Beaucarnea - the Expert replies




Dear Dario,

I was documenting myself on your site and I stumbled upon your comment on this type of plant and I was very impressed, because something similar happened to me too ...

I have recently purchased at IKEA's corner of chances (sigh) (ri-sigh) a wonderful Beaucarnea Recurvata about 50 cm high with many leaves withered on the tips but also many new leaves of a beautiful light green .... he called me!

I mean, I saw her and felt she was telling me to take her away from there, otherwise she would die of sadness!

I state that I do not have a great green thumb, I have never brought many plants in my life, but this one really struck me and I would like to be able to treat it in the best way and get it back to its best!

At the moment I make her spend the day on the terrace of the house and in the evening / night I put her in the house (temp max 17 °, min 16 °) but I'm afraid that the outside temperature is too low .... (for now she never has frozen during the day and I don't think it will freeze all winter).

Can I cut the dried leaves? Do I have to cut them at the base or only the dry part?

In my small plant park I also have a beautiful calla that was given to me and that it has grown luxuriantly like never before even after repotting it (it has never made flowers though) .I have always left it in the garden and kept it watered a lot, then, when it got cold, I brought to the famous terrace of the house where I left her out 24 hours a day until one morning I found her practically frozen ... I thought I had lost her, but she recovered great and now I make her spend the day out and night inside like the Beaucarnea ..... but I noticed that some leaves are turning yellow and withering (until now we are at 3) and I don't understand what the cause is and what I can do to prevent it from turning yellow ... Maybe too much water? The plant is active, it continues to make new leaves and I would not want to lose it ....

I really hope to receive some advice / suggestion and in the meantime I wish you a Merry Christmas!

Thanks in advance!



Dear Ilaria,

your sensitivity certainly deserves the utmost attention. there are not many people who would take a map that is not "showy" only for a human feeling, compassion, which however reveals a great love for life (which will certainly be reciprocated by the creature you "saved").

yours beaucarnea he already had many new leaves at Ikea (please specify that they are light in color, not as dark as they should be!).

so be careful: this is not really the growth time for her and it is likely that, in an attempt to sell it, even below cost, it has been watered excessively and placed in a very heated (but perhaps not very bright) environment. Of course I don't want to alarm you: if the treatments you will be able to offer respect this momentum towards growth, your plant will still be able to develop very well.

if it was in a dimly lit and overheated environment (which by itself could have stimulated a considerable regrowth this season) you will have to try not to expose it directly to the sun's rays (which could burn the young and light leaves) and not even expose it to rigors this season (do not tell me where you write from: from Trentino to Sicily the climate changes and a lot!): it would be better if you placed it at home, near the window (but not hit by the sun through the glass) in a room that is frequently ventilated (the temperatures you refer to are just what it needs now). the ideal is to be able to find a protected corner, not very heated, but always very bright.

the excess of water in the earth, in a very hot environment and with an opaque lighting like that of the neon lamps in the warehouse, is certainly the cause of the drying up of the tips of the "old" leaves. I advise you not to cut them entirely: their dark green is a sign of greater efficiency both in protecting themselves from direct sunlight and in knowing how to obtain greater quantities of sugars by photosynthesis. just cut the dead parts, always leaving a small piece of dry leaf next to the living tissue, absolutely not to be cut now.

gradually reduce watering: remember that a little water (half a glass) once a week is better than a soggy soil or an excess of water even if given once a month. the small doses given in constant times allow the soil to dry and breathe. rather, sprinkle a little water on the leaves at least once a week, perhaps washing them away from any dust that may have settled (THE WATER MUST BE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE! the ideal is to place it in a container the day before).

often everyone tends to turn on the tap (the winter temperature of the water that comes out is about 10 ° or even less!) and use the water without letting it rest. it is a mistake in many ways.

in the first place, watering causes a real thermal shock to the roots, whose earth, being the pot in the house, will have a temperature equal to that of the surrounding environment, risking in the long run to make the plant sick.

secondly, the use of chlorine in city drinking water exterminates all the very useful bacterial and fungal ecosystem that develops in the earth.

leaving the water for watering in a container to rest for at least 24 hours thus brings the following advantages:

- the temperature of the water equals that of the surrounding air and, by watering, this thermal trauma to the plants is not created

- the sodium hypochlorite (bleach) present in the water breaks down and at least part of the chlorine (harmful to plants as well as to the entire ecosystem that develops in the soil) evaporates

when your plant has strengthened, in late spring, you will be able to gradually accustom it to the outside temperatures (even with the temperature range that exists between day and night), being careful of the sun: at home the lack of direct rays will have made it less its defenses are efficient and certainly the younger leaves will have a lighter color: they are the most vulnerable.

the suggestion is to place it in a sheltered place, where it will sunbathe in the first or last hours of the day.

when it has adapted (calculate a couple of months to be sure) you can leave it exposed to full sun for the whole day, even in July (take care, however, to water it daily in the evening, always with lukewarm water so that can regenerate the water loss that occurred due to evaporation from the leaf tissue). you can pick it up in late autumn or even in December, depending on the climate (which is now totally unpredictable), and in any case before the rigors of the night.

at that point you will bring it back into the house wetting it very little, thus allowing it a period of rest.

PS: my little plant was picked up at home just today (and not only her): in the next few days a POLAR cold wave is expected and it didn't seem right to risk any further, having shown me so much desire to live!

the calla:

if you live in northern Italy, you probably just want to hibernate. my zantedeschia aethiopica, in the mountains at about 800 meters, near Lake Orta, have a summer cycle, while in southern Italy these plants maintain the same vegetative cycle they have in southern Africa, where winters are mild and humid while summers are hot and dry, vegetating and blooming with a winter cycle.

it is true, you can keep the calla at home and they behave "almost" like evergreens. but in reality they alternate periods of considerable growth with periods of inactivity and, in general, remain a bit confused with respect to the flowering period which is stimulated by a vegetative restart following dormancy, and therefore by the succession of more marked temperature excursions (such as occur between day and night in spring).

in any case, the growth at home cannot be said to be actually luxuriant. naturally, in a heated and humid greenhouse, the calla lily can thrive in a vegetative state, if the environment is very bright and in any case airy. It is obvious that in this case the artificial lighting must be considerable and make up for the decrease in winter daylight hours.

the result (more evident if the calla grows indoors) is however that the plant tends to weaken, swelling with water, becoming more easily subject to rhizome rot.

therefore depending on where you live you will have to respect different rules: if you live in the north, placing the calla outside, you will have to look for a place that is very protected from frost (the cold also reaches the rhizome from the lateral surfaces of the pot).

the ideal is a slightly hidden corner (like a basement or even an attic). it is not important that it has light because she will understand that it is time to go to ... bed. and he won't have it repeated twice. the leaves will bend and turn yellow (but the tuber will absorb all the nutrients and sap before they wither) and in a few weeks you will find a seemingly empty pot. if you want, you can put it in a cardboard box (cardboard not plastic!) in which you will put many sheets of crumpled up newspaper, like in a packaging and you will even cover the vase. your creature will know when it's time to wake up (the first leaf will begin to appear in February) and then, as soon as the climate tends to be brighter and less frosty, you will resume watering it sporadically (the first sprouts will live thanks to the nutrients and the water accumulated in the tuber) and once the regrowth starts you will remove all the packaging.

another system (which if you have a garden is even preferable) is to BURIAL THE ENTIRE VASE UP TO THE EDGE covering it with branches, leaves or straw (put a standing branch or other sign that allows you to recognize the position of the vase). the earth is the best protection of the tuber: my calla lilies, in the mountains, with very harsh winters, are planted directly in the soil from 30 to 50 cm deep.

dormancy for them is imposed by snowfalls (even 30 cm in a few days) which "almost raze them to the ground". currently the leaves are freezing and falling back (acting as an additional protection against the cold). Despite the frozen snow they have not yet completely lost their vigor. soon frost and darkness will force them to "sleep" to return to rise in all their splendor in spring (and usually to bloom just in time for Easter).

therefore, if you live in the north, you can see if you want to bury your pot (already now) or you want to protect it in a box to be stored in a sheltered place but always outside. however, remember that you will have to suspend the watering and in both cases place the pot where the rain cannot easily arrive: it is not the frost that can kill the calla but the excess humidity during dormancy that causes the rot of the tuber. in the open ground the risk is very low because the soil is more drained than a pot.

if you live in the south, you can keep the pot in a sheltered spot, without fear that occasional frosts may actually damage the calla lilies: at the most, reduce watering according to the growth of the plants and the climate. of course you can plant them in the ground: while in the mountains I even expose them to the sun without problems, if you live in the center-south you will have to strictly plant them in a bright area but protected from sunlight: the ideal is in the shelter of a wall, under trees evergreen, fantastic if near a pond (few plants like calla lilies make the pond wild and immediately attract a myriad of small animals that find the ideal habitat for their survival among its large leaves).

in this case the yellowing of the leaves will be due precisely to the storage of the vase in the house, with a strong reduction in brightness and perhaps excessive heat (which the calla lilies do not like: remember that in the countries of origin they grow precisely during the winter).

calla lilies love loamy and even heavy, humid and highly fertilized soils (like many araceae), an essential condition for enjoying fantastic blooms. I suggest the floured manure and droppings, rich in potassium.

all that we have said concerned the well-known white calla lilies (zantedeschia aethiopica) and its cultivars (there are variations on the color of the flower that can tend to go pink or even green).

the story is different for the colorful tropical calla lilies: there are few experiences that "test" their rusticity (ie resistance to frost). in general it is asserted that they are unable to survive (even in dormancy) at temperatures below zero. however in central and southern Italy they are more and more frequently cultivated in the open ground (denying this opinion at least for occasional frosts). there is a lack of experience in the north. however excellent on the closed veranda (with temperatures that do not reach zero), they can remain in a vegetative state all year round if the summer temperatures remain just above 20 °.

a last general consideration: ALL BULBOSES, RHIZOMATOUS PLANTS, PLANTS WITH FLESH STEM in dormancy MUST NEVER BE KEPT IN PLASTIC POTS: these, not allowing the circulation of the air or the evaporation of the humidity of the earth (which at this moment is not even absorbed by the roots of any plant).

INERSORABLY THEY WILL BE ATTACKED BY MUSHROOMS, MOLD AND ROTS with devastating and irreparable losses of almost all cultures!

if bulbs and rhizomes cannot or want to be kept in the earth or in pots during the dormancy period, the ideal is to get wooden boxes (such as fruit ones) cover them with rope or jute fabric, put a layer of earth and peat, place the bulbs or rhizomes and cover with a little more soil. if desired, a few sheets of newspaper can be overlaid, as long as they are matted (the air must be able to reach the bulbous plants).

I hope I have been helpful.

let me know how the seedlings are in spring!



Video: FOLIAGE FRIDAY. Ep. 40 How I Care for Beaucarnea recurvata Ponytail Palm

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