Q. I have a spider plant (houseplant), with long 8-to-12 inch pointy green leaves with a white stripe down the middle. The tips of the leaves are turning brown. It is in about a 2½ cup pot, I give it a ¼ cup of water once a week. Are the tips turning brown because I’m watering it too much or not enough? – M.K. Albuquerque
A. I did a double take when you described the pot as being 2 ½ cups. I don’t think in terms of cups when it comes to pots. Usually pots are measured by the inches across the top of the pot. So I went to the kitchen and saw one of my glass measuring cups holds 2 cups, sort of equaling a 4 inch pot. Not very big at all.
Also, I wonder if your pot drains. If not, that is a big problem for the plant. I’m curious if the leaves look soggy. Certainly, they’ll droop a bit since that is the nature of the plant, growing long arching leaves extending from the center of the plant. But I’m asking if they look soggy or too limp, and a sad green color? Not perky at all. Just terrifically unhealthy.
I suggest that you stick an unvarnished stick or dowel into the pot, making sure to touch the bottom and leave it there for an hour before you usually water. Withdraw the stick and see if it looks nearly as dry as before you inserted it into the pot or is it showing signs of being soaked in water? Is the pot showing signs of sitting in a puddle? Then the plant is trying to deal with too much water.
No, the answer to the browning tips isn’t to water less, it’s transplanting the plant into a pot that drains and having that pot sit on a saucer.
When it comes time to water, fill the saucer completely with tepid water and allow the pot to soak up that offering. If it is soaked up rapidly, then offer a bit more to the saucer until the pot stops soaking it up. Then pour off the excess water after you’re sure it’s sucked up as much as it wants, so the pot isn’t sitting in a puddle for an extended period of time.
In other words, the day you choose to water will become more interactive with you having to check on the planting to make sure it’s gotten enough water without sitting in a puddle for days afterwards.
If the dowel looks and feels dry, then you need to amp up the water and watering from the saucer up should be the answer.
The tips browning could also be a sign of a salt accumulation in the soil. In order to combat that malady, once a month take the planting to the sink and slowly run water into the pot (if the pot drains) giving it a good soak, sort of washing the salts out of the soil.
If the pot your spider is living in doesn’t drain, then I think the tip browning could be salt burn.
If this is a new malady you’re noticing, check to be sure the plant isn’t living too close or under a vent blowing hot air on it, drying it out even quicker which would certainly explain the browning tips.
I’ve bounced around a bit I know, but if your spider isn’t potted in a pot that drains, I believe with all my heart that is the main reason the tips are browning and you can fix that by changing its home, watering more thoroughly and checking to be sure it’s not getting blown on by a lot of hot air. I hope this helps.
Q. I recently purchased a couple of poinsettias and now they look a bit bedraggled. What is the best way to keep them looking their best through the holidays? – L.C., Albuquerque
A. First, are the plants wrapped? If so, be sure to cut the bottom of the wrapper away, best done over the sink, so the wrapper drains. Be sure to set them back where they are displayed on a saucer so you don’t mar the furniture.
Next, don’t ever allow them to dry out completely. I employ the saucer watering method described above and water my poinsettias twice a week, filling the saucers and then pouring off any excess water after a couple of hours.
Next, poinsettias do not like to be placed where the temperature changes rapidly. Placed next to a door that is opened frequently or too close to a window that gets cold nightly, or sitting on a hearth that has a blazing fire in it nightly will cause them to be very unhappy. Find a stable environment for them. Bright light with no drafts is best.
Most importantly will be making sure they don’t sit in puddles of water if they come to you wrapped and never allow them to dry out, ever.
Happy Holidays to you all and keep on Diggin’ In!
Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to firstname.lastname@example.org.