Soil mix and root development - newbie

Castanea

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Hi all,

I have a dwarf jade, it is my first succulent. I picked it up in December, and its above ground portion has been growing steadily ever since, despite the winter slow down. However, today I accidentally knocked its pot and spilled out most of its soil. I noticed looking inside the pot how its root development was virtually non-existent. Like, seriously, none. The same tiny, brittle root ball that I original planted.

My soil mix is VERY gritty. Mostly pebbly bits and bark, almost no "dirt" in the mix. (Succulents + Dry = good, right?) Would a mix that holds more water aid in root development?

I'm a little confused about the top growth too. I thought branch development wouldn't occur until roots have been established. Succulents are weird, man.

Thanks!
 

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Geo

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Maybe you bought a cutting.You are right.Portulacaria afra is 'weird',in the nicest way.I love that species.So,how much have you been watering it? I know you said 'dry',but the size of those boulders you have it in may be just too big.What is the substrate?Scoria and Pumice or granite?No,more water will not help,just rot the roots you already have.
If you have to,take cuttings,or find bigger ones somewhere.Lay them out to dry(the cut ends need to dry)for several days.Plant then in your choice of substrate(pumice or scoria,or both:sieved to 1/4 inch or so,if you want).Do NOT water until you see new growth.And welcome to the forum.
 

just.wing.it

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I read that they only grow roots when dry.
They grow searching for water.
Some say you can let it dry to the point that the leaves begin to show little shrivel marks, then water well. And apparently,if you over water, you'll see the leaves plump up...
I haven't gone that far with mine, but I try to let it get relatively dry between waterings.
Good luck!
 

Castanea

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Thanks everybody. I watered about once every month through the winter. Weather is starting to heat up here, so I've been gravitating towards once every 2-3 weeks, depending on how wrinkled the leaves look.

Thinking I'll make a new soil mix with smaller substrate and stay on the same watering system.

Still weird to see so much top growth happen alongside zero root growth.
 

Castanea

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@Geo, not sure exactly sure on the soil specs. It's a mix of some Brussel's brand stuff and another bonsai mix I bought at a local nursery. Both were strained to select larger bits.

I have a schefflera whose roots went CRAZY after I repotted it with larger bits; probably shouldn't have assumed port afra would behave the same way :)
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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@Castanea - Weather is just warming up for spring, P. afra usually grows most vigorously with warm, 80+ F days, and nights that stay above 70 F. It will grow in cooler weather, but just not as quickly. They need sun to grow well. It should be in a south with shades open during the day. They can be summered outdoor once weather warms. I think you soil is fine, Brussle's mix will work well. You should be watering when the plant needs water, not on a fixed schedule. Dig your finger at least 1/2 inch into the mix, and feel for moisture. If cool & damp, don't water, if dry, time to water. Note the heft, or weight of the pot each time you check. In time you will sense the weight well enough to know if it needs water just by feel when you pick up the pot. Ideally you want jade to go from wet to dry in less than a week, if it takes longer, your pot is too large. When you water, take the plant to the kitchen sink and flood the entire pot with water. Using a watering can will leave dry zones in the pot. Brussle's Bonsai soil does not wick water around, water will go straight down and out the bottom. Flooding the pot at the sink will wet the soil more completely. Let drain, then return to windowsill. An ideal cycle for dwarf Jade would be to go from wet, to dry, leave dry for one or two days then water again. If dry periods are too long new roots don't have time to grow. If wet too long, soil becomes anaerobic and roots begin to rot. You will have to use your own finger test to get the pattern for your plant in your growing conditions. Nobody can give you anything better than a guess. You need to ''calibrate'' watering cycle for your unique conditions.

I think your Jade has been too dry, and possibly in too much shade to do any root growth. Hope this helps.
 

just.wing.it

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To add to to the great post above....:
I use a toothpick stuck in the soil to check the wetness. Works well.
And I would think that the plant has been too wet, not too dry.
But either way, it's not good.
(if someone treats the p. afra like a houseplant it will get too much water....)
 

M. Frary

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Use your tongue. It can detect moisture better than your finger. Just stick it right in there. Don't be squeamish. The more you do it the better you get at detecting moisture.
And your tree will thank you.
 

Castanea

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@Leo in N E Illinois Thank you for your post, I couldn't ask for better information. I've been letting my soil dry completely before watering, but usually for considerably longer than 1-2 days. I think I've been overly-cautious in my attempt to avoid over-watering.

We had a few 80 degree days last week, and the little guy spent some time in the sun. It's new leaf growth really took off. Looking forward to what the summer has in store for it.

@M. Frary I have a strict tongues-only policy for many of my soil moisture needs
 

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