I bought a Sweetheart Lychee air-layer a month ago. It is less than a foot tall. I immediately planted it in a plastic container whose diameter matched the canopy size. For the first week, I kept it inside by a window that only got 5 hours of sunlight. Then I transitioned it outside for a full 10 hours of sunlight. The weather has been consistently over 50 F at night and lower than 80 F during the day. I water it 3 times a week, letting water drain out from the bottom. I've only put one crushed eggshell and some tea leaf pellets on the surface.

All the leaves eventually started browning from the edges and fell off. Some new leaves are sprouting, but they've shriveled before reaching full size. There's also a rusty color developing on the soil around the trunk. I had a similar experience with my Wax Apple (Jambu), but with only a third of the leaves getting scorched. That one recovered quite well by putting out new leaves without me adjusting anything. At one point, I moved the Lychee behind the posts of my porch to see if shade would help it, but it did not improve.

I would like some tips on how to revive this baby. It was $50 and it's not available in any local nurseries, so it would be a pity if it died.

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    It looks like you haven't been keeping it moist enough, and I also don't think it's a great idea to put an un-established plant in 10 hours of sun. A new air layer is looking for high humidity, indirect light, moist growing medium, and consistent temperatures. – J. Musser Jun 24 '14 at 22:21
  • The seller recommended me to wrap it in plastic for the first few weeks. I thought that would only help seedlings. Would that help this air-layer as well? I'm afraid it might suffocate and overheat. – JoJo Jun 24 '14 at 22:38
  • That could work, but you'd have to put it in a cool location, to keep it from overheating. Also, you'd want to open it up at least once a day to circulate the air. You would also have to make sure that no permanent contact is made with the plastic and the leaves. – J. Musser Jun 24 '14 at 22:44
  • As a followup, What did you change in the plant's care to get success? You can answer your own question, if you like. – J. Musser Jul 18 '14 at 3:47
  • I think it's dead. I've kept it shaded behind a guava tree for some weeks. It is now completely barren - no vegetation. – JoJo Jul 19 '14 at 7:39

It looks to me like you jumped the gun on putting it outside, and have been treating it more like an already established plant, rather than the rooted cutting that it really is. I agree with putting it back into semi-shade, and I'd go ahead and follow the grower's instructions to wrap it in plastic for a while. The problem appears to be that the roots were not established well enough to provide for the canopy when it was not being given help by the higher humidity and lower moisture loss that is gained through putting it under plastic. No amount of watering can help with that, the plant just needs to make a gradual adjustment and the root mass needs time to grow to meet the plant's needs.

  • I always wondered why everyone says to leave young plants in the shade. How do their leaves photosynthesize without much sunlight? – JoJo Jun 27 '14 at 14:41
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    The answer is, there is a lot more light energy present than one would think even in partially shady conditions. It is enough to support limited photosynthesis for a while when the leaves are still too tender to stand full sun (ie, the plant has not been properly "hardened off") or the root mass is not sufficient yet to be able to keep the top part adequately hydrated, as in the case of your cutting. If it helps, think of it this way... there are all kinds of plants that grow just fine in partial to full shade, yet they apparently still get enough energy from the sun to photosynthesize. – TeresaMcgH Jun 27 '14 at 15:02

Try feeding your plant baking soda mixed with water; I did that to my dying fig plant and it is doing fine.

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • GIta, welcome! Please add more details: How much baking soda to how much water? How much to give to the polant? Why do you think this will be good for the plant? – Stephie Oct 17 at 17:22

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