Saturday, January 30, 2010

Site-related: Difficulty numbers

Back in November, I sat down in front of the computer with the difficulty-numbers spreadsheet and started anew, plugging in whatever numbers seemed appropriate without consulting the old numbers first. This took a stupidly long time and failed to accomplish anything meaningful: most of the new numbers came out pretty close to the old ones. However, in a few cases, the experiences I'd had with a plant since generating the old difficulty numbers meant that the new difficulty numbers were significantly different. So I've had vague plans to change the numbers over to the new ones for two and a half months now, and I've decided to do this today. The sidebar list has already been put into the new order; I'll be going into the profiles to change the numbers there over the next day or two. This is unlikely to affect you in any way whatsoever, though in theory if you click on the right profile at the right time, you might see no number at the top, or something like that.

I won't give you the full list of changes, since, as I said, most of them were pretty similar to the old numbers anyway (and in a handful of cases, they were exactly the same), but here are the biggest movers, and reasons, where applicable:

Went from easier to harder:

Clivia miniata 'Aztec Gold,' without flower.

Clivia miniata (3.2 to 4.4) -- I think the main change here has to do with the fairly extreme switch in care between summer and winter, though I also may have initially underestimated their capacity for getting bugs. (Mine don't have bugs, knock wood, but I've seen mealys on other people's Clivias often enough that I'm taking it more seriously as a risk.)

Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana.'

Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana' (1.2 to 2.6) -- still an easy plant, overall, but I've had a lot of weird little things happen that make me think I was overestimating it before. Growing tips have died and resprouted (a side effect, I think, of watering from overhead; they don't like to get water stuck inside the growing tip), sprouts from the side of a cane have suddenly blackened for no reason, that kind of thing.

Begonia rex-cultorum 'Harmony's Red Robin.'

Begonia rex-cultorum (8.0 to 9.6) -- subsequent bad work experiences, plus the realization that nobody else is that great with these either, leads to Begonia stealing the most-difficult spot away from Gardenia. Though I still like my 'Texas Coffee Star,' or whatever it is, and it seems not to hate me nearly as much as every other rex begonia I've ever met.

Ledebouria sp.

Ledebouria socialis (2.2 to 3.9) -- Had some watering problems last summer. I still haven't figured out whether I was watering too much or not enough, but whichever it was, they weren't happy about it. It probably didn't help that I'd divided my plant into three last spring.

Dracaena sanderiana.

Dracaena sanderiana (1.1 to 3.5) -- Part of this is sheer unreasoning hatred: I've never liked these. But I've also had some problems with a plant that used to belong to the husband, that I've taken over care of. Some of the growing tips are dying, the soil has springtails (or something), I've seen lots of other people's plants just up and die over nothing. They're not good long-term plants.

Aspidistra lurida 'Milky Way.'

Aspidistra lurida 'Milky Way' (1.1 to 4.8) -- I recently lost my third A. lurida, in the winter, to unclear cultural problems. I thought I had it figured out the first time, but then the second died. So then I bought a third one, and it stuck around for an admirably long time, but it's died too. AND I DO NOT KNOW WHY. So I hate this plant. No more Aspidistras, ever. Even A. elatior, which I've never even tried before. Just because it's related.

Went from harder to easier:

Cissus quadrangularis.

Cissus quadrangularis (2.4 to 1.2) -- I don't actually know what numbers changed here to make this jump happen.

Pilea cadierei.

Pilea cadierei (6.0 to 4.8) -- Though still more difficult than your average plant (mostly because it needs more warmth and humidity than most), I think I was overcautious when I came up with the original numbers. It doesn't appear to have particularly unreasonable humidity requirements, and it's been growing fine in the basement all winter, so temperature isn't that big of a deal either.

Alworthia 'Black Gem.'

Alworthia 'Black Gem' (3.3 to 1.8) -- I have yet to have a problem with these. It's likely I was being more skittish about overwatering than has proven to be the case. (Though some of my success there may be because I have a really lean soil mix; I'm not sure if I'd be as confident if I were using Miracle Gro or something.)

Senecio macroglossus.

Senecio macroglossus (5.4 to 3.9) -- I still don't especially like the plant, but I suspect the watering problems I talked about in the original profile were partly a matter of bad soil and overpotting. I probably also wasn't giving the plant enough light, then. They seem fairly resilient, if still a little more difficult than the average houseplant.

Homalomena 'Emerald Gem.'

Homalomena 'Emerald Gem' (5.6 to 3.8) -- We've reached some sort of agreement, is all I can say. It's possible, again, that overpotting was part of the problem originally; it always threw leaves after I watered, and then stayed wet for a long time. Lately, though, it's been getting much better about this. It wilts slightly when it needs water, I give it water, and then it sends up three new leaves in quick succession. It still doesn't look as good as it did when I bought it: by this point, the stems are getting kind of leggy, and all the leaves are pointing straight up, because I have it under a fluorescent light and it doesn't really get any light from the side. But the new leaves are large and increasingly abundant, and there are even some new suckers. So we've turned a corner.

Synadenium grantii.

Synadenium grantii (3.5 to 1.7) -- Aside from some understandable trauma very recently (I transplanted some cuttings to a large pot, and they dropped leaves), and occasional dropped leaves to let me know I waited too long to water, I've never seen Synadenium grantii have a problem with anything. Not sure how it got the 3.5 rating to begin with, but I think 1.7 is about right.

Hylocereus sp.

Hylocereus undatus (3.1 to 1.2) -- It's a fugly, fugly plant, even when it's more or less healthy (and mine actually is a little etiolated, which doesn't make it prettier), but it's not hard to grow. I actually kind of wish it were a little harder to grow, so I had more of an excuse for the extreme hideousness.


Unknown said...

What a massive amount of work you've put into this, MSJ! I was intrigued that the Rex begonia was so challenging to you--I've only tried one or two over the years and had problems, but I always figure that's just my hit-and-miss plant care behaviour. As always, a great post and highly amusing as well as informative.

Matti said...

Your Hylocereus sp. is awesomely fugly. It is exciting to see plants out of the ordinary and have character. How long have you had it? Sounds like it grows slow. Matti

mr_subjunctive said...

I got the Hylocereus in July 2007, so I've had it two and a half years. It would probably grow faster if I had it in a brighter spot; they seem to be fairly fast plants when conditions are good. (It might be prettier, too: I feel guilty about the etiolation.)

MrBrownThumb said...

I vote for too much water with your Ledebouria socialis. When I grew it I found it to be pretty tolerant of low waterings because I treated it like a cactus and would allow it to get so dry that you can see signs of it being dry in the leaves. They start to wilt, and the leaves look like putty that is starting to melt. That's the best way I can describe the thing the leaves do when they are drying out.

Unknown said...

I have lost count of how many Synadenium grantii I have killed :(
However my Ledebouria socialis seem pretty bomb proof. Funny how plants are so different with different people.

mr_subjunctive said...

MrBrownThumb / strangemouse:

The problem with Ledebouria socialis is that I, too, had found it pretty resilient up until late last summer, when it started dropping leaves all over the place. The leaves did often look like what MrBrownThumb describes, kind of melted and whatever. The bulbs generally showed no signs of anything unusual going on right up until the point where they fell to pieces, and when they came apart, it looked like rot, not excessive dryness, which was confusing. I'd figured that since the plants were all divisions in large pots, they probably didn't have the root systems to take up a lot of water, so I was watering really sparingly, but clearly this was the wrong call. The situation did reverse itself when I started to water more often.


That . . . that shouldn't be possible. The only thing that comes to mind is that maybe you were using a really heavy, water-retentive soil, but then when I think about that further, I realize that I've had Synadenium in heavy soil before and they didn't seem to care. If you really want one, let me know, and maybe we can figure out what was going wrong with your plants.

hydrophyte said...

I got an Aspidistra lurida from Asiatica last fall--can't remember off-had which variety--and it has just been sitting there looking not great all winter.

When my Aspidistra came I split it in two and gave one potted plant to my brother. His has grown steadily all winter and doubled in size--and I'm supposed to be the one who knows about plants. I think I might have watered mine too much at some point and killed off a lot of the roots.

I really like Aspidistra and I want to try more. I just think they are classy-looking foliage plants.

Melanie J Watts said...

I still can't get over how many plants you have, but, maybe it's because you never throw anything out, you keep them all, even if you hate them. This post had me rolling around laughing!