European Mandrake Lost Its Leaves
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Matt Radford
Posted on: May 28, 2005

Last Friday (May 20, 2005) I purchased a European Mandrake plant from your greenhouses along with various other plants. In only 5 days, it has lost the two leaves it had and I was wondering if a) this is normal or b) am I able to either get a new plant or a credit towards another.

A change in light conditions can do that: cause the leaves to drop. Normally with other herbs such as mint, oregano and thyme, if this happened, the leaves would quickly be replaced by new ones that can withstand the weaker or stronger light and the plant would begin to recover. So, in fact, part of the transplant shock that plants have to go through is this adjustment to the changed light levels.

European mandrake is a more tempermental animal. It can lose all of its leaves in a heartbeat (so it seems) and not replace them for several weeks or even months. The central root stays hard and looks alive, but the plant seems to have retreated into a mid-summer dormancy. We sometimes see this with dong quai and other herbs also. It is frustrating, but there is little that can be done to coax the plant to renew its leaves -- it decides on its own when (and if) it will come back. When plants do this we keep them in the brightest light we have but we hold back a bit on the watering to prevent the soil from becoming constantly soggy thus causing root rot.

If your plant is still in the pot it came in, it is a good idea to move it to a much deeper container. The idea is to give the roots room to develop without forcing it to curl around the pot. There are suggestions that mandrake responds poorly when the roots are contrained. It is worth remembering that mandrake devotes most of its resources to its root system: like the proverbial iceberg the vast majority of its biomass is below the ground.

There is a risk that your plant will not come back. If that is the case -- and you will know that by the end of the summer -- then we definitely will provide a credit which you can use for a future purchase. Please contact the customer service when you are sure that the plant is not coming back (and include a copy of this message for reference). You will know when the root shivels up, becomes rotted, etc. If necessary, remove some of the soil at the crown gently with a finger to inspect the condition of the root. It should seem fresh and "alive" as opposed to dry, hard and dead or soft, mushy and dead.

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