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Help! My Polyscias House Plant Won’t Stop Rotting

Ask The Plant Expert:

I had a Polyscias for three years, and it’s the most important plant in my home. Six month ago it started to lost some of the leaves began to lose some limbs. When I realized everything had fallen trunk with no branches and the trunk was soft and smelled of alcohol. I cleaned and put sulfur, waited for it to dry and then sealed with beeswax. However it was not good, because the rot has continued to rise. Now I’ve cut to see if I can save what remains of plant and I found this (pictured below). I do not know what to do, if you cut the remaining logs to try to save them or what. I would greatly appreciate your advice, I’m pretty desperate as it is a very beautiful plant, and the rest of the logs seem to be ok, but it also smells like alcohol. Thanks in advance for your attention. – Marina

Flower Shop Network Plant Expert Reply:

Yes, it is best to remove any soft decaying tissue completely from the plant. The smell of alcohol indicates the wood has soured, likely because of oxygen deprivation. This causes anaerobic activity, which creates a build-up of acetic acid. From your photos, it doesn’t look like there is any mulch, but often the soured wood is due to too-much mulch piled up around the base. Be sure not to do this; spread mulch thinly around the base and always allow it to dry between waterings.

If no mulch was used, it could be an over-watering problem. Hold back on watering your plant until the soil is dry to the touch. It may take a while to air out, but smell should go away.

If all else fails, Polyscias is a very easy plant to propagate from cuttings. Simply take a stem of your plant and place it in water. To ensure rooting, apply a rooting hormone easily found at your local garden center.

That is my best guess, but perhaps our readers will have more suggestions.