“My succulent house plants have dry leaves in the middle of the stem and black spots. Why is this happening?” Question from Karina of Wenatchee, Washington
Answer: Succulent plants can develop dry leaves when they are being either overwatered or underwatered. The black spots and the fact that leaves are drying and dying in the center of the stem indicates stem and root rot, which is caused by a fungal infection that develops when plants are being overwatered. (Click here for some great images of overwatered succulents.) Sadly, central spotting and leaf death is an indication that your plant is dying and will not recover.
“Hi! How do you revive a newly transplanted flowering tree whose leaves and flowers are wilting?It was planted in loose, rich black organic soil (no chemicals have ever been added). It was dug up from my brother’s flower garden, and it was in rocky sandy soil at the time. I brought with me some of the soil it was used to, to add to the hole it was put into. It is being watered every day. It looks worse and worse every day. 🙁 Could you please tell me if it doesn’t perk up yet this year if it will renew itself over the winter and come back next year as it is too beautiful to lose. Thanks for your time and attention in answering my dilemma!” Question from Sylvia of Belle Plaine, Minnesota
Answer: Stop watering! Sometimes too much love–or in this case too much water–can be detrimental to a new planting. If you moved your tree from a location with rocky, sandy soil, and it was growing well there, then it likely requires fast-draining soil and tolerates less water. By moving it to a new location and watering it daily, several things happened. It had too few roots and too much soil moisture while experiencing the shock of transplant.
Tree Transplanting Tips
Wild- or garden-dug trees have sparse root systems with fewer feeder roots, unlike pot-grown trees. When moving them, it is important to retain as much of the rootball as possible to keep the roots intact and undamaged. But, even if you do the best job moving the tree, lots of feeder roots (the fine roots that take up the most nutrients and water) will be lost. Trees are happier when planted in soil with comparable drainage and characteristics to their original native soil–in this case, the soil in your brother’s garden. The addition of light soil amendments, such as Black Gold Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss, can be helpful, but too much can cause the bathtub effect, so use sparingly. (Click here for good tree and shrub planting/transplanting guidelines.)
After planting, keep the soil around the tree just moist, but never wet. Light moisture will allow new feeder roots to develop, while too much water will overwhelm the delicate, shocked root system of a new transplant and can cause root rot. In your case, I would water the tree weekly in the absence of rain. If temperatures are very high, a little extra water can be added if wilting occurs.
I hope that these tips help and your tree bounces back.
“Why do some potting soils turn green? What is it, and how can I avoid this from happening? Thank you.” Question from Angela of Taylor, Michigan
Answer: Any potting soil can turn green. That is because it is algae, or more rarely moss, that is causing the green color, and excess water on the soil surface is the culprit. A green layer on your soil means too much water. When you water to the point where the surface soil is kept wet, this invites the growth of algae. Algae and algal spores can exist in soil, water, or even air, so “clean” soil won’t keep the problem away. The best way to avoid algae is to clean up and change your watering practices.
Cleaning Up Algae in the Pot
Start by skimming off the first couple of inches of greenish potting mix on your pot tops, and refresh with new potting mix. We recommend replenishing with Black Gold All Purpose Potting Mix. It is also important that you have pots that drain well and bottom saucers for watering. If you need to upgrade your plant’s pots, it’s worth it. Pots like these will enable bottom watering.
Watering to Avoid Algae
Allow the top two inches of potting soil to become dry between watering. This will halt algal growth. Another method is to water your plants from the bottom saucer only when they need it.