Dear, departed Ivan and Tahmatassu

Ivan, Pilea peperomioides. February 2021 – July 26, 2021

It’s with a heavy heart I acknowledge the death of Ivan, a once-hopeful pilea peperomioides.

Ivan was born from one of two juvenile pileas I acquired in summer 2016 from a vendor in Toronto. Oh, 2016. It was a sunny day, and I’d gone into a corner store to purchase a drink. At the side exit, lo! there was a covered plant market. I bought from there my first two pileas, in very small pots. They were so cute.

These original plants grew up under my inexpert care, sometimes being turned to the light, sometimes not. Sometimes surviving long periods of drought and neglect. They grew into twisted, beautiful, Dr-Seussian specimens of whimsy.

I gave them away during a purge around April 2021, but kept their many babies (honestly, Ivan probably started developing some time in 2020, well before I cut him off him mother plant around February or March, but I’m not exactly sure). Several of these babies I again gave away, but I kept two of the smallest for myself–eventually to be named Ivan and Sigmund. Ivan was the larger; Sigmund just a little runt of a plant.

Due to the limited space for lighting and the number of plants I had, Ivan and Sigmund did not receive enough light and were looking ill. I wondered if they would like to come outside in the afternoon for some sun and would therefore improve, but being unsure, I just took one plant. Unfortunately, the sun was strong and although I did not think I had left it outside too long, I did indeed. Ivan got sunburnt. Just a little. I thought he would survive. But over the next two weeks, leaves kept dropping, and I didn’t give it the right amount of light/water to let it come back. His roots rotted away and he died.

Goodbye, Ivan. Thank you and your ancestors for teaching me many things about plant care. Light, water, propagation, stress, sunburn, and nuances about all these things. I truly did like you.

Tahmatassu, unknown succulent. June 16, 2021 – August 23, 2021

I bought the cute little Tahmatassu from a porch sale of one of my local plant shops on June 16, 2021. He wasn’t doing well and cost me a dollar. He failed in his original pot and developed root rot; so I cut off the clean areas and repotted him into a smaller pot. He rooted and his little leaflet survived too.

He had space to share, and seemed to like the same care as my string of dolphins, so when I needed to move the string of dolphins to a smaller pot too, I combined them. They seemed happy together–Tahmatassu even put out some new growth! Two days ago, they were looking well. Today, I checked and Tahmatassu was toast. Twisted, shrivelled, wilted. I don’t know what happened. The string of dolphins, at least, is still holding in there. So, I pinched off Tahmatassu and pulled out what I could and threw him into the trash.

What did you teach me, oh Tahmatassu? Look for healthy plants. And don’t buy unhealthy plants if you can’t find out what they are and what care they need. But also: you taught me more about propagating succulents by sticking them into dry soil and leaving them alone–and it works! Until, that is, I kill them later.

Adieu, cute little friend.

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.