The Convoluted Tale of a Mystery

There are people out there that may not have your best interests at heart. They see something they like, and take it.


This is the tale I was told by a visitor to the site;


  1. I have this crazy neighbor who stole my madagascar palm off the front porch.

Like all good plant hoarders, I had a ton of plants all over the
place, so I didn’t notice it at first. I had a suspicion of who it
was because I stupidly started the cold-war by loudly complaining to
another neighbor (cat shit in my beds- presumably from the 15 cats
across the street). So in a minor fit of disbelief, I marched over to
her backyard and saw… MY PLANT- which I promptly took back. Haha-

  1. When I got it home, I found that the soil was sopping wet, and it
    had a major lean. I was worried about overwatering/rot, and let it dry
    out… maybe too well (and kind of forgot to water for some time too).
    I wasn’t too worried about it at that point- the leaves looked great,
    beefy green, etc.
  2. I repotted it to fix the lean, in new soil, and watered well.
  3. Two weeks later, I noticed what I think are scale (new to me)-
    ALL OVER the trunk. The base of the trunk was slightly brown, but very
    firm. The crown had fuzzy mealies. The tip had this odd yellow/Brown
    patch that I was worried was the start of rot- but it was still firm.
    The leaves started to crisp up from the tips, curl, and fall off.
  4. I applied what I had on hand- bayer advanced rose & flower insect
    killer. I also doused the roots with diluted Physan 20.
  5. Over the following week, I noticed that the mealies were gone. The
    heaviest covering of scale on the trunk crusted up and turned Brown.
    The upper part of the trunk started to turn from sickly green/yellow
    to silvery green. The leaves still dropped. The brown patch at the tip
    never got mushy.
  6. I reapplied the bug spray and have watered lightly 1-2x since then.

What now (?):

I’m not sure where to go from here. I’ve been doing my best to pretend
that the poor thing doesn’t exist, planning instead for potential

  1. The mealies are back- only a couple at the tip.
  2. It looks like the scale is creeping in, but not at all close to how
    it was before.
  3. The lean is still terrible.


  1. I plan to retreat for bugs.

Should I repot to see who’s living in the roots?

Is there something better I should try? Is the brown
discoloration/crust on the lower trunk permanent?

  1. I’m worried about the repot.

I wonder if the roots were/are too desiccated because I was so aggressive about trying to dry it out (or
she let it dry out in the full sun before doing her soak).

I also know I’m going to have to start watering at some point.

Thoughts on that?

Thanks for your help!

My Response;

Wow! I’m so sorry that this happened to you. People truly are out there, and constantly surprise me.

The scale, those could have been present, but didn’t actually show until the plant was majorly stressed (ie; overwatered etc).

Putting it on ignore was exactly the right thing to do for overwatering, as long as it was in the shade, not full sun. To start rewatering, once it looks like it’s going to survive (ie; no more dead foliage, lesions not growing etc) I would give it very small amounts of water – like just spray very lightly around the base of the plant. No dowsing it!

I would also be very careful with any chemical treatments for bugs.

For the lean, that’s a minor thing to deal with, and probably should wait until it has given you indications that it’s on the mend. Then I would carefully poke some small slender sticks in, and prop it up into the right configuration. I think it’s gone through enough for now.

Best of luck with it, and hopefully you haven’t got a major neighborhood feud going on!


PS; check all the other plants that were close to that one in case they have scale, mealy bugs or whatever else. Also keep your Madagascar palm in quarantine until all this is dealt with.

Other Things That Occurred to me Later;

First thought is; are you absolutely sure, 100%, that this is your plant?

One Madagascar Palm looks much like another.

I would never recommend this course of action (going in to someone else’s yard and taking back a plant that you think they stole).

In the case of it actually NOT being your plant, you’ve put yourself in the position of being the thief.

Karma was already well on the way to punishing this person by giving the plant some hitch hikers!