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About a week ago, I was given a houseplant (pictured), with the instructions to water it twice a week. Unfortunately, it seems to be fading fast - its leaves are drooping and the flowers are turning black.

  1. What is the name of the plant?
  2. What to I need to do to save it?

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Edit

The plant is fading fast. Does anyone have suggestions of anything I could do pending identification?

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Good question! It's not a coleus, not a new guinea impatiens. Never seen a flower like that before. –  kevinsky Oct 23 '12 at 19:17
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2 Answers

I'm pretty sure it's Celosia cristata, but whatever it is, it looks as if its been overwatered, that is, it looks droopy but not crispy. These plants like their roots to be constantly moist, but they do not like sitting in water, so if you've been watering twice a week and leaving water in the bottom of the pot, that would cause a problem. They like cool, airy conditions, and some sunlight is essential.

If the compost in the pot is sodden, and there is water in the outer pot, empty that out and stand the plant somewhere it can drain down completely. Then water when the surface of the compost feels just slightly dry to the touch, but not dry. Water well, and go back 30 minutes later and empty the outer pot, so that the plant is not standing in water. Should be fed weekly with a proprietary houseplant food whilst it is in flower.

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Yes, it is a Celosia cristata. While the plant is listed in several places a suitable for growing indoors, this is not true once it has flowered. C. cristata is a true annual - it lives for only one growing season, and once it has flowered and begun to set seeds it will expend all it's energy on that reproductive mission and then die.

Celosia can be grown as a houseplant in the foliage only stage, and will generally never set flowers inside due to low light levels compared to outdoors. It MIGHT be possible to return this plant to fully vegetative (foliage only) stage buy pruning it back hard, removing all the flowers and flower buds. However, the other point mentioned above re: lack of drainage appears to have already damaged the plants root system, and this would make recovery difficult.

If you have any shoots without flowers/flower buds, take cuttings and root those. Or try removing flower from shoots and root those shoots, although rooting success may be lowered.

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