is ALWAYS safer not to water than to water. If you have any doubt, DON"T!


    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 8:48PM
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Thanks for the info, Brad. That was one of my favorite succulents and one of the few that I actually know the name of. I have a lot to learn.

The mother plant was in a gallon size pot from the nursery. We've been in a cool spell here with the sun just coming out for a few hours in the afternoon. That probably contributed to the problem. Yesterday, I also moved it from the cooler part of the garden and placed it in the lath house where it is warmer and drier. I swear that when I went out to look at it this afternoon, it looked happier. I'll take a look at the roots. The soil it's in is terrible.

It is supposed to be 10 degrees hotter tomorrow. Sept./Oct. weather here along the coast where I live.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 9:31PM
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