Pothos plant searching for a light source - Albuquerque Journal

Pothos plant searching for a light source

Tracey FitzgibbonQ: I have this philodendron plant that has been growing for years. I’ve asked my daughter to bring you a sample to try and explain why the vines have gotten so long with so much space between each leaf. We measured one vine and it’s over 23 feet in length. Why is there so much space between each leaf? – N.K., Albuquerque

A: First, I don’t want to break your heart, but the sample offered to me isn’t a philodendron. It’s a plant called a pothos plant.

It is related to the philodendron; it’s just not a philodendron. The pothos plant is a more sturdy, stout plant. The leaves are not the dark green offered by philodendron. Its leaves are a more lively green color and usually marbled with white streaks.

Yours does show ample spacing between each leaf that grows on the stems and I believe it’s because the pothos is searching for and stretching to get at more light.

I asked where the plant lived and was told it lives in a pretty big pot, at the base of a fireplace that isn’t ever used and the pot sits in a windowless corner in a room that isn’t used often. This plant has been growing and stretching along the brick face trying to find light.

Your daughter says “it’s been there for as long as she can remember.”

Luckily the pothos are remarkably sturdy. They can handle all sorts of abuse and tend to figure it out, perhaps not thriving, but certainly surviving. Until the pothos plant is offered far more light there will probably be that long length between each leaf coming off the viney stem.

You could cut it back severely and move it to an area that can offer actual sunlight. The long vines could be cut into 12-to-18-inch long pieces to see if you can get them to root in a vase of water. If you do that, be sure to cut off a leaf or two and keep the “nodes” where you cut off the leaves below the water line.

You don’t want to submerge any of the leaves if they are still on the vine. They would probably rot and spoil the water making a smelly mess. If you do try to root any of the vines, change the water periodically and check for mushy stems. Any yuckiness needs to be pitched, period.

I’m thinking that given a rather severe shortening in vine length, perhaps repotting later this year in late March, and offering a whole lot more sunlight, this struggling, yet remarkable plant would reward you with vines that sport leaves that would be much closer together.

Good luck taking continued care of your pothos.

Q: Over the last several years, I have invested in a whole lot of irises. I just love them. But things have changed in my life and now I’m going to move to a new home. The move is a good thing but I don’t want to leave behind my irises. Can I move them now and expect them to survive? – SMM, Belen

A: Yes, you can move them with a couple of conditions.

First, have you chosen a spot at the new home that will offer the same conditions? I mean the same or near the same amount of light and protection? If yes, then have the space where they are going to be moved well-prepared beforehand.

Give the earth a good turning, making sure to remove any rocks or debris. If the soil is “lumpy,” break those lumps up. Make the spaces more welcoming.

Please don’t dig them up individually. It’s best to remove them in clumps. Using a sharp spade, impale the soil around each iris group and then gently, but firmly, uproot the whole clump.

As you get each iris clump dug up, set them in a lined box or basket so you keep all the soil they should be wearing around their roots intact. Your aim is to get all the iris clumps, soil and all, planted in their new homes as quickly as possible.

Plant the irises so they are sitting at the same depth they were, making sure to tamp down the soil surrounding them. Once you’re done, offer them a deep drink of water and keep your fingers crossed. There might be a noticeable lack of bloom this spring, but I’m confident they’ll settle into their new home, offset the stress of the move and be just fine.

Happy New Year in your new home and Happy 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 features@abqjournal.com.


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