Moso and yellow leaves
January 17, 2015
Recently, someone asked me for advice about his yellowing Moso seedlings. I remember banging my head into the wall, trying to realize what was wrong with my Moso seedlings, when I was desperately trying to grow them from seed. At that point I have had no idea about the cause of yellowing and I was doing way too much (all the wrong things :)) to save them. In the end, all the pampering, fertilization, foliar sprays, excessive watering, moving them around from shade to half shade, full sun and back again, didn’t help them. Most of the seedlings from that time died a terrible death, except for one, which is growing vigorously.Most possible causes of leaf yellowing are:
- waterlogged soil
- too much sun
- soil heats up too much during the day
Moso is terrible when grown in containers. Even if it’s already well established in it’s pot, it can get dry quickly, but it will immediately suffer if watered too much so it starts becoming water logged, roots will start rotting, water consumption will become minimal, soil will remain wet and it will start to die. Rather keep it on a dry side, at least partly shaded and protected from strong winds.Sun exposure can be tricky for Moso seedling as well as watering, but it’s a lot less problematic – seedling can suffer, but should not die because of it. When exposed to full strength sun, it often folds it’s leaves to preserve water. If you water it, you can kill it, if you spray it’s leaves only, it will unfold, but only for the time leaves remains wet. Usually that kind of exposure doesn’t damage the seedling, BUT it will start getting paler green and will look a bit chlorotic with some visual defects on the leaves, it can loose some branches, some of the shoots can get damaged as well. In complete shade, it will grow slowly but should remain dark green and healthy. Best thing to do is to find partly shaded position for it to thrive. When established enough, its tolerance can improve.
In late fall or early summer when temperatures are low enough to allow sunbathing, dark pots can get extremely hot. In overheated soil, roots and rhizomes get damaged, start rotting and seedling starts to decline. Pots have to be protected from sun exposure, so the soil temperature remains constant and low enough. The best option is to bury the pots.
Why I struck through nutrient deficiency? At least for me, it was never deficiency. It can be though!
Yellowing usually occur when there’s nitrogen deficiency. In case of N deficiency, new leaves remain dark green, but older foliage starts to turn yellow. Seedling transfers all the nutrients from old leaves into new ones. Iron deficiency makes the leaves turn yellow, but the veins remain green. It starts showing in new leaves first, in severe cases older leaves also get affected.
Sulfur deficiency hits the whole plant at the same time, which means new and old leaves turn yellow at the same time. Leaf veins get yellow as well.
Magnesium deficient plants start yellowing in the older leaves, then yellowing spreads to newer leaves if deficiency is severe.
… but usually it’s not deficiency at all.
To improve my seedling’s chances I now prepare my soil mix myself. I use garden soil, 2 years old compost (kitchen scraps, grass clippings, wood chips,…), peat moss, partly decomposed wood chips and some sand or gypsum. Soil holds water well enough, there are many air pockets inside and a it offers a lot of nutrients.
Most common mistakes:
- using cheap pure peat moss ‘soil’
- up-potting into large container
- mindless watering and fertilization
The main cause of waterlogging is usually inappropriate soil mix. If there’s too much organic material in the soil, it can hold and lock-in a lot of water. Peat moss, and coconut fiber based soil mix can hold water like a sponge, which leads to yellowing and death of young Moso seedlings.
In a small pot, there will be a lot of roots that will make the soil more porous allowing excess water to drain out of the pot. If there are many roots and established plant above the soil level, water consumption will be high enough to use the water before it becomes an issue. When transplanting the seedling into large (too large) pot, soil can get too wet, preventing seedling’s roots to conquer newly acquired space.
Sometimes when soil is already saturated with water, leaves will start showing the same signs of stress as if the soil would be dry. Wilted leaves don’t necessarily mean that seedling needs more water, if soil looks moist, do not water. If leaves start to turn yellow and you suspect nutrient deficiency, only use mild concentration of fertilizer with the next watering. If issue doesn’t go away after a week or two, it most likely isn’t nutrient deficiency related.
December 13, 2014
My plan was, to closely monitor weather data and try to spot emergence of cold induced damage on different (more or less) cold hardy bamboos. With gathered data, I’ll be able to determine cold hardiness of each individual bamboo, and detect possible ‘top kill’ conditions or (I sure hope not) conditions where bamboo completely dies. Bamboos are placed in different locations and can have their own micro-climate, but conditions are nearly identical. Small Chimonocalamus pallens seedling is planted under quite large Fargesia murielae, so it’s a bit more protected, but also much more tender because of it’s youth and extremely small size. Actually I will not be able to determine proper values for Chimonocalamus seedling, I will, however, be able to check its hardiness in it’s young seedling stage.
I will closely monitor temperatures and try to write down absolute low temperature (usually morning) and highest temperature. I will add wind conditions information, soil freeze / thaw conditions, information about snow cover accumulation, exposure to full sun, fog, rain, freezing rain… While closely checking weather conditions, I’ll also keep my eyes on all the plants, trying to notice any sign of stress or damage. When weather conditions won’t allow me to identify damage, for example in prolonged period of time with temperatures below freezing or rainy weather that will temporarily re-hydrate damaged leaves, making them look alive, I’ll try to determine the cause and extent of damage when it becomes evident.
I’ll keep all my recordings for further analysis and in try to create easily readable table or chart. Non-threatening days (with temperature above freezing) will be excluded, but will be mentioned as annotation in case of possible impact on plant’s condition later on when freeze damage occurs.
First freeze damage victims: Chimonocalamus pallens and Borinda fungosa seedlings
When temperature dropped and freeze the soil enough (-5°C/+2°C), Chimonocalamus pallens was the first of bamboos that started to show signs of leaf damage. Damage most likely started because of frozen soil and direct sun exposure. Leaves were exposed to full sun and roots were mostly shaded by F. murielae. With day temperature just above freezing, without wind and fully shaded, 1 cm of soil remained frozen. That was enough to damage the leaf cells. Leaves ended up slightly damaged and some of the youngest branches dried out during the first cold spell.
At the same time, the last shoots of Borinda fungosa also started showing some damage. The unbranched shoot is missing the top leaves, but culm still seems to be alive. Spring will tell if branches or buds got damaged. Autumn shoots that branched out recently had shown some damage and had lost a couple of fresh branches, but at least some of them might still be alive. Full extent of damage will also be visible in the spring.
Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’
Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ (3 year old seedling)
Borinda (Fargesia) Fungosa (3 year old seedling)
Fargesia denudata ‘Lancaster 1′
Hibanobambusa tranquillans ‘Shiroshima’
Pseudosasa japonica ‘Tsutsumiana’
Chimonocalamus pallens (1 year old seedling)
Second cold wave.Just after Christmas, we’ve received another wave of cold air that persisted longer and temperatures dipped much lower. Luckily we’ve received around 20 cm of snow in the beginning when temperatures started plunging. I used that snow cover to tarp down and bury Borinda fungosa which is not hardy enough to survive during harsh winter conditions. Most of the time it was sunny weather with moderate to strong wind. Moso leaves that were not protected by snow started to show signs of freeze damage when temperature dropped to -13°C. When temperature dropped to -15°C, first signs of damage appeared on Hibanobambusa tranquillans ‘Shiroshima’, exposed branches of Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ seedling got completely fried, Borinda was already tarped and covered with snow to prevent cold air from entering the space between tarp and the ground. Temperatures remained below freezing, but sun managed to melt the snow on south facing positions which caused quite some damage on bamboos that got exposed that way.
Phyllostachys pubescens ‘Moso’ got completely defoliated (perhaps even top-killed) on it’s southern side. Snow cover remained on it’s north facing side, which kept all the leaves and had shown only minor signs of any kind of damage. On January 3rd, snow started melting and temperatures started to rise. When daily highs were above freezing, there was no additional damage on any of bamboos. At the end of the cold wave, southern wind brought warm weather and I untarped B. fungosa to see it’s condition. It was looking surprisingly good. While exposed parts of culms got completely killed, everything that was tarped remained in relatively good condition. Old culms and shoots from late spring/early summer received only up to 30% leaf damage, shoots from early autumn, on the other hand, got up to 90% damaged despite protection.
Result of second cold wave
Phyllostachys aurea is holding well, much better than in 2012 when it got top killed. It does show some frost damage, but most of the culms took the cold surprisingly well. Even some of exposed leaves managed to recover, despite being totally dried out and wilted during the cold sunny weather.
December 7, 2014
There’s plenty of Cantharellus cibarius mushrooms, and even Boletus edulis that can still be found, hiding among the fallen leaves.
Bamboo and autumn leaf fall
November 19, 2014
Despite the fact that bamboo (well, at least most of them) is evergreen plant, most of temperate bamboos start shedding leaves as soon as weather starts getting colder.
During the winter, plant’s activity drops and water mobility inside the plant slows down and sometimes even stops completely. With temperatures below freezing, soil can be cold or even frozen on top, effectively preventing water to get from roots into leaves. Evergreen plants continue to loose water through the leaves by transpiration during the winter. Leaf can heat up considerably during bright sunny winter day and even if air temperature is low, rate of transpiration gets higher. Higher transpiration rate becomes a problem, when roots fail to replenish all the water that is lost through the leaves. Water loss problem gets worst during prolonged periods of strong winds and on already mentioned sunny days.
Deciduous plants shed their leaves during the unfavorable part of the growing season, which can be winter in temperate parts of the globe or dry season in the tropics. Plants effectively prevent water loss caused by unnecessary transpiration by tossing away their foliage. Bamboos usually remain green during the winter, except some of the species that grow at higher altitudes in the mountains. They do prepare for the winter and shed some of their leaves though.
When first frost arrived, most of the bamboos in my garden triggered leaf yellowing process but in only about a week, when most of the colored leaves dropped, bamboos turned green again, yet with a lot less greenery on them. Some of bamboos like to dispose of unnecessary leaves regularly, even during the summer, which means they show much less leaf loss in the fall. That kind of pattern was seen on Fargesia murielae. It was also the first bamboo to drop some of it’s leaves.
Phyllostachys aureosulcata Spectabilis either forgot to drop leaves or it managed to do it regularly so it was hard to notice. I do remember seeing yellow leaves, but they were emerging sporadically and were easily missed. Ground below and around it show almost no sign of dead leaves.
Phyllostachys Aurea is loosing a lot of leaves each fall and this year it’s doing the same. It does take a bit more time to complete the task.
Phyllostachys heterocycla Pubescens – Moso is also showing only minor leaf fall. It does like to drop the leaves in the spring after it starts shooting. Yellowing usually occurs when last year’s branches start to grow new foliage.
And the winner is Borinda fungosa. It started yellowing after first frost, in only a couple of days it was full of yellow leaves and just a couple of days later, there were no signs of yellow leaves on it. Soil around it, on the other hand is full of leaves that will hopefully protect the plant from winter cold.
Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)
November 4, 2014
Eichhornia crassipes is commonly known as Water hyacinth and can be highly invasive. I only bought one small plant, but I ended up removing it on a weekly basis to allow at least some air and sun to enter the water. It creates dense mat of lush vegetation on the pond’s surface, but with time it shades out everything inside the pond.When I got the plant it was quite weak and pale and after I tossed it in the spring into the pond’s relatively cold water, some of the leaves actually became yellow. It all seemed the plant will have hard time to survive, but everything soon changed to the better and it started multiplying and growing, not only above the water but below as well. It forms dense root system and hollow leaves that float on the water. Water hyacinth was providing shade and protection to tadpoles and all kind of water organisms. Tadpoles then turned into little frogs and they too loved the floating plant. It soon started to show it’s invasive nature and started to take over the pond. At that point I started manually removing them. When I was taking them out, I noticed there are different organisms living and hiding in their dense root system, so I tried to keep those and only toss out the invasive plant. In the end of August, Eichhornia crassipes finally started flowering. This plant has two major flaws, first is it’s uncontrollably invasive and second, it starts blooming way too late. When it started flowering, autumn almost began, so beautiful flowers couldn’t last long. It would be great to have them in full bloom from let’s say early June.
When colder weather kicked in, the plant looks less and less attractive, flowers were gone and leaves turned pale. When first frost arrived, it burnt most of the plant and I removed great deal of it. I used it as mulch to protect other plants from extreme cold and it worked quite nice. I also noticed that earthworms just love water hyacinths roots. When water hyacinth freezes, it dies off and if in water, falls to the bottom of the pond. I’m not sure if tadpoles next spring liked the taste of it, or it still sits on the bottom. I’m not going to plant it again, because it grows way to aggressively. It can be used for mulch, compost, worm food and can be great for tadpoles and other creatures inside the pond, but the fun is over soon. If only it could flower earlier, then it would be tough decision and I’d most likely grow it again… and again.
November 4, 2014
One day in the summer, young hedgehog died and I’ve noticed a lot of green flies all around. I haven’t found the source until much later, when the flies and foul smell were already gone.
Unknown beetles on Columbine flower. There are many different beetles roaming around the garden and these two were ‘snapped’ while watching the flowers.
Chinese ladybugs almost removed the population of local ladybugs. These two are chinese version that is bigger and has more black dots on their backs. They are all beneficial to the garden so I love to see them around, especially doing what these two were doing. Aphids and mites beware.
Overwintering Cyperus papyrus “King Tut”
November 4, 2014
If grown from seed, it doesn’t get large enough the first growing season and I really need to save it. This summer it grew a lot, even with a lot lower temperatures than usual with abundance of rain. I saved some seeds, just in case I end up losing the mature plant. Some say, that with a lot of protection, Papyrus can handle the winter if it gets protected from freezing temperatures. I intend to keep most of it outside, covered with layer of dry grass, branches and straw, and large sheet of PVC above that to insulate the roots from winter cold as much as possible. If it can survive the winter outside, I’ll have one less plant to worry about next winter.
Rhizomes are thick and hard to break using a shovel, so I had quite an exercise getting it out of the waterlogged soil. I dragged it into the large plastic container without drainage holes. I used concrete mixing tub – it’s strong enough so it won’t break when filled with water and large enough to accommodate the division. Hopefully I didn’t damage the roots too much in the process.
New division had to be trimmed first, so it doesn’t lose too much nutrients trying to keep the green parts alive.
Arundo donax – Versicolor
August 22, 2014
Arundo donax is tall perennial cane that grows up to 6 m tall, but can grow even taller in optimal conditions with enough moisture and as much sun as possible. It grows in all kinds of soil types, can tolerate dry and wet soil, withstands polluted waste water contaminated soil and soil salinity.Arundo donax “Versicolor” is a bit smaller, less aggressive version with striped leaves. It’s a bit less cold hardy and lacks original Arundo’s vigor, but in temperate climate, cold hardiness doesn’t really count as long as underground rhizomes survive the winter. In warm climates without freezing temperatures, canes remain green and stop growing at low temperatures. When spring arrives with warmer weather, canes start growing again, pushing out branches from original stem. In colder climate, everything above ground turns brown, but the canes usually survive and can also branch out in the spring. Usually all the canes are removed during the late winter or early spring, because fresh growth looks much more attractive.
Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Chili
July 8, 2014
Trinidad moruga scorpion (Capsicum chinense) is one of the hottest chili peppers in the world. I’m not sure if I want to taste it, but it’s nice to have such a powerful plant around.
It originates from Trinidad and Tobago. In warm places without freezing temperatures during the winter, it can grow as perennial, but even the lightest frost can completely kill it, so it’s usually acting as an annual plant in temperate climate. Perhaps I’ll try to place it into large pot during autumn and winter and try to keep it alive during the cold part of the year.
Chili was growing slow at first, but got quite vigorous when sun got a bit higher in the late spring. It liked baking in full sun at high temperature, but it also needed a lot of water. I’ve made a mistake and kept it inside the same pot for too long, which resulted in strong and a bit congested root system. When I planted it outside, it took quite some time to actually start growing again – I’m not sure if it was low temperature and excessive rainfall or the fact that it got root bound while still inside it’s pot.
June 8, 2014
I decided to try growing Eucalyptus gunii and Eucalyptus globulus. The first is supposed to be hardy enough to survive our winters and will eventually go out. Eucalyptus globulus gets damaged when exposed to even moderate frost which makes it an indoor plant. I’ll try it inside for a couple of years and then if it gets too large, I’ll try it outside, perhaps with some luck and winter protection, it might regrow from the bottom of the trunk and roots each spring.With enough sun and heat, eucalyptus can grow astoundingly fast. I was especially surprised with E. globulus growth speed. In only a couple of months it became little tree with thick and strong stem. E. gunii grew just as fast, but it behaved more like a wine, main stem remained thin and weak. I used bamboo to make it grow upwards and it worked.
Wet and cool weather made E. gunii suffer and after a while, it got severe mold infection. I removed leaves that were hit the most and placed it inside into dry unheated room to recover. They will both stay inside for the winter.
More to come as this little project evolves..