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House Plants/Olive oil poured in plant


My 2 year old  poured extra virgin olive oil ( 2cups) into the soil of our thanksgiving cactus plant.  What will this do to the plant? This plant is over 80years old, family air loom.  I removed as much of the oil soaked soil as I could, but some is actually on the base of the plant and down by the roots!
Thank you!

Hi Cathy,

That's a tough one! I am concerned that the oil will coat the fine Cactus roots and prevent them from absorbing water and nutrients. Other foreign substances can usually be flushed out of the soil by running lots of fresh water through. However, water and oil don't mix so I am not at all confident that flushing plain water will work. Replacing the soil or rinsing the soil away from the roots will so damage the fine root hairs that it will kill the plant.

The only think I can think of is to mix up a lot of water with some liquid soap and pour a lot of it through the soil. Perhaps the soap will break down the barrier between the oil and water and flush it away.

Unfortunately, it will take a long time before you know if you have been successful. Cacti are able to withstand lack of water and nutrients for a very long time. So, if the roots are damaged and not absorbing water, your Cactus will not show any symptoms until after it has used all of the water and nutrients stored in its fat stems. That could be 6 months or more.

I wish I had a better answer for you. Don't do anything drastic like replacing the soil, but do your best to flush away the oil as I described. Be patient and let me know the results in 6 months.

Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.

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I have over 35 years of professional indoor landscaping experience caring for plants in homes, offices, building lobbies, stores, restaurants, and other adverse environments. I have written extensively on the care of indoor plants, including a 260 page book. My specialties include Ficus trees, low light plants, repotting, pest control, and re-blooming holiday plants. Be sure to check my ratings and nominations to learn why I am the top-rated indoor plant expert. I am the only House Plant expert consistently ranked in the AllExperts Top 20.

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