House Plants/Prayer Plant problems
I have a prayer plant that has not been doing well since it was repotted in November. Tried a number of different things to help it without success--moving location, different exposures, humidity tray, no humidity tray. Nothing makes a difference. It looks wilted and yellow and dry. It has stopped folding its leaves at night and they droop all the time. When I mist it, or use the humidifier, it becomes more limp & wilted. The wilting gets worse as the day goes on. I have already lost several sections of the plant. I've had this plant for many yrs (about 30) & it's always been healthy until the repotting in November. I tried to repot it again a couple weeks ago hoping this would help. When I took it out of the pot it had weird looking, egg shaped nodules all over the roots. My husband repotted it the last 2 times before that (in Nov & in the spring prior) & he says the nodules were there both times. He assumed that's the way prayer plant roots are. I'm wondering if that is a normal situation with prayer plant roots or if that could be what is causing its problems. I also found a worm in the soil as well as little round yellowish things all through the soil that look like they are fluid filled. (I saved some of the soil in a container.) We always use bagged potting soil so I have no idea how the worms etc could have gotten in there. The plant has not been outdoors since the repotting in November. I am including two pictures of the roots with the nodules. I put it into a new pot with organic African violet mix & some vermiculite, and watered it, but it still does not seem well. It's now in a terra cotta pot. Previously its pots were plastic. I found when I took it out of the last pot that the drainage holes had been plugged with rocks. It's now in a west window at the moment. It continues to look like it's barely surviving each day. I'm just wondering if the root nodules are normal & what we might be dealing with here.
Those nodules or tubers that you see are perfectly normal part of this plant's root structure.
Your Maranta's problem is all of the unnecessary repotting that has been done incorrectly and is damaging the tiny root-hairs that do most of the work. It is never, ever a good idea to remove all of the soil surrounding the roots as you have done in the photos. Removing all that soil pulls off the root hairs that are so tiny you don't notice them. When those root-hairs are damaged or removed, then that plant has very limited ability to absorb water and nutrients from the surrounding soil. That is why your plant is wilting and not perking up.
It may already be too late to revive your plant. I recommend that you use a pot that is just barely large enough to accommodate the roots when they are spread out gently. Do NOT put stones in the bottom of the pot. Use a potting mix that is 4 or 5 parts peat moss and one part perlite. Spread it lightly around the roots. Keep your plant in a bright but indirect sun location (north or east window is best) and water very lightly when the top half-inch of soil feels dry. You will have to be enormously patient and precise in your watering to get the root system to gradually grow back root hairs.
As for your other concerns. Worms will not harm the plant, but their presence is an indicator that the soil used is poor quality and not sterile, as it should be. The yellowish pellets are timed released fertilizer pellets that were incorporated into the packaged potting mix. They are relatively harmless, but I don't recommend them for use with ailing plants.
For the future, be very careful before contemplating repotting any of your plants.
I have written a detailed article on repotting that I will email for free to you (or anyone else) who emails a request to me at wcreed@HorticulturalHelp.com. I have also written an indoor plant care book in a PDF format that I can sell you if you contact me at my email address.
Please let me know if any of this is unclear or if you have any additional questions.
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Will Creed, Interior Landscaper
Horticultural Help, NYC
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