Leaf collection

Plants often show distress via their leaves in a cryptic code of browning here, crispiness there, and the tactical expansion of yellowing across the surface.

What does it all mean!?

The answer to “why is this leaf yellow?” could be many things from over- to underwatering or too much or too little light. It could depend on how the leaf is yellowing, where the leaf is located on the plant, what kind of plant it belongs to, and just understanding how your plant experiences your environment.

Result: honestly, I generally just don’t know, and not knowing is frustrating, so I will treat the leaves I am given as a collection of specimens and find out what I can each time.

Leaves of distress: the pictures

Leaves of distress: the breakdown

Sign of distressNotesInexpert diagnosis and treatment
Yellowing from the base up on a bottom leaf– On a Dracaena surculosa (Päivi)
– On the lowest leaf
– The previous lowest leaf also yellowed and fell off
– The same stem has pushed out three new leaves
– Plant is not in the best area to receive light.
Plant took energy from old leaves to support new leaves.

Add more light to give it enough energy to support new and old growth.
Crispy edges– On a Calathea lancifolia (Jessica)
– New leaf
– Other new leaves have shown similar signs
– All new leaves are hidden under larger leaves
– Plant is recently acquired
– Moisture meter was not functioning and improperly indicated “moist” when soil was dry, so I left it too long
Distress from moving to my house.

Improve watering and humidity consistency.
Brown spots along the edge– On a Virginia rabbit’s foot fern (Fern)
– Appears on two leaves
– Appeared one day after spraying with insecticidal soap
Insecticidal soap applied in the daylight may have burned the leaves or have been applied too heavily.
Apply pest treatments more carefully or switch treatments.
Completely yellow or pale– On a Pothos plant (Esmerelda)
– Two yellowed leaves out of many on an otherwise healthy vine
– Yellowing leaves are further from the window than the healthiest ones
Too little light on that side of the plant; aging out those leaves.

Not a cause for concern.
Yellowing from the inside out– On a Virginia rabbit’s foot fern (Fern)
– On a newish, lower leaf
– Petiole is crispy and brown
– Moisture meter was not functioning and improperly indicated “moist” when soil was dry, so I left it too long
– All other leaves are OK
Too little water when this leaf was growing.

Monitor soil moisture more carefully.

Field notes — July 8, 2021

Cissus discolor, Jane Feeniks

Since this plant has had nodules of new growth that have remained unchanged for a month, I’ve posted questions online.

Stuff I learned online

  • prefers a very coarse mix
  • let dry between watering
  • likes lots of light, just not direct
  • cuttings need a lot of coddling (humidity: plastic bag, trips to bathroom during showers); might take two years to really pick up (I suspect it might be the same for this plant if rehab works)
  • for bags and cloches: take them off fairly regularly, don’t want condensation dipping on plant or leaves touching the edges

Cryin’ ‘bout my Baby’s Tears

You’re “supposed” to be easy. Why’re you causin’ such trouble! (Don’t shake the plant.)

Fresh-faced and rosy-cheeked little fella

Just kidding. I love you. But you are trouble!

  • Binomial name: Soleirolia soleirolii
  • Given name: Ympäri Pyöreä
  • Native to: Western Mediterranean
  • Bought: April 7, 2021 at Plant & Curio
  • Original pot: 4 inch plastic nursery pot
  • Repotted: June 17, terracotta 4 inch
  • Current pot: outside, on the edge of a potted lavender plant also in plant rehab
  • Signs of pests: one slug
  • Soil: aaargh. Soggy on bottom, dry on top
  • Longest strand: who knows, getting shorter
  • Number of strands: fewer, at any rate. Perimeter of growth is constricting.
  • Anti-new growth: just slow death.
  • Signs of pests: millipede in bottom of container. Are the little dots millipede eggs or fecal pellets or both?
Millipede at bottom of original pot plus little dots that are fecal pellets and/or eggs
  • Signs of care issues: drying out; humidity is too low. Had given Marphyl fertilizer by top-watering; seems to have disliked this (I tried to avoid the leaves, but it did touch some).
  • Repotted to terracotta 4 inch pot.
Less lush 😦
Will this work? Maybe it will reduce sogginess while allowing me to add more water to the top regularly!

Still wasn’t happy. Will a cloche work to keep it humid?

Steamy little cloche by June 17.

Didn’t seem entirely healthy — too much condensation inside and a funky smell. Should research how to use cloches before I try them next time.

Still dying back. How about more humidity via a humidifier!?

He’s just not happy, no. Nor is his buddy, Ferris. Ympäri Pyöreä is dying back, maybe less quickly than before? But: I decided enough of this and took him outside in the evening. Do or die outside, little plant.

Le sigh.

I decided to finish this post and, in my research, came to feel love and hope again. Went outside and realized I’d placed him in an area of direct sun. Pulled him out of the death-sentence in sunlight and placed him in a container with a similarly rehabbing, likely-to-die lavender plant. Maybe they’ll keep each other company and either survive or fade out together?

See him hanging out at the bottom right?

Well, we’ll see. As my aunt said to me the other day (not about this guy, but in relation to her plants), “There’s a gardener’s motto: ‘It may come back.’”

No luck. It crisped up entirely and is now, officially, a goner.


  • Light: medium; part shade to shade
  • Humidity: high
  • Temperature: 10 to 27 degrees Celsius


  • Preference: evenly moist but never soggy

Soil, fertilization, and pots

  • Soil type: any potting mix, African violet mix is good; well-draining, fertile soil
  • Fertilization: slow-release feed in spring; every two weeks indoors with water-soluble houseplant fertilizer diluted by half
  • Repotting: when they overgrow and crowd out existing pot, go up one inch size; great in terrariums. Note that roots are shallow. Set separated plants on top of potting medium and water.


  • Grow style: fast
  • Common problems: overwatering, underwatering, too much or too little light; whiteflies, scale, aphids
  • Propagation: by division

Research sources: Guide to HouseplantsMy Garden Lifepick Ontario

Farewell, Ferris

Well, I suppose you aren’t faring well and aren’t likely to, and that’s the issue, eh.

You started out feisty and fuzzy, bouncy and pert, and oh-so-cute on June 15.

But you needed more humidity, lost some of your bounce, and I didn’t have a humidifier.

On June 21, I stuck you in a cloche.

So far so good!

Then I gave you some air on June 25 cause you smelled a little earthy (which is probably OK) and you wilted almost immediately.

Look at all those dull wilty bits.

And I thought, OK, you really need that cloche! And you seemed dry, so I gave you some water too.

Science experiment

But lo, by July 2, you developed a lot of — mold? A fungus?

So, with your friend Ympäri Pyöreä, I decided on June 3 evening that we were done.

Pretty gross now in there.

I took you outside and opened the cloche and a cloud gently drifted out from your slimy, damp, wilted strands. Your soil was soggy. You were too gross for the empty green bin, so I collected some dried weeds to line the bin, then dumped you in.

Such is your resting place, Ferris. Go forth, break down, and become part of something more.

Thank you for teaching me the beginnings of the importance of managing humidity in my plant environment, and giving me the lesson with alacrity. It will be some time before I try fern and moss-style plants again! And with more research in advance.

Cissus my ass discolor

This plant has it all — or, at least, it thinks it should. And it throws a hissy fit if it doesn’t get it.

This is not a recent photo

It’s one of these plants that people say, “you just look at it wrong and it dies”.


What are YOU looking at!?

  • Binomial name: Cissus discolorCissus javana
  • Given name: Jane
  • Native to: tropical rainforests; Southeast Asia in China, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand
  • Bought: April 7, 2021 at Plant & Curio
  • Original pot: 8 inch plastic hanging planter

Field notes — April to June, 2021

This plant started with luxurious leaves, and I thought — there are enough! But I will love this plant and it will get even bushier. Not to be.

It did not enjoy moving to my house. I perhaps needed to treat it more gently when I placed it (original pot and all) in my own ten inch hanging pot and moved its vines around the chains. It dropped all its leaves eventually, after they crisped with minimal colour change — I realize now, it wanted humidity. Soil drainage was poor.

Since then, it did have new growth and I attempted a couple failed water and soil propagations. I repotted it directly into the hanging pot with what I thought should be very well draining sail, but. Drainage continued to be poor.

Field notes — June 23, 2021

  • Repotted into 5.5 inch plastic pot. Covered large drainage holes with wire mesh because it’s all I had on hand. Found some root rot when I pulled it out and removed those roots. Used Calathea potting media by Suburban Stems, bought from House of Plants. Also potted an ultra-mini guy with no leaves but green on the stem and no rot. I would have otherwise tossed it, but it had some roots and I have this tiny pot, so why not.
  • Bought a plastic stool from the dollar store that’s tall and sturdy enough to let me look in on this hanging planter and decent enough looking to leave in the dining room and put other plants or plant stuff onto. So much handier!

Field notes — June 25, 2021

  • Soil moisture: 6 (moist)
  • Number of strands: 4
  • New growth: seven nodes with new growth, one looking a bit crispy
  • Moved little guy into ziplock baggie (not fully closed) and placed in bright spot in living room

Research notes


  • Light: bright indirect; dappled shade or partial sun
  • Humidity: >60%
  • Temperature: 21 to 27 degrees Celsius in summer; 18 to 21 degrees Celsius in winter


  • Preference: spring to fall: moist, with 30% moisture in upper layer; winter: allow to dry out between watering

Soil, fertilization, and pots

  • Soil type: rich with nutrients but well-draining (50% regular, 10% peat moss, 40% perlite); good in Calathea mixes
  • Fertilization: every three to four weeks in summer using common houseplant fertilizer
  • Repotting: every two years; can have three to six plants growing together in a large pot


  • Grow style: medium, difficult care
  • Mature size: lengths of 6 to 8 feet (up to 10 in ideal conditions); spread of 6 to 20 inches; leaves 3 to 6 inches long; can last for many years
  • Neat stuff: new leaves can be completely red or purplish before fading to green; new green stems may fade to tan
  • Common problems:
    Whiteflies (signs: small white eggs or insects; treat with insecticide)
    Light too bright or air too dry(signs: scorch marks or brown patches on leaves)
    Light too dim (signs: leaves don’t develop silvery-white veins)
  • Pruning: cut unhealthy leaves; can trim to shape, but not necessary
  • Other care: may shed leaves in winter; be careful not to overwater
  • Propagation: Some people say cuttings can root in water. Some people say it will always fail to root in water. In either case, early spring is likely best.
    In water: cut vines with two leaves or more; remove the first leaf to create a node; submerge node in water; place in warm area with bright, indirect light; when roots are 2 inches, plant in soil
    In soil: take cuttings from partially woody stems (neither all red nor all tan); dip in root hormone and plant in well-draining soil mix (regular + peat + sand); cover in ventilated plastic bag; place near heat source and check daily to ensure soil stays moist. Cuttings should root in a month; after new growth appears, remove bag and move plants to regular location. One month after removing bag, transplant to individual pots.
  • In moss: take two to three leaf cuttings below the terminal bud; dip tips in rooting hormone; moist sphagnum moss using chlorine-free water; plant leaf node in moss; keep in warm, humid environment with medium indirect light (possibly cover with ventilated bag). Keep moist by misting; stem develops roots in 3 to 4 weeks. When rooted, transfer to moist, well-draining soil with roots at least one inch deeper in soil. Shoots develop after 4 weeks; continue with high humidity, warmth, moist soil. After third week, treat as mature.

Research sources: WikipediaCrazy Plant GuyPlant Care TodayGardening Brain

Plants. Plants. Plants. Oh my god, plants.

In the modified words of Liam Kyla Sullivan:

Let’s get some plants.
Let’s get some plants.
Let’s get some plants.
Let’s get some plants.

Maybe I got too many? I mean, this whole weekend was all about

Oh, my God, plants.

Like, I:

  • brought my humidifier to the dining room and set it up for the plants. And then my essential oil diffuser (sans oils).
  • checked root systems, removed crunchy leaves/rotting roots, and repotted soleirolia soleirolii, aloe vera, divided oxalis, pothos props, spider plant props, kalanchoe props, and string of dolphin props into terra cotta pots to improve evaporation rate of water
  • repotted calathea lancifolia and philodendron brasil into custom planter pots to fit inside wall-mounted cachepots
  • moved plants around to desired light/humidity areas
  • started eleven other plant-bio stories (since I was already researching ideal light, humidity, and soil conditions, I noted them down and filled out some other bio areas, including capturing photos for most plants)
  • went out to by glass covers for soleirolia soleirolii, salaginella, and calathea ornata (but calaethea ornata didn’t quite fit the container I bought it and might not really need it, so OK for now)
  • searched amazon to order: humidifier, humidistat, activated charcoal for eventual terrarium for salaginella, yellow sticky paper to trap infesting insects, 3-in-1 moisture/light/pH soil meter (surprise! Husband already had just the one I wanted! And he gave it to me.)
  • determined there are spider mites on my jade; treated it and the nearby-sitting string of turtles with a pray bottle of rosemary essential oil + water; moved them to isolation (they should have started in isolation; will know that for future purchases)
  • added cinnamon to wounds on leaves to promote healing (will it work? Recommended by a friend. Excited to see.)

These plants rule.
These plants suck.
These plants rule.
These plants suck.

I love them. They are amazing. I hate them. My obsession is killing me. I have no thoughts, no life, except:

Oh, my God, plants.
These plants rule.
Having few plants sucks.
Having not enough plants sucks.
Not buying even one plant that I want sucks!

I also researched more plants to buy. I didn’t… I only added to my online shopping cart in three local stores…

I think you have too many plants.
Shut up!
I think you have too many plants.
Shut up!
I think you have too many plants.
Shut up!
I think you have too many plants.
Shut up!

But… I might have too many plants. They’re all I could think about this weekend. But I’m also happy. So shut up!

Stupid boy.
Stupid boy.
Let’s get some plants.
Let’s party.

Husband is indulging me after years of denying me plants.
I am buying so many.

These plants are three hundred dollars.
These plants are three hundred dollars.
These plants are three hundred fucking dollars.
Let’s get ‘em!

I mean, aren’t they beautiful? I also watched several hours worth of YouTube videos about plants. And rare plants. And plant care. And plant trends.

Um…your room runs small. I don’t think your plants are gonna fit.
I mean, these plants are kinda big.

So I’ll just stick them on more walls! I can put them on the floor — just walk around them! More shelves! More hanging pots! More! More Moooaaaar!

Oh, by the way betch,
those plants are mine betch
gimme those fuckin’ plants betch

Salutations, Selaginella

What can you do, selaginella, selaginella? What can you do selaginella from the zoo?

Hey! You’re not from the zoo! You’re from prehistory! Apparently, the lycophyte family, which include clubmosses (AKA this little guy), has been around since 425 million years ago.

So, where ya from…

  • Binomial name: Selaginella [unknown, assuming kraussiana]; ‘Lime’
  • Given name: Ferris
  • Native to: Africa, Azores in damp, forest-like environments
  • Bought: June 15, 2021 at Plant & Curio
  • Original (current) pot: 5.5 inch, plastic, with attached drainage tray

Field notes

  • Soil: moist
  • Longest strand, measured down from rim of pot: 5.5 cm
  • Signs of pests: a single fruit-fly looking insect. Perhaps a fungus gnat. Squished it.
  • Signs of care issues: a couple shriveled, crispy brown leaves on the underside. Removed them; placing the plant closer to a humidifier.

Research notes


  • Light: full shade to semi-shady (brighter light = brighter plant colour)
  • Humidity: high; use a humidifier or place in a terrarium; misting doesn’t cut it
  • Temperature: 18 to 24 degrees Celsius; keep away from drafts (doors and vents)


  • Preference: moist but not soggy. Room-temperature, soft water, lime-free
  • Frequency: often; water from below

Soil, fertilization, and pots

  • Soil type: well-draining, loose, humus-rich, peat moss + sand
  • Soil pH: neutral to acidic; 6 or 6.5 is good
  • Fertilization: at most once a month during growing season; balanced liquid fertilizer (10–10–10) diluted to half strength
  • Repotting: when outgrows pot. Shallow pot (still needing a couple inches) with drainage holes. Terrarium would be OK.


  • Grow style: drops rhizophores down from the stems as it creeps outwards. The rhizophore acts as a stem and roots develop where it touches the soil. Healthy frosty fern cultivars grows might outwards at or faster than 6 mm per week, not sure about this cultivar.
  • Mature size: 5 cm high
  • Pruning: can prune back in spring. Cut an inch before the rhizophore to keep them for propagation.
  • Common problems: drying out due to low humidity (signs: brown, shriveled leaves. If you missed a couple weeks, sit the pot in water until soil is saturated (about 60 minutes) then let it drain; remove brown or crispy leaves, cover with plastic or glass to trap humidity until growth returns)
  • Propagation: spring: via rhizome division or cutting an inch before the rhizophore and placing rhizophore in soil. Cover with plastic to trap humidity until roots are developed.

Research sources: WikipediaPlantophilesGuide to HouseplantsBantam.EarthSo Easily Distracted