Streptocarpus dying? Please, I need help!

I brought my plant home a bit over 3 weeks ago, looking like the first picture.
Very lush, erect leaves (though you can see a spot of brown on the edge of one in the front).

Now, my streptocarpus looks like the second picture. You can see the leaves are all droopy... Plus basically every leaf has a bit of brown on them (see third picture).

What is wrong with my plant? I have been watering it only when the soil is dry to the touch, as suggested for streptocarpus (so about 2x/week), and it has been sitting on my windowsill this whole time, next to a window that faces north (so no direct sun), and I make sure to keep my blinds open during the day. It is about 65-70 degrees indoors at all times.

Am I caring for the plant wrong? Does it have a disease? Is there a fungal/bacterial infection? I thought there was a possible pest infestation at first, but I can't actually see any pests on it... I've release live ladybugs onto the plant this past week, just in case.

Everyone says streptocarpus is so easy to grow, but as a first-timer I'm experiencing a lot of frustration with this one!

Thumbnail by capePrimrose123 Thumbnail by capePrimrose123 Thumbnail by capePrimrose123
Glendale, UT(Zone 5a)

First of all- I am not an "expert " on ornamentals--
however - you might consider - watering it, by setting it in a bucket or sink full of water for 10 minutes, then letting it drain - - it could be getting too much mineral accumulation-- second thought is- it may be rootbound and need repotting...

Hey Michaelp, thanks for answering.
I'm especially wary of giving streptocarpus too much water though, because from everything I've read it leads to "root rot..."

Northern California, CA(Zone 9b)

I had to look your plant up by your photo because it looked like no Streptocarpus I have grown. Totally different leaves. Yours is a Streptocarpella, same family of Gesneriaceae. Though I have never grown a Streptocarpella, I bet the care is similar for both plants. You are right to be cautious about watering as they are prone to root rot. Never let it sit in water. I have killed a few doing that.

If the plant is looking ill after 3 weeks I bet it is due to over watering. Is the soil wet or dry? I would only water when the soil was very dry. Leaves look droopy when they need water and also when over watering has rotted the roots so it can't take up enough water anymore.

They are also very unhappy when kept too cool. Keep it where it is warm. Right next to a window if you already have cold weather might be too cold. I go for no direct sun but bright conditions.

I doubt that you have bugs. Mealies love streptocarpus and are readily seen.

It also could be that the plant is in shock. Lots of times plants are brought out of perfect growing conditions and sent to stores like HD who mistreats them. It can take a bit for them to show their shock. If this is the case, just time and good treatment will help.

If your soil is wet and you think your roots are rotting, as a last desperate attempt, I have saved a few plants by taking them out of their pots. I cut off the rotted roots, cut some of the top growth of the plant off too by about the same percent the roots have been cut. If the soil is soggy, I shake some off, place it on a paper towel with a paper towel on top till the soil dries out. When it does, I repot it in a small pot with quick draining soil and water it. I do not water it again until the soil is dry. When it starts to put out new growth, I start fertilizing at half strength.

Reading the comments on this entry in PlantFiles may help you.
http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/2114/

Good luck!

Northern California, CA(Zone 9b)

Another thought where Michaelp advice of soaking helps is that sometimes the rootball is too tight and compressed usually from being too dry so it pulls away from the pot so when it is watered the water runs down between the pot and the root ball, leaving the center of the root ball dry. When I go to water smaller pots, I lift them to check their weight. When light, they need water. I lift them again after to see if they now are heavier so I know water got absorbed. You get a feel for it.

If a problem occurs, I always check the roots. Pull it out of its pot and check if it is root bound or if it is over potted or if the roots are rotted. The top of the plant is only as healthy as the roots are.

@Kell:

Thanks for responding. The soil of the plant always felt dry to the touch, even a day or so after watering (I think the garden shop put in fast-drying soil), but I was worried about the root ball being too compressed, so I took your advice and carefully took the plants out from the soil.

First, all of the dirt had been molded by the pot, sort of like a sandcastle, so I had to flake off the dirt little by little since it was so dry and compressed. Not sure if this was good. Very close to the roots, the soil was basically impossible to flake off though, almost like glued to the base of the plant. This soil/root ball was about an inch in diameter, 2 inches high, and there were two of them (two root bases of my plant). These root/soil balls were actually kind of moist, despite the rest of the soil being completely dry.

I took these to the sink and washed all the dirt and black stuff off (not sure if they were soil or roots, but the dark stuff was really stuck on there, so I had to use some force). I ended up with my 2 plants, each with a base that was dirt-free (so an entirely yellow, "clean" base), but all of the longer roots were ripped off in the process, so there were only short ones left...

I repotted into the now-loose soil, watered it once, and let it sit. This was yesterday.

I have to ask for some more advice because the plant looks horrible today... I think it could be from the stress of being taken out, handled, having leaves exposed to a bunch of water, etc? See pics. All the leaves and a lot of the upper stalks are wilted.

Is there anything I can do to help the plant? I have no idea how to trim the plant besides removing brown/yellow leaves (i.e. I have never cut stalks before), so I'd very much appreciate some pruning advice if that would help... I'm really worried here.

Thumbnail by capePrimrose123 Thumbnail by capePrimrose123
Northern California, CA(Zone 9b)

Well I would not have taken all the soil off unless it fell off by itself. If you lost most of the roots, you need to take the top green part down by same amount. The roots mirror the top growth, supporting it. Drastic reduction of roots put plant in shock. If the roots are gone, the plant cannot take in enough water to hydrate the plant. Do not over water to try to compensate.

At this point, if I read what you did correctly, I would take a scissors and cut across the top of the plant, reducing the top growth by as much as you reduced the roots. Some may say make each cut just above a leaf node on each stem but I do not think it matters. If the roots are only 1 inch by 2 inches, take a lot of the top off! I would cut it down to 2 to 3 inches tall. If it lives, it will grow back.

As a general rule, plants recover from drastic intervention in the spring more than in the fall. In the spring, the plant is naturally in growth mode. In the fall, they are set to rest for the winter.

When I check the roots of a plant, I so gently get it out of its pot. I may turn it over and see if it will slip out on its own. If not I may hit pot if plastic against a counter and see if that releases it. I have been known to actually cut off a plastic pot to keep the root ball intact. Some plants cannot stand to have their roots disturbed. If I want to totally change soil, you have to be so careful not to break off all the fine feeder roots. I probably would not take all the soil off. Most plants can tolerate it if you gently rough up the outside of the root ball to get it a bit looser so the roots will grow into new soil.

It could be this plant's purpose in your life is to teach you more about plants. I have killed many plants in my life but each time I learned more.

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