Dying Plants in a Dark Apartment

I have a small dark humid apartment, where I can't seem to grow anything. I bought some houseplants: an ivy, a calla lily and some herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage).

The ivy is the only one doing well. I planted the herbs in a terra-cotta pot with a fortified mix. I left the ivy and calla lily in their containers and just slipped them into terra-cotta pots. The herbs have a west-facing window and were doing great for a while until they suddenly shrank and went brown.

This was about the same time we had earwig problems. Though I never caught earwigs in the herb planter, the effect on the herbs was the same as the marigolds they ravaged. Both the calla lily and the ivy have poor light -- but I water them when they are dry (once a week) and I use Miracle Gro once every two weeks. Recently, the calla lily started drooping and began to grow brown discoloration on the leaf tips. I've also noticed what looks like lime scale on the outside of the terra-cotta pot. I've seen this before, and my plant usually dies pretty soon after. What is causing this, and how do I counteract it? Please help me help my plants.

--iVillager amyshannon


First of all, let's address the problem of the herbs. If your apartment is really as dark and humid as you say, then for any plant that needs sun or partial/dappled sun, you are going to have to buy some artificial light. One option is a light bulb specifically for plant growth. If you don't offer these plants artificial light, they are doomed.

As for lime deposits on your calla lily, the only thing I can think of is something called iron deficiency and lime-induced chlorosis. This often occurs with the development of brown discolored areas that start at the leaf margins and then spreads. Immature growth is usually affected. This condition is caused when acid-loving plants (that hate lime) are in environments where their roots are not getting the trace minerals they need or are getting too much of a mineral they reject.

How can you counteract this condition? Grow plants that don't like lime in acidic soil. Also, try feeding your plants an acidic fertilizer and use acidic mulches such as conifer bark. Before planting, you might also want to treat your soil with acidic minerals such as sulfur, aluminum sulfate or ferrous sulfate.

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