Podocarpus nivalis issues!!


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Somerdale, NJ
I've raised this plant from a 4" seedling to about 14" high and it's starting to
develop side branching which is exciting as I want to grow it in the Formal
Upright style.
The problem is that the new growth/leaves have started to curl as they come
in and I can't figure out why. It's given regular feeding with each watering at
1/4 strength and also all the micros as a supplement. Also extra Mg as it is
stated everywhere that I read that Mg is much appreciated by Podocarpus
The lighting is adequate.....close to 1000 candle feet, compact and regular
The soil is well drained and I'm not over watering it. Just wondering if under
watering might be the problem or if someone with more experience with this
plant might lend some insight as to what's going on with it.
It started off very slowly and has taken off nicely. The new growth came in
straight as the leaves are on the rest of the plant. Only recently have they
begun to curl.

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I suspect there is nothing to worry about and these curved leaves will give rise to stems with straight leaves.

Well, the thing about it that bothers me is that two days ago all that curled growth was straight.
It started out straight and then went curly on me.
I was thinking low humidity too. Humidity level indoors are a BIG problem, especially in the winter--even with humidifiers.

Len, I see you're in NJ. I'm in No. Va. In the last few weeks, the Mid-Atlantic region has had some periods of high pressure that have driven in EXTREMELY dry air--like 10-20 percent humidity. That combined with the already low humidity levels in your house, make the air inside below even desert like levels.

This is a regular thing in the winter. It gets worse as it gets colder--cold air holds less moisture than warm. Indoor trees--even with humidfiers around--dry out. The dry air can affect leaf development even in outdoor trees under certain conditions. I've seen new leaves grow in shriveled waves, develop asymmetrically and other odd things in my trident and japanese maples outdoors when dry air have been around in early spring. I've also seen the same thing with indoor trees like ficus and schefflera.

Optimally, you need to keep humidity levels above 50 percent all the time for your trees.This is very difficult to do. It can't be done with the average store bought humidifier and such levels can be very bad for the interior of your house (black mold also likes that kind of humidity). A dedicated room and a number of humidifiers (or a greenhouse grade device) is usually required to maintain the optimal environment.
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I think the humidity level in the room definitely needs looking at, especially since I have forced hot
air and misting while nice for a brief time is not the way to go about humidifying over time.

I did spray the new growth with Safer's Soap and the leaves are showing signs of opening back up for me. I know that they will probably remain stunted as once the insects get at them they rarely recover to the point where they should have been originally, but I think at this point, that the main problem was insects.

I'm going to bring my wife's hydrometer into the room to check my levels. I already hinted about getting a Min/Max thermometer/hydrometer for Xmas. :)
I'm going to go back to the old standby of water in trays under my plant stand. This has always worked in the past to raise the humidity levels.
While I'm about it I will ask for some advice on how to keep those humidity trays from looking like swamps in short order. I remember the slim/algae issues that occur in the trays making them very unsightly. Is there a way to keep the algae issues to a minimum. I don't want to use bleach as the fumes would be detrimental to my plants.
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Humidity trays and misting won't be sufficient. They simply don't have enough volume to make much of a difference in such dry conditions--move even six inches away from a humidity tray and levels drop quickly. Misting offers only a few minutes of humidity--which doesn't make much of a difference.

Interesting info on household humidity--although they're selling humidification equipment:

Whole room humidification is necessary for optimum conditions for indoor plants--especially bonsai. Most houseplants are species that can take lower light and dry conditions. Ficus, schefflera, some palms and other tropical plants are from low light/dry habitats and have been more adaptable to indoor growth. Sustaining 50 percent humidity for months in a room, can turn it into a swamp--with accompanying water damage and mold growth...black mold is a very real concern in those conditions.

The bottom line for alot of indoor growers is simply to get the plants through the winter so they can be put back outside when it gets warm enough, not to provide optimal growing conditions. That's mostly the way it is for indoor bonsai...and the reason I sold off all of my indoor trees over the years.

For what it's worth, leaves do not repair themselves. Whatever damage they grow out with, stays with them throughout their time on the plant.
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