Monday, March 21, 2011

Random plant event: Musa x 'Cheeka' offsetting

This is another one of those things that's not objectively a big thing, but it's big to me.

My Musa x 'Cheeka' had a couple offsets on it when I bought it, but they withered away fairly soon after it got here, and it didn't grow any to replace them. Since that time, 'Cheeka' has been growing progressively smaller leaves, which are all bunched up together at the top of the plant, and the petioles keep stacking up on top of one another, too, making the trunk V-shaped.

It's supposed to be a compact variety anyway, but you can see that when I bought it, the new leaves were bigger than the preceding ones, and there was a healthy distance between them:

(Pot: 6"/15 cm diameter)

Now, though, they're wadded up at the top:

(Pot: 8"/20 cm diameter)

There are signs that this may be turning around; the last couple leaves have been larger again, and there are suckers too. I'm sort of ashamed to say what I think made the difference: fertilizer.

Not that I haven't been feeding the plant all along, pretty abundantly in fact. But I've been using the N-P-K-only Osmocote, not anything with trace elements in it. With a substantial number of my plants, that hasn't seemed to make a difference -- the Yuccas, Dracaenas and Anthuriums have all been just fine. Hell, the Dracaenas usually don't get any Osmocote, even. But, I had a plastic container of plant food that the husband bought many years ago -- some Miracle Gro product with trace elements;1 the original packaging was gone -- that was taking up space in the plant room, and I kept having to move it out of the way, or else make a special point of opening it up when I wanted to use it for some plant or another. At some point this winter, that got annoying, and I thought, well hell, let's use this up and get it out of the way.

So for the last three or four watering cycles, I've been using it on everything. At first, I only put it on a few plants. I just sprinkled a small amount of the fertilizer directly on the soil without mixing it in water first like you're supposed to (though I emphasize it was a small amount). After a while, I decided that I should use it on all of them, so I started mixing up multiple gallons at a time in milk jugs.

This is when I was only mixing five gallons at a time (the fifth was mixed directly in the watering can); I'm up to eight-gallon batches now.

Now, granted, the plants would be starting to do stuff now whether I was feeding them special food with trace elements or not: it's spring, the days are longer, that's what plants do in the spring. But things are happening that have never happened for me before:

  • The Musa x 'Cheeka' is re-suckering and may be growing bigger leaves again;
  • the Tradescantia spathacea is blooming (hasn't happened in three years);
  • the Coffea arabica grew, I shit you not, like six inches in a month, after a long period of slow, weak growth;
  • the Cereus peruvianus started to grow after staying the same size for at least two years;
  • the Pseudorhipsalis ramulosa cutting has started to grow after being the same size for at least two years;
  • the Schlumbergera 'Caribbean Dancer' is on a third round of blooming for the year;
  • the Euphorbia tortilis is growing again, after remaining the same size for almost two years;
  • the Cissus rotundifolia had stopped growing for a while, turned yellowish, and a couple growing tips died, but is now producing rampant new growth;
  • the husband's old Dracaena sanderiana that was about 60% dead is now producing new growing tips from its base;
  • all the Ficus microcarpas have started to put on serious height, after a pretty slow last year;
  • the Heliconia psittacorum 'Bright Lights' still looks kind of pitiful, but it's gotten greener and is poking up new shoots;
  • the Phalaenopsis is producing more roots than I've ever seen it grow before;
  • the Phlebodium aureum 'Mandianum' has HUGE blue-green fronds, instead of smallish yellow ones.
  • the Rhapis excelsa is also suckering abundantly;
  • the Platycerium stopped dropping fronds and is now growing new ones; and
Not all of those are necessarily because of the fertilizer, but that's a lot of unprecedented stuff happening all at once.

So I guess I've learned a valuable lesson about the importance of trace elements, and now so have you. Except you probably knew already. Or you suspected, at least.

I've been meaning to write a post about fertilizer for a long, long time, but a lot of the information I've seen about it is either the same thing everybody parrots ("Feed with a standard houseplant fertilizer every three months, or diluted with every watering.") or advice for people growing mass quantities of plants outdoors in a Florida shade house to sell wholesale, talking about parts per million of this and parts per million of that and Ca:Mg ratios and all that stuff. So this may be as close as I get to writing a fertilizer post.


1 I know it contains trace elements because it's that pretty green-blue color of copper compounds; I know it's Miracle Gro because the plastic bags of fertilizer had Miracle Gro written on them. The missing part is the original box or whatever that they came in, which would have the full list of components and concentrations. In general, though, if copper is in there, then everything else will be too. I mean, there are exceptions, but I'd be surprised if Miracle Gro made a product that had copper but not iron.


Ginny Burton said...

I hope someone from Miracle Gro reads this post and then moseys over to the Tip Jar and makes a major contribution!

Love the new violet background, btw.

Ivynettle said...

This makes me want to go and feed my plants, but then, I don't really need them to grow any faster - I already can't keep up with watering as it is, now that I'm working again, some stuff needs to be repotted again, and there's so bloody much I could post about and don't have time for.