An overwatered Elephant bush’s leaves will drop, swell, and discolor. Its development also stunts due to rotten roots’ inability to supply the foliage with adequate moisture and nutrients.
If rot takes over the entire root system, the plant collapses and the chances of recovery become slim. Having diagnosed your Elephant bush plant with overwatering, this step-by-step recovery guide will be of much use to save it.
- What Causes Elephant Bush Overwatering?
- How Can I Save My Dying Elephant Bush Plant?
What Causes Elephant Bush Overwatering?
Some causes of Elephant bush overwatering include poor soil drainage, too much watering, slow draining pots, pebble tray malfunction, and environmental changes. A single overwatering factor that is neglected can cause the fading and death of your plants, so make sure to resolve it as soon as possible.
You should therefore amend or change the watering and drainage systems accordingly to give no chance to unnecessary moisture saturation within the soil. The Elephant bush plant, popularly known as the Rainbow Elephant, dwarf jade, or Portulacaria Afra, will soon succumb to death if left overwatered.
– Poor Soil Drainage
When grown in slow-draining soils, the Elephant bush’s lifespan shortens. Usually, poorly draining soils are compacted to the extent that water movement is highly restricted.
Clay is the most common compacting type of soil and if its composition in a potting medium is high, water-logging results. Also, air circulation around the root system is impeded by clay particles that are too close to each other.
When you irrigate the soil, water takes a long time to make its way through the potting soil. This ultimately causes the soil to remain water-logged for an extended period.
Remember that, after irrigation, water fills all the air spaces available which ultimately chocks the oxygen supply to the roots. The reduced availability of air and continuously water-logged situations encourage the manifestation and reproduction of pathogens that cause rot.
Once the roots are suffocated in soggy and low-air conditions, they start to die. At some point, you may be surprised to see your Elephant bush plant showing signs of wilt despite the soil being wet enough.
If you notice this situation, the roots are not as efficient as before due to rot. In its native habitat, this plant is known as Elephant food due to its shrubby and bulky form, but this cannot be attained when grown in poorly drained soils.
– Too Much Water Application
The most known cause of overwatering to the rainbow Elephant bush is too much watering. Given that the growing medium is well draining and the container drains efficiently, too frequent irrigation exposes the plant to water-logged conditions. This happens when you do not give the soil ample time to get dry enough between waterings.
If the soil dries up, it opens up spaces between its grains causing an increase in air movement around the root area. However, if more liquid is added to the already saturated growing medium, you will be overwatering the plant.
Bear in mind that rot pathogens thrive in soggy situations and will start inhabiting and feeding on the root tissues. Damaged roots’ efficiency declines and fails to support the plant, which leads to its collapse.
Another important point to note is that, if you deeply irrigate the soil more frequently, essential nutrients like nitrogen and potassium get washed out faster.
You will begin to notice the leaves falling off as well as the depreciation of the growth rate due to malnutrition. A plant that is malnourished is very susceptible to pest and pathogen inversions which may probably finish it off.
– Containers With Poor Drainage
A pot that drains slowly keeps excess water within the soil for longer periods than necessary. You may have used a fast-draining type of soil, but if the water remains pot-bound for long, overwatering threats remain.
Despite irrigating the soil after drying up the few top inches of the growing medium, the base of the pot remains wet. The soil that is at the root area cannot free itself from continuously wet situations as more water will be added before it is ready.
When it takes longer than expected for the growing medium to release excess water, the roots become more vulnerable to rot. Under normal circumstances, Elephant bush watering should be done every two or three weeks during the development or hot season and at most once a month during cooler seasons.
This means that if the pot restricts quick water drainage and you continue with your usual irrigation schedule, the growing medium always stays soggy.
Elephant bush plants hate “wet feet” and this prolonged stay in water-logged conditions damages the root system. You should, therefore, amend the container’s drainage facilities and make sure that they are always open.
Regularly inspect the pot and make sure that all blockages are dealt with to maintain the smooth drainage of water from the system.
– Pebble Tray Malfunction
If the roots of your Elephant bush plant protrude from the pot and touch the water directly, the plant is overwatered. Pebble trays are meant to facilitate the saturation of moisture in the plant’s immediate environment, but if not used well, they can cause serious problems.
If the base of the plant’s container gets in contact with the water one way or the other, the soil remains too wet. In this case, the manifestation of fungal rot diseases begins.
We encourage you to keep the pot well above the water. Also, consider trimming all roots that protrude from the pot so that they do not get in contact with the water. So, if you are using pebble trays and you notice the leaves turning yellow, quickly check and see if the roots are not in touch with the water.
– Switches in Environmental Conditions
Evaporation and transpiration are generally at their peak during the period extending from spring to summer. You should therefore respond to the quick water loss situation by irrigating your Elephant bushes once in two to three weeks.
However, if the weather becomes cooler and you do not adjust the watering schedule back, overwatering will be the result. This happens because the rate of moisture loss through transpiration and evaporation will be cut back, causing both the plant and the soil to remain water saturated for a longer period of time.
The Portulacaria Afra does not develop much during winter. In this situation, it does not need to be constantly fed with growing supplements like water and fertilizers. Using the same watering schedule as that of summer will eventually drown the roots.
The plant and the immediate environment will also not take up much water due to stunted development and low sunlight availability. If corrective action is not taken earlier, you will notice the leaves turning yellow and later falling off.
How Can I Save My Dying Elephant Bush Plant?
You can save your dying Elephant bush plant by evaluating the problem properly, reducing the frequency of watering, checking the plant’s roots, pruning off unwanted leaves, preparing a good potting soil and container, and replanting the Elephant bush in ideal conditions.
Saving an overwatered Elephant bush is possible but, severely affected ones need some extensive work to be done. Administering the correct measures at the right time is key for the Elephant bush’s revamp.
When grown indoors, do not suddenly move the weakened Elephant bush outdoors as it becomes susceptible to temperature and sunlight fluctuations. Sudden sunlight or temperature changes will eventually shock the plant, thereby reducing the chances of recovery.
– Problem Evaluation
You should know the degree of damage inflicted on an overwatered Elephant bush plant. Also, find out what exactly led to this situation so that corrective measures will be taken accordingly. You should assess the extent of rot as well as the drainage abilities of both the soil and pot.
Putting into consideration that overwatered Elephant bush plants become hosts to pests and diseases, you should evaluate the situation first to avoid infecting healthy nearby plants. In pest or disease-infected situations, you should put the particular plant in isolation. This prevents the spread of these intruders to nearby plants.
– Reduce Watering
In light cases, you should start by cutting back on irrigation. This works well when the soil and container are both well-draining.
If you were watering your Elephant bush succulent fortnightly, you should extend the period to three or four weeks. This gives the soil more time to lose excess water leaving the roots sitting in perfectly dry soil.
The circulation of oxygen within the growing medium improves, which ultimately increases the roots’ efficiency. Usually, overwatering is more rampant as winter approaches.
With the plant having been accustomed to the hot summer season where watering is much more frequent, you should revise the irrigation schedule as winter approaches. If your plant shows overwatering signs during winter, stop irrigating it immediately and wait for the soil to dry first before considering watering again.
With all other growing conditions being well-maintained, a reduction in the water supply to the soil should solve the problem. Once the soil has dried up, use this chance to loosen up the growing medium using a gardening fork to reduce compaction and improve airflow.
– Check the Elephant Bush’s Roots
If the Elephant bush succulent does not respond satisfactorily to reduced irrigation, its roots should be the epicenter of the problems.
This means you should inspect and remove all bad roots. However, the first thing to do is to safely shake the plant off the pot while holding it upside-down. Try to be as gentle as possible to avoid causing more damage to the ailing plant.
Look at the Elephant bush’s root system closely and use a sharp bacteria or fungi-free cutting tool to get rid of the bad ones. Unwanted roots can be identified by a dark and mushy appearance, which is a sign of rot.
If you do not see any symptoms of rot, just place the plant in a clean, shaded place and allow it to dry completely. Remember, the Elephant bush is a succulent plant, so exposing it to a few weeks of drought will not kill it.
– Prune off Unwanted Leaves and Stems
In serious cases of root and stem rot, consider cutting the pieces that are still healthy and save them for reproduction or propagation.
Rot-affected Elephant bush stems are usually brown or black and, if not taken care of quickly, the entire plant will be engulfed in this fungal attack.
This scenario just calls for you to discard the whole plant as no chances of survival will be remaining. However, in fixable situations, get a disinfected pair of scissors or shears and neatly trim away all diseased and pest-infested foliage.
Bear in mind that your goal here is to give your plants a fresh start and removing the leaves that are burdening it is the way to go. Having reduced the size of the root network, it is important to prune back the foliage to reduce its workload.
However, you should make neat cuts when pruning and avoid inflicting unnecessary injuries on the plant. Now, dispose of the removed leaves and roots properly to avoid having the same problem in the near future.
An Elephant bush that is pruned or replanted during the period extending from spring to summer has a higher chance of success. In cooler seasons, it takes much more time for the plant to grow new leaves and stems due to unfavorable development conditions.
This means that the open wounds attained from pruning will take longer to heal, which ultimately exposes the Elephant bush to infections. Also, dip the cutting tools in rubbing alcohol after the pruning session to keep them pathogen free.
– Prepare the Potting Soil and Container
Based on the evaluation results, if the soil is not performing well in terms of drainage, this is the right time to amend it. You can buy a specially prepared succulent soil mix from reputable garden stores.
Alternatively, you can make your own accustomed soil mix to improve drainage and support air circulation. You just have to consider adding perlite to improve the porosity of the potting soil.
You can use an all-purpose potting soil, but you need to add a substantial quantity of perlite to attain the best drainage qualities. Also, ensure that you acquire a pot that is not too large for your Elephant bush.
You should get a container that fits the plant with just a few extra inches both in height and width to allow them to grow. Unlike the jade plant, the Elephant bush grows larger and needs more room for expansion.
Large pots need more potting soil, and depending on the irrigation technique that you use, the growing medium can get either too wet or too dry.
The best pot should neither be too big nor too deep for the Elephant bush. Most importantly, make sure that the container has enough drainage holes. With the aid of a porous soil mix and a well-draining pot, you will not go wrong.
– Replant the Elephant Bush
Replanting is a vital Elephant bush care step, especially for the severely affected ones. However, make sure that the plant loses extra moisture before replanting it. You should load the pot with well-drained succulent potting soil. Make a hole at the center and insert the trimmed Elephant bush plant.
Now fill the open gaps with the extra soil, making sure that the plant stands firmly upright. Deeply water the soil and wait for a few weeks for it to get dry enough for another irrigation session.
– Place the Plant in Ideal Conditions
Expose the Elephant bush to its ideal temperature requirements to enhance quick recovery. This plant enjoys full sun, but you should slowly transition it from a low-light spot to a place with full sun. If the plant remains in low light, stunted growth and leaf drop will result.
Ensure that the recovering plant is placed in a spot with temperatures ranging between 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 29 degrees Celsius) during the daytime. Night-time temperatures should be kept between 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
When living in cold climates, you should know that due to the Elephant bush’s low frost tolerance, it is best to grow it in pots that can be moved about in search of warmer spots.
Avoid placing the Elephant bush near air conditioners as it hates dry air. During low humidity periods, consider using humidifiers.
As shown in this guide, overwatering is one of the most common problems in Elephant bush plant growth.
Below are the main issues cited in this article.
- An Elephant bush plant’s leaves will drop, swell, and wilt when exposed to waterlogged situations for a long time.
- The main causes of overwatering are poorly draining pots and soils, environmental changes, too much watering, and pebble tray malfunction.
- The first step in taking care of an overwatered Elephant plant is to evaluate the situation to ascertain the extent of damage inflicted.
- Replanting the Elephant bush plant is necessary in giving the plant a fresh start in new and improved growing conditions.
Having followed the Elephant bush recovery guide, you should be able to get your plant back to its thick, colorful, and shrub-like form. Enjoy the journey to recovery!
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