Question of the Week #1: September 15, 2016
“Neil, my Dragon Wing begonia doesn’t look too good. What might be causing it to lose its color and wilt?”
Probably 100 percent of the time that someone would present me with that question and those symptoms I would respond by saying that they probably let the begonia get too dry between waterings. That is, after all, the most common cause of plant failures when they lose color and wilt.
Surprise #1: This plant is actually just the opposite. It’s too wet.
Surprise #2: This is my plant. My pot. My landscape. My flub.
This plant is in the biggest pot I’ve ever owned, with tons of soil for good root development. Dragon Wings aren’t all that huge, so I knew that would work. But while I’ve been working through vertigo these past several weeks, a friend was helping me water. I forgot to warn her not to water wilted plants without first checking their soil. If it’s wet and the plant is still wilted, the plant’s in trouble.
And that was the case here. This plant is standing in water. Recent rains certainly haven’t helped. Oh, the pot has a drain hole, but the weight of the pot has pushed it so tightly against the soil that it’s now sealed off. It can’t drain. We’ll have to lift the plant out to see if we can save it. Then we’ll empty enough of the soil so we can tilt the pot safely. We’ll punch through the mud plug, and we’ll either put a couple of bricks in beneath it to keep it up off the ground, or we’ll create a well of gravel several inches deep to ensure water can flow freely out of the drain hole.
Your Takeaway Messages:
• Don’t ever water wilted plants if their soil is still wet. Use those great moisture meters you were born with – stick your finger into the potting soil and see if it’s dry. If it’s wet, take immediate action. Roots are dying.
• Plants that are indeed too dry usually show the very same symptoms. They’ll lose or change color, and they’ll usually be wilted. Some plants such as hollies and ligustrums, however, only change colors – their leaves are too stiff to wilt.