Lilly barely hanging on.

My wife and I have this lilly, at least she tells me it's a lilly, that is in really bad shape. Every couple of weeks it gets a new healthy looking green leaf. Within a few days, however, this new leaf starts to get a dark, limp area on one edge, that spreads over the next couple of days until it is a withered mess.
The entire plant has only one reasonable leaf on it, and that one is on its way out. What is wrong with this plant?
Thanks, Mike
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com expounded:

Where are you located? Are there slimy lumps (for lack of a better description) along the stem? Are there fingernail-red beetles anywhere near the plant (they fall on the ground on their backs if they sense you coming near - their bottomside is black, so they blend into the ground). Look for red lily beetles and say goodby to your lily unless you want to haul out the largely ineffective chemical guns (or hand-pick the feces covered larvae and dispose of them, a very tedious task if you've got lots of lilies).
--
Ann, gardening in Zone 6a
South of Boston, Massachusetts
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None of that, thank goodness. This is a potted, indoor plant. It's possible it's not getting enough sunlight.
Mike
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expounded:

More info needed. How big is its pot, in height and width? Does the pot have an attached saucer or one that can be removed? Is there a drainage hole in the bottom of the pot? How often do you water it, and how do or your wife decide when watering is needed?
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It's in a small ceramic pot, 6" wide and 5" high, with a built in saucer in the bottom.
About a year ago, it didn't get watered enough. My wife was out of town and I was "taking care" of it. Mostly by ignoring it until all the leaves were drooping down the side of the pot. (This is when it still had more than one leaf.) One time I would have sworn it was dead, but it came back ok.
Then I resolved to take better care of it, and I probably did start watering it too much. For the last couple of months I've been watering it thoroughly less than once a week, when the soil feels dry deeper than half an inch.
My wife had also shaken a lot of fertilizer pellets into the pot, thinking that was the problem. I read online that fertilizing a sick plant is a bad idea, so I've since removed all the pellets. The plant just won't get any better.
It's not that I'm particularly attached to this plant, but I feel like there's something wrong with me if a 40 year old can't keep one potted plant alive.
Mike
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expounded:

In other words, you're using a method known as guesswork, which is rarely successful with plants. I'd suggest that any time you buy a plant, you keep a record of all information on the plant tag, head to the library, and read about the plant. The care info on the tags is always incomplete, and only marginally accurate.
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Joe, why disparage the advice given, unless you have better advice for here and now? Next time doesn't help Mike now. Your advice reminds me of the story about the airliner that was flying into Seattle in the fog when its navigational equipment failed.
The pilot flew the plane below the fog and saw a guy sitting next to an open window. The pilot shouted,"Where am I?" The man shouted back,"Your in a plane". Where upon the pilot banked hard to the left and a couple of minutes later was lining up the runway to land.
The co-pilot was stunned. He asked the pilot with amazement, how he knew where to go. The pilot said," The information that the man gave me was completely correct and totally useless, so I knew I was at the MicroSoft Support Building";-)
You gave good information but as far as trying to save the plant, it wasn't relevant.
- Bill Coloribus gustibus non disputatum (mostly)
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wrote:

Since nobody knows:
-The type of lilly -The size of the pot -How much water it was given - How much of what type of fertilizer it was given...
....very little of the advice given so far is truly useful. One thing is true, though: Society, in general, has lost track of books. That is so wrong, especially for gardeners.
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Joe, In teaching, it's called modeling behavior. Show the student how to cope with a situation and hopefully the next time, or the time after that, they will mimic your approach and then they can do it on their own.
Your right. Every plant is a whole universe unto its' self. The thought of having a garden is intimidating and very satisfying.
- Billy Coloribus gustibus non disputatum (mostly)
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote in expounded:

Take it out of the pot and check and make sure the drainage hole at the bottom is free and clear and that the soil at the bottom of the pot is the same dampness (or lack thereof) as at the top of the pot. Then shake off all the soil, wash out the pot and put it back in with new, fresh potting soil.
Don't fertilize it again until it looks better.
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1) Unpot the plant, rinse all the soil off the roots and repot in fresh growing medium.
2) Identify the plant and figure out what you need to provide to get the plant to grow properly; change those factors (including soil) once you figure it out.
The plant may have picked up a fungal or viral disease you're just not seeing, and may still die. But in my experience, repotting has pretty good success as a last-ditch effort to save a potted plant that you don't know what's wrong with it.
Kay
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....and don't water the bejeezus out of it!
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Thanks, Kay, and to everyone else who offered advice. To those few who implied I was irresponsible for purchasing a plant I didn't know how to care for: I didn't. My wife did. Blame her.
Mike
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wrote:

Not irresponsible for buying it, but within a matter of days or 2-3 weeks, it would've been a good idea to get to your library and learn more about the plant. It's a living thing. You adopted it. It's your job to do the best you can to keep it happy.
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Seriously, if you can id the plant, we can give you a much better idea of how to care for it properly. There are a whole lot of things with "lily" in the common name, most of which are not true lilies, or even in the lily family. Worse than that, they grow best under all sorts of different conditions.
Here are some basic sorts of diagnostic questions to ask when dealing with sick houseplants:
-- do I see bugs, tiny cobwebs, bumps or other oddities that didn't used to be there? (id the critter or disease and cure or dispose of the plant)
-- did any environmental condition change from when it used to look good to when it started looking bad? (if so, try to change it back... amount of light, distance from the window, room temperature, drafts, relative humidity...)
-- are the tips of the leaves browning? (if so, check for white or brownish crusts on the soil as the soil dries out -- too much fertilizer or too hard water. repot in clean soil).
-- stick your finger in the soil. Is it moist at least an inch down? Is it soggy? Does the soil smell bad? Is there a white or brownish crust on the soil? (Houseplants are typically grown drought-and-drown fashion... underwatered for awhile till someone notices they're drooping, and then overwatered and left to sit in standing water. Not wonderful for most plants. What happens in the drown phase is that the water fills up the air spaces in the soil. Roots need oxygen. (YOUR GRADE SCHOOL TEACHER WAS WRONG! PLANTS NEED OXYGEN, TOO! Especially the non-green parts!) Roots start to rot as they die, and the soil microbe population really explodes, producing a lot of acid because there's not enough oxygen for them to do aerobic respiration either. Prevent by watering well, dump standing water after an hour.)
-- has it been over a year since it was repotted in fresh soil? (might as well go ahead and do it... soil organic matter disappears, the soil structure collapses and the fertilizer (or lack of it) tends to get way out of whack. Repotting is fast and easy.)
Anyhow, if you can give us some idea of what the plant is, we can be more specific. Otherwise, try Ye Olde wash the soil off the roots and repot. Works quite a bit of the time.
Kay
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote in expounded:

leaf
And/or waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much water.
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Would this be a peace lily? Dark green with white flowers?
If so, I know from experience, if you touch the leaves at all - the kind of thing you are describing happens. Not sure exactly why, something to do with the oils from your skin rubbing off on the plant. Will also happen if a cat rubs against it too. Agree with the others that there may be too much water. What time of day do you water it and how often?

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