Confused newbie!

julie_mJuly 29, 2006

Hi all, I've only been growing sans for a few months now but one of them has withered leaf I watered it thinking it was signs of underwatering. I've only watered them once every 6-8 weeks but already there's signs of overwatering (offsets are falling over, weakening at the base). I love my sans - what am I doing wrong?

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dufflebag2002(Calif. 91607)

You got it right, to much water. Sounds to me that the new leaves are rotted. take them out, leaving the rhyizome, hopefully it has not rotted as well. to dry out, don't water unless you see new growth. You may save the plant but you have nothing to lose trying this. Many things make up the reason that you lose a Sans. they just don't die, and don't give up growing them. You learned a valulbe lesson. Dead dry tips are normal for many species of Sans. Norma

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 6:26PM
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dufflebag2002(Calif. 91607)

I'm just as confused as you are. I've been studying Sans. for the past 15 years. Collected them since 1968. Spent three hours today trying to identifying 3 species,one from each other. I can use 5 different books, but none of them agree, I just found out that my S. metallica shoud have a red rhyizome, mine does not, so now what is the plant. Norma

    Bookmark   July 29, 2006 at 10:23PM
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Thanks Norma, I rescued a sans. tri. variegata the other day and the roots were orange, I took that as being a sign of stress, right? And the other wilting guy has been dried and repotted in dried out potting mix so hopefully it will survive. I also have a much cherished "Moonshine", that is doing very well and looking absolutely stunning so I must be doing something right. And I agree totally about the conflicting advice, especially on the internet. One site will tell you one thing and another the opposite, no wonder we ALL get confused. Trial & error is the only way I think.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 12:28AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I can't imagine how a Sans could need water only once in 6 to 8 weeks. The soil would have to be made out of that water holding polymer or the pot would have had to have been submerged in a tub. I don't think decent succulent soil could hold water for that long in normal conditions.

My Sans weren't doing very well last year when I first started out. Turned out I wasn't watering them nearly enough. Now I give them a big healthy drink once a week and they are thriving. I can't remember who recommended it, but someone on here said to use a pencil, wooden skewer, or wooden dowl to check the moisture level in the soil. If you stick a wooden skewer into the soil and leave it for a half an hour, it will show whether there's enough moisture in the soil. If it pulls out completely dry, then it's time to water. I hear a lot of people talking about Sans needing less water, but my experience with over 20 types of Sans has been very different.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 12:22PM
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dufflebag2002(Calif. 91607)

I have recommended that very often, this is the proceedure at the Huntington. It was 119 F in our West Valley last Saturday. Some of the species may need water more often, they are African plants and can take brutal temps, but enough is enough. The trick is to water thoroughly so it can reach the rootball of the plant. You must use judgement with your watering schedule, each of us come from different climates, and soil conditions. It has been hot and humid here which is very unusual for out valley. I use a chop stick and put it down into the middle of my soil mixture and keep it there for 5 minutes, if it comes up dry, I guess I would water it, it damp I'll hold off a little longer, these messages apply to all plants, they all need the same thing attention, and your good common sense. You need to learn how to read your plants. One formula is not good for all. The eastern coast cannot not grow them the same as our western states.
'Jade' is an good example of that. If they can grow cactus (New World plants) we certainly should be able to grow them here, I don't do well with Sempervivums, because I just too lazy to grow them, but the Huntington sure does.
These are winter growing plants here, but grow in the forests of Europe, and love the snow. If you live in cold, cool areas they will do fine.
All of us have been repeating the same instructions, which do not change from year to year. Remember some plants are summer dormant, others winter dormant, you must read and find out which is which. A general rule to follow, plants usually grow after flowering, that is a good time to start them. When they drop their leaves they are going dormant, when Sans. rot off at the soil line, it's because it has rotted. Do not let the water fill the vase of the leaves, they are not Bromolaids which loves water in their vase of leaves.
Do common sense gardening. Remeber they need the same things you do to live. Read some of the other posts, and you will see a pattern emerging on how to grow the plants, it will be pretty much the same for all of the common plants that you buy at Target, Wal-Mart, Home depot and other places like that. Look in a Ortho, Sunset Western book. They are not expensive get them used, it's the same information for the past 20 years. My first lessong came from Cacti & Succulents from Mother Nature. Norma

    Bookmark   July 30, 2006 at 7:58PM
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Brandon, if I watered my sans weekly they would all rot within a month. It gets pretty hot here in summer (45 celcius) but my plants are kept inside in air-conditioning and probably don't need much water.

Yes Norma, I've tried the soil test method first, I grow all sorts of succulents and have had great success with them all (except sempervivums, they hate our heat and don't last long once winter is over). I really thought I had it figured out but when I saw my sans offsets falling sideways I was gob-smacked. I hate losing even one plant. All the others have been doing so well. But I've taken your advice and let it dry out (although it was only just damp) and repotted it so here's hoping! Thanks for the input.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2006 at 6:10AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Maybe the soil mix you are using isn't ideal. The mix I use is 2/3 cactus and succulent soil (pretty close to average potting soil) with 1/3 perlite. I also use clay pots instead of plastic. The plants are kept inside in an airconditioned house and the humidity here is high. The soil is pretty much dried out in about a week and my plants would start to show signs of dehydration if I didn't water about once a week.

I'm not a Sansevieria expert, but I think if your soil retains moisture to the degree you report, it is probably not the healthiest soil to use for this kind of plant. I have about 20 types of Sans and all mine seem to love the conditions they recieve, but wouldn't be happy with less water than I give them.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2006 at 1:38PM
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Good idea Brandon, maybe I should switch to clay pots. The soil I use is pourous enough, (I don't use the water saver type) but it sure is retaining too much water for this particular plant.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2006 at 11:52PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

In addition to better drainage, some other things I like about clay pots are increase in air breathability (I can hardly believe this is an actual word) and the way they are not likely to break or bend as easily as plastic pots when the Sans grows. So far I have never had a Sans break a clay pot but have had plastic pots warped badly.

Sure, there are some disadvantages (possible salt buildup, breakage if dropped) but I prefer clay pots for all my cacti & succulents.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 12:44AM
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It gets too hot where I live to put all my succulents in clay. I had some in glazed clay pots and they got so hot they felt like they'd been in the oven, but it sure would solve the problem with this particular plant. I still can't figure out how all my other sans, same soil, same water, are fine but this one is giving me grief. I've put it out of the way where I can't see it. If I forget about it I won't be tempted to water it or fuss, which is often my downfall.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2006 at 3:09AM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Sometimes it's not abt the mix's water-rententiveness (?), but rather making it more fast draining. You can always add more perlite or pumice (if you can get it), I'd say up to 1/3 in volume of the mix & this helps ensure the water drains through the mix more quickly.

Also Julie, if the mix you're using is for Houseplants rather than C&S, it can contain a fair amount of peat, which is known to retain moisture for too long. That's why many folks who grow C&S look for mixes that have no peat.

Also, orange roots on a Sans. ARE NOT signs of stress, they can be perfectly normal. A couple of yrs. ago, I re-rooted a Sans. in pure pumice & the resultant roots were absolutely fabulous, healthy & bright orange in color, there were just fine!!

Brandon, it's not necessarily that the mix will hold enough water for 6-8 wks, but that the actual plant does. Pls. remember, some of these succulents grow in areas that only get seasonal rains, so in the dry season, some Sans. go a couple of months w/out water. Over the ages, they have specialized to hold water in their leaves & cells over long times for exactly these kinds of situations.

Personally, in NYC, I grow my 12-14 diff. Sans. some in plastic, larger, heavier ones in clay; all in fast draining mix heavily supplemented w/ pumice; sometimes even in mostly pumice w/ just a bit of mix down the bottom inch or 2 of the plants.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2006 at 12:52PM
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joy4me(z6 NY)

Hi All;

I agree with pirate_girl about the orange roots. I have had a couple in the past that always had the orange and were full healthy plants for years and still are.

julie: You said you had the plant for a few months. Did you repot when you got the sans? Sometimes the plants come with the wrong soil mixture to begin with.

Also, some plants are just more or less sensitive than another of it's kind. Two plants that are identical in every way, including soil and culture, can behave completely different. Some seem to adapt to defy the odds of the culture given while others just seem to have no verve for life. Just like every thing else in nature....nothing is perfect or necessarily follows the *rules*

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 11:03PM
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