Browning tips on Sans

Jackiem21(Zone 7- New Jersey)February 10, 2014

Hi there

This may be a bit long but I want to make sure and give you all the details.

This past summer I purchased four beautiful amost 3ft tall Sansevieria plants. Two are the deep green with lighter green stripes and the other two with deep green and lighter green stripes with a lime/yellow variegation on the outer edge. They were doing great until about a month ago. It has gotten very cold recently, have forced air heat, and I keep the thermostat at 69 degrees. Two of the Sans, I have in our den and are doing great from what I can tell. That room is smaller (8 X 10) and a bit warmer, with no drafts or doors being opened and closed. The other two Sansevieria (with the variegation) are in the front living room, (16 X 20) They have suddenly started to turn a yellowish brown and look like they are drying and wrinkling/shriveling on some of the tips in the center of the plant. It almost looks as though they are drying out at the tips and working it's way down. The bottom of the plants, look very healthy. I have clipped off the bad tips and it seems to continue down the leaf. I was keeping them on the floor next to our fireplace (about a foot away on each side, so they wouldn't get heat damage) We only have used it twice this winter and they were not receiving the hot heat of the fireplace. However, I realized that they were in front of return vents. I was worried they may have gotten to drafty from when the front door was opened (which is across the room diagonally from the plants) when the heat kicks on, It would suck the cool air past the Sans and into the returns. I recently put them up on plant stands in the same area so they are above the return vents by about 2 ft. and warmer. The tips of the leaves are now about 4 feet off the floor. I'm not sure if this was their problem but I didn't want to lose them so this is where they are now. I just recently read that they should not be watered from above, near the center of the plant, only around the sides and not to wet the leaves or they can rot. Unfortunately, I have done this (before I read that you shouldn't). But it hasn't seemed to bother them all these months. I also read they should be watered very sparingly in the winter. I am worried that they are drying up, but I am afraid to water them too much. I have been watering them all about every 4 weeks by wetting the soil and letting it run through, then letting them drain completely so there is no sitting water. Although the past month or two I have not been doing this for fear of over watering in the winter, so I have been adding only about a half cup of water around all of the plants about every 2 weeks The two in our other room are doing fine, and I keep the soil the same (to the touch) in all of them. Pretty dry, feeling ever so slight dampness if you put your finger about 2 inches in the soil. The only thing different I have done was change the pots on the ones that have damage. I put them in a nicer stoneware pots that were almost the same size, just a bit wider at the top half than the plastic pots they were in. I filled in the gap with miracle grow cactus mix but they are basically in the same soil. They have been in those pots for a while now, well before the damage started. I love them and do not want to lose them. Do you think it's the temperature in the room, chilling the stoneware pots & the position they were in before I put them up on stands or possibly not enough water? I will try to post pics as soon as I can.. Thanks :)

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Jackiem21(Zone 7- New Jersey)

Pics of damaged sick Sans. hope this works...

Here is a link that might be useful: Sans browning tips

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 12:45PM
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Stush2049 Pitts. PA, zone 6

All plants loose leaves at some time. If it's just a few, your plants are ok. Simply cut out the bad sections. New ones will grow in. You just changed the envelopment they were used to. Give them a chance. Sounds like you know what you are doing. Base rot is a different thing. If that happens. The you will have to repot and save what you can. And mushy or wet spots have to go.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 3:40PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

From the pic, it's possible that one leaf did get burned by the heat of the fireplace. If the other leaves are still fine, firm, I wouldn't worry but definitely keep an eye out for any other signs of stress/damage.

From what you wrote, this is what concerned me, "Pretty dry, feeling ever so slight dampness if you put your finger about 2 inches in the soil." If it's moist below, more water is not needed until the soil has dried completely to the bottom of the pot. To me, this would be a pot that's still quite moist, assuming it's a foot tall or so, wouldn't consider watering it.

Leaves can be damaged at the tips in the case of frost bite, which takes a couple weeks to show up after it happens. Leaves can also show damaged tips if there is a problem with the roots. There's not enough info here to know which is going on, if either.

" I filled in the gap with miracle grow cactus mix but they are basically in the same soil." When a plant is potted up instead of repotted, there can be problems, especially when 2 different kinds/textures of soil are used.

In this particular case, since you mentioned the new outer soil is a more chunky, airy type, the outer soil may be drying very quickly while the older, inner ball may be staying really wet.

Sans can keep individual leaves for many years, so the loss of one is definitely cause for investigation, but not necessarily concern if it turns out to be something like an isolated past heat or cold exposure.

Assuming it's not rotting now, when practical, I would take the troubled plant out of its' pot, completely get rid of all of the old soil, then repot with all new soil. You'll probably find several individuals, connected to each other by big roots called rhizomes. It's fine to separate any that each have their own root systems, so you can give each section as much space in the pot as possible. If you find anything mushy/slimy under the soil line, cut that off, then let the the good parts dry overnight before repotting. If the soil is moist when you put the plant(s) back in, as bags of stuff almost always are, don't water it in, or at all until it is dry.

When Sans (or any plants) are not in potting soil, but in a more chunky, airy mix, the risk of rotting roots is extremely low, and drying to such a severe degree isn't necessary.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 10:54AM
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Jackiem21(Zone 7- New Jersey)

Thanks Stush2049 That is encouraging :) and for all the suggestions. I could not figure what I was doing wrong.. I researched their care. Most things said they were almost impossible to kill. Which is why I purchased them lol

After looking into the plant I realized there were 2 babies coming out at the edge of the soil with the off white roots kind of exposed. The center of one pot was so crowded I couldn't even see in there. I was very curious to see what was going on underneath.

So….I slid the plant out of the pot, into a basin to see. First of all, I was glad to notice the soil felt a bit on the warmer side, which I was happy about considering I was worried about it getting cold in their pot, with the weather we’ve been having and all the roots on both plants were healthy. The soil seemed dryer down there than I thought. Most of he soil pretty much just fell of the plant when I took it out. While doing this, I found one of the dying leaves was attached to the 2 babies. It looked like it was just stuck in the soil with some roots on the bottom and 2 babies branching off from it. Not sure if this is what this plant does but I’m thinking the leaf served its purpose of creating new life and was now forcing most of the energy into the babies which is why it was dying. (my theory anyway ☺ ) One of the other dying leaves did have babies attached underground as well that did not come to the surface yet. I also noticed that one of the plants toward the center was extremely crowded where a one of the leaves were browning and had drying tips. I figured I’m still under the Lowes plant guarantee so what the heck! I separated the plant a bit so it had more air circulation and light to those center leaves, cut the babies and their roots from the leaf that was stuck in the soil and repotted them in and everything else. It looks much better separated rather than all crowded in the pot. Hopefully it will be fine now. After all this trimming and replanting, I had some of those roots lying there with the finer hair like roots attached. I was about to throw them out and decided I would experiment and plant them to see if I get anything. We shall see how it goes. ☺

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 12:30PM
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Stush2049 Pitts. PA, zone 6

Very glad to hear such goodness.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2014 at 4:14PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Browning leaf-tips are nearly always an indication of dying root-tips, as above so below. Mixes like MG tend to hold excess moisture, and also tend to hold lots of salts when the mix is watered in sips during the Winter. I would recommend a re-potting into a properly draining and porous mix this Summer when the growth is strongest.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 2:36PM
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