Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

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redleader74
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Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

Post by redleader74 » May 20th, 2021, 6:17 pm

Hello, could use some help from you fine folks here. I have a couple of fern pines (podocarpus gracilior). I purchased them the end of last October from a local nursery. I left them in the original general black pots for a while, just watered occasionally and they did fine, the first photo is shortly after they were delivered. They stayed this way through the winter and actually grew a bit too. At the end of this past February I repotted them so they could get bigger. The second photo is a couple of weeks after repotting. I’ve also included a photo of the soil that I used.. But by the end of March (in literally a weeks time, the leaves went completely brown, save for a about a quarter of the height at the bottom, which remained green. I did a bunch of homework to fiture out what was wrong as I was watering it quite regularly. The as brown as the leaves were (and a lot had fallen too to where the plant was no longer bushy at all) the stems were still bright green. All my research pointed to nigrogen deficiency, even though it was the bottom that was still green and not the other way around. I realized that I probably made a ton of mistakes during repotting: not making sure enough drainage, not breaking up the rootball, not putting some pebbles/rocks/etc., at the bottom to improve drainage. So a couple of weeks ago tried to fix this by drilling some holes at the bottom of the planter for drainage, and then repotting it after laying down some pebbles at the bottom. What I found was that the rootball was very very dry while the surround soil (the new soil that I added when I first transplanted them into the planter, was very wet and soggy. So I also tried to breakup the rootball some. I also spayed all the leaves with chelated iron for a temporary fix. The last photos are from this past week, roughly two weeks after my “fixes”. The leaves are still very brown and very sparse now, but there is some new “growth”. Granted, it looks as if in some cases the new growth is turning brown even as it emerges. Any help or suggestions is much appreciated. I’d really like to save these two trees if at all possible.


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redleader74
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Re: Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

Post by redleader74 » May 20th, 2021, 6:45 pm

HEre are the rest of the photo
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Re: Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

Post by MorpheusPA » May 20th, 2021, 10:07 pm

I'm not familiar with the lowest temps in your area, but fern pine are tolerant down to about 40 degrees, absolute minimum. If it got that cold, browning can be from cold shock.

These are not plants that benefit from over- or under-watering, so they're kind of...well, touchy. They're also not fans of pots that are too restrictive. For now, at least, the new ones look good. What you did sounds good, so make sure that post-transplant you watered thoroughly (as you did), and water again when the top inch of soil is thoroughly dry, but before the entire soil mass dries out again.

Generally, you don't need to add pebbles to the bottom for drainage; it actually just creates a new effective soil base above the pebbles, but it's of no matter now. Next time, you can remove the pebbles. Just make sure the hole at the bottom of the pot base isn't obstructed. That's more than good enough--and yes, drainage is absolutely necessary. There's a huge fairy tale going around of using a small wick in the pot and dangling 1/4" out the base to magically "drain" a pot more effectively. Hint: it doesn't work. Choose the correct soil type for the plant in question in the first place rather than attempt to play tricks like that.

Your pine will enjoy any reasonably well-draining soil.

Keep in mind, these can grow fifty feet tall, so they're regularly pruned to shrubs in pots.

Most pines cease growth in response to severe nitrogen deficiency or, in the longer run, turn slightly to severely yellow. Brown only happens after a long period of deprivation, so I suspect more that they were left dry for too long, or they got too close to or even below 40 in winter and that damaged them. A more protected locale with full sun, as along a southern fence, might do for winter, or bringing them indoors if possible.

For now, I'd feed gently, keep them consistently moist (and wait a bit between waterings to assure that air is reaching the roots as well), and see if they recover.

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Re: Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

Post by redleader74 » May 20th, 2021, 10:29 pm

Thanks for the help. Well, in our part of the state (San Francisco Bay Area) it seldom gets that cold and the time during which the trees turned brown (March) it certainly didn't get that cold although, there were some very strong windstorms during that time. Right now I'm doing a watering every say, 3-4 days, and a very full soaking type of water, to where I'm seeing excess water come out the bottom of the planter, just to make sure water is getting to all of the root ball. The trees are placed along a south wall however, for most of the year so far, the path of the sun is such that sun doesn't quite reach the bottom of the wall until it's nearly late afternoon.

Yes I did hear about how large the grow. I bought them specifically to provide additional privacy cover, beyond the top of the fence which is a 6.5' high fence. Based on your last paragraphs, I must have really deprived it the month following the repotting, which come to think of it, I really don't remember giving it much thorough soakings.

As for feeding them, what do you suggest? I currently have both the chelated iron (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A5 ... UTF8&psc=1) and also Peter's Professional 20-20-20 (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07MX ... UTF8&psc=1).

I also have some lawn fertilizer (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KX ... UTF8&psc=1)

Thanks again!

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Re: Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

Post by MorpheusPA » May 20th, 2021, 11:10 pm

Looking backward, if it was outside in January, you did have one day that hit 35. That's rather too cold for these, although it was probably for a short enough period of time that they'd manage.

As far as feeding, we're going to have to play some mixing games with what you got, which isn't a problem. Use the Peter's at about a third the normal rate, around once a month. Put a small handful of the lawn fertilizer on the plants. There's no need to dig that in or anything, and you shouldn't--it would disturb the roots. You can use a tiny sprinkle of chelated iron in water if you want with the Peters if you want, although the Peters also includes iron as well. It won't hurt.

When you're out of Peters, I'd get Miracle Gro or something like, with a 24-8-16 mix. Less phosphorus (a water and soil pollutant if overused) and more nitrogen and potassium (far less of a problem environmentally speaking). And feed at half rate monthly. These aren't big feeders.

Discontinue feeding in early fall and don't feed again until spring; they shouldn't need it during winter, but if they do start looking a little logy, there's nothing wrong with feeding them lightly. Sometimes plants surprise us and do actually require a bit of a boost off-season, my indoor ones do sometimes. The organic feeding will be trickling in nitrogen very slowly through the whole year, but they're a bit more limited in pots and it's smart to mix it up with both organic and synthetic.


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Re: Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

Post by redleader74 » May 21st, 2021, 12:49 am

Ok, seems manageable. And by the way, I kept saying nitrogen in the beginning when I meant iron, hence the chelated iron that I bought. Anyway, I'm sure it's both of those things (or lack of) that are involved here. THanks again.

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Re: Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

Post by te tat do » June 22nd, 2021, 3:39 pm

This is great information! About 6 months ago, I planted 6 Podocarpus Grailior trees, theyre about 10-12ft in height.

3 of them went into shock and lost all their leaves and have been slowly growing back. I water them once a week or so with deep watering. It appears all 3 have slowly started bouncing back and are growing new leaves, but the progress is slow. I recently gave them a infusion of epsom salt. I took about two handfuls and mixed them with about 1.5 gallons of water and spread the mixture at the base of each tree.

One tree that didnt go into shock, later dropped almost all its leaves and doesnt look too happy. I cant tell if its over/under watering or something else...

I'm wondering if the tree is lacking nutrients, or if there's something I need to do differently. I usually measure the soil about 12 inches down with a meter before watering them

Here's a pic
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Re: Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

Post by redleader74 » June 22nd, 2021, 4:40 pm

My two podocarpus are slowly, very slowly recovering, lots of new growth and especially lots of new branches coming out of the trunk. I think it will take to the end of the year for them to be anywhere close to how they looked when I first got them. I did more or less everythig that MorpheusPA suggested and then since then I have been doing deep waterings about twice a week. I usually soak the planter until I see water running out the bottom. The whole purpose of these two podocarpus is to provide more privacy cover between me and my neighbor so hopefully the recovery growth will continue. I see that it's been a month since the abvoe exchange (~ May 20th) so maybe it's time to feed again.

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Re: Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

Post by MorpheusPA » June 22nd, 2021, 4:59 pm

As a general rule, there's no need to add Epsom salt to anything unless a soil test specifically shows a magnesium shortage. A general feeding with any good plant food designed for shrubs or trees (or even just houseplants) will do, and will also contain a small amount of magnesium. Overuse of Epsom salt is actually rather problematic, particularly for evergreens, which don't like excessive calcium or magnesium.

Repotting might be a good idea in this case.

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Re: Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

Post by te tat do » June 22nd, 2021, 5:09 pm

Thanks for sharing that information. Unfortunately these guys were in 24" boxes and planted into the ground now. One thing to note, the wilting/dropping of leaves started before I treated them with epsom salt.

Is there any way to tell what's causing the leaf drop? Any tests I can do? Should I try with some iron supplements?

Thanks in advance!

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Re: Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

Post by redleader74 » June 22nd, 2021, 6:13 pm

My case was simply that I didn't water enough after transfering (in my case from small pot to large planter), which as discussed above required various treatments and LOTS of watering.

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Re: Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

Post by MorpheusPA » June 22nd, 2021, 6:28 pm

Just feeding gently should be sufficient at first; see if that helps.

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Re: Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

Post by te tat do » July 6th, 2021, 3:31 pm

update:

So i gave them a feeding with the miracle grow mentioned here last week. Overall the leaves look kind of dark on that particular tree but i did notice some new growth popping up, but only on the side of the tree facing away from the sun.

Out of my 6 podocarpus trees, 3 of them have lighter colored leaves and 3 have very dark colored leaves. Is this any indication of anything?

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Re: Help needed on Fern Pine (Podocarpus Grailior)

Post by redleader74 » July 6th, 2021, 5:29 pm

It's now early July, the problems I had started in late March/early April, so ti's been a little over two months of aggressive yet patient rehab and now I can see that my fern pines are slowly but surely coming back to life. One is recovering much slower than the other but both are showing lots of new growth. I'm hoping that by the end of the year they'll be back to when they were new. What I started noticing even before new leaves starting coming back were lots of tiny buds beginning to sprout out of the trunk, so you may want to look for that. I have now treated/feed it wtice and will continue to do so once a month. I'm finding that and very full soakings at least once a week has worked for me so far.

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