Plant Rescue Box

The new local houseplant shop, Botany Boutique, has partnered with the plant rescuer, Sarah Gerrard-Jones, to stock plant rescue boxes. These are bags or boxes of plants that need a bit of care to get them back to pristine sales point. They may need a repot or can be saved by taking cuttings. They are an opportunity to grab some interesting plants at bargain prices. When I saw Botany Boutique was going to be offering these I reserved one straight away as I like a plant rescue project. There is a sense of satisfaction in bringing back a plant to health that otherwise would add to the waste in this world. Sarah’s book the plant rescuer is currently on sale for kindle. I’ve bought it and probably going to give a read after I’ve finished my current book. I’m not generally keen on plant books on kindle but as I had a voucher it was pretty cheap. If it turns out to be good I’ll probably buy a hard copy.

The collection

For £15 I received:

Sago palmCaladium, Kalanchoe, 2 African violets, peace Lilly, Hoya, 2 calatheas and a few succulents.

  • Sago palm (Cycas revoluta)
  • Caladium
  • Kalanchoe
  • 2 African Violets (Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia)
  • Peace Lilly (Spathiphyllum)
  • Hoya kerri
  • 2 Calatheas
  • A collection of succulents

The state of these varied of why they’d been included. Some like the peace lily and African violets I think have been included as they are going past flowering point. The succulents are pretty disfigured. The caladium had a good few bent stems. The sago palm had two crisped smaller leaves and two larger healthy leaves.

Caladium

The caladium is one of the plants that interested me more as it isn’t one I have and it has an interesting leaf. It was quite a large plant but many of the stems had been knocked and weren’t going to heal. I don’t know caladiums well enough to know the variety but it looks pretty to me. It could be gingerland but they change a lot depending on the light levels.

I began by cutting out the damaged stems. This left a much-reduced plant but still a good couple of leaves.

The soil had a little bit of fungal growth. Possibly grey mould. Fungal issues are not uncommon for plants like this that need a decent level of moisture. The fallen leaves were causing part of the issue. With some plants, you can leave them to dry out between watering to reduce fungal problems but as caladiums need a good level of water this isn’t a great option. So I went with the more extreme option of removing the existing soil and repotting in fresh soil.

As it was a decent clump and one section had the fungal covering I decided to divide it while the soil was off. Caladiums form tubers, much like dahlias. You can take cuttings so long as it has a little section with a tuber on. I divided two smaller sections with leaves that are set to unfurl. Earlier in the year you could probably get away with just tuber and let it form new stems. I went with how it naturally wanted to split cutting this section with a sharp sterilised knife to avoid spreading disease.

The larger tuber section had a bit of root rot. If you looking at the photo below you can see a number of roots that have gone brown and they felt like mush. These were cut off and the healthy white roots were retained.

To pot it up it needs holding in the pot at the desired level and then the soil was poured around the roots, tapping every so often to let the soil go down and continuing until the pot was full to just below the rim. The old soil has gone in the council bin just in case it was a nastier fungal disease than I believe.

At the end of this process, I have two small pots and a larger one. I have left them for a good soak in a tray. With any luck, I’ll have one decent plant for me and two I can gift away. They are often recommended for growing for one summer season buying the tubers in spring and not keeping so we’ll see how I get on with the winter dormancy period.

Succulents

The succulents are the ones I have the least interest in as I already have healthy versions of many of these. The sempervivum looked like it had just gone leggy but when I inspected it came away from the soil.

I stripped off the rotting and dead leaves back to the small central stem that was still healthy. I have a number of semperivums already so I’ve just poked a hole in the other pots and slotted it in. It may root, it may not. It doesn’t bother me too much either way as it isn’t one I’m that bothered about. It’ll be a while until it gets to any size to be worthwhile.

The succulent at the front has just been labelled succulent. Not sure exactly what it is. Could just be an etiolated echeveria or crassula.

I’ve stripped off the lower leaves and potted it deeper. I could have potted up the leaves and they would form new plants too but it doesn’t look like anything I’m too interested in. I considered composting it but it felt cruel when I was trying to rescue everything else. You can see it has several small leaves at the top that will hopefully form a fresh healthy plant. The stem below the ground can root us into the ground and it looks a bit neater for removing damaged leaves.

Kalanchoe

I was gifted a few Kalanchoe plantlets a few months back and they have been growing well. I think this may be another kalanchoe daigremontiana, mother of thousands. So I may well be swamped with this plant as it is very good at propagating itself. It had a few damaged lower leaves.

I potted it on into a slightly bigger pot. I removed the lower damaged leaves and potted it slightly lower with the repot. This is one I’ll probably just gift on unless it appears to be a different Kalanchoe from what I already have.

Healthy plants

The calatheas largely look healthy enough. They just have a few yellowing leaves. These have gone in the bathroom along with a few relatives as I already have a maranta and Goeppertia. These like to be moist with good humidity so the bathroom is the ideal spot. Mine is south facing so if I place them on the far wall they seem to get about the right light level and be happy. I’ll monitor these and see how they do and if there are any more problems. They are in small pots currently and it is always harder to keep the water level right. As plants grow and get potted on they become a bit more forgiving. The leaves need a bit of a clean so I’ll take them in the shower with me over the week to give a clean off.

The African Violets look to be fine. They have finished flowering so it will just be a matter of growing them on and potting as needed until they are ready to flower. For now, I have just put them in the north-facing spare room. I’ll keep my eye out for some small pots to put these in.

Sago palm

Despite the name, they aren’t actually palm trees, though they have the look of one. They are actually gymnosperms, relatives of conifers. They originate from southern Japan. Cycads have very ancient origins going back to Jurassic times with many dying out in the great extinction but some survived to modern times. This had two smaller leaves on the outside that had browned off. These have been removed. If I remember rightly new leaves form from the centre so hopefully, I have just removed older leaves. When checking plant health the roots are my first port of call. By taking a plant out of its pot you can check for watering issues, whether over or under watering as well as pests and disease. This had some white powdery egg like growth at the bottom and similar yellow growth higher up.

As I was unsure of what this was I figured a repot was probably a good plan. I removed the soil and washed off as much as I could. Scraped off a little bit of what looked to be fungal growth.

It seems to be increasingly rare to receive a plant in a potting medium that actually suits the plant. I reckon I see daily posts on the British Cactus and Succulent Society Facebook group where people have root rot from cactus purchased in moisture retentive soil. The sago palm comes from Japanese islands and when I’ve seen pictures in its native environment it is usually rocky slopes. So I’ve gone for a free draining mix with a good level of sand and grit. I’ve top-dressed it with grit as I plan to place it outside for summer and this will prevent a few weeds getting in. I’ve kept it in for now as it is a particularly windy day out there and didn’t want to traumatise it anymore. These can grow 5m or so but as it is slow growing this won’t be happening anytime soon.

Hoya kerrii

Hoya kerrii is known as the sweetheart plant. It is generally sold around Valentine’s Day as a single cutting of the heart-shaped leaf. I rarely see it actually sold as a vine with any stem. It is almost always sold as leaf cutting that is barely rooted and doesn’t survive much beyond February. Removing it from the pot confirmed my suspicion. This had the tiniest bit of root wrapped in a little bit of what I assumed was coir fibre wrapped in an elastic band. The leaf is yellowed and a bit wrinkled so I’m assuming the issue with this was underwatering made worse by its lack of root system.

I carefully unwrapped the fibre from around the root and kept as much root as I can. I then potted it into the soil so it has space for more roots to grow. The plant looks better on one side so I’ve kept that side facing out while the yellower side is hidden. The yellowing is difficult to judge why it’s happened as it could be over or underwatering, lack of nutrients, too many nutrients, too much sun, or too little sun. So I’m just going to have to see if giving it a better root run helps first and that should help with watering and nutrient issues. My suspicion is its days are numbered but I can probably get a little enjoyment from it before composting.

All in all, I’m very happy with what I got in the plant rescue box. There are several plants that appear decent enough quality without any effort and a good few that I think will recover. A few succulents I’m not so bothered about, not that I dislike succulents, I have many, but these are already ones I have or close enough to ones I have. The plants would have cost many times the amount paid so if I can bring them back it’ll have been a good saving. I’ve enjoyed the initial process of diagnosing and starting them on the road to recovery. We’ll see how many of them I manage to keep going back to full health.

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