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?
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
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?
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
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
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
You gave good information but as far as trying to save the plant, it
Coloribus gustibus non disputatum (mostly)
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.
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.
Coloribus gustibus non disputatum (mostly)
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
Don't fertilize it again until it looks better.
1) Unpot the plant, rinse all the soil off the roots and repot in fresh
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.
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.
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
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
-- 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
-- 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.
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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