Plants not performing well so far...

Buford, GA

I bought quite a few plants from High Country Gardens this year in a first attempt at xeriscaping. They all looked beautiful when they arrived, but now, they are just not performing very well. I know time will tell the true outcome, but I am very disappointed so far. The Blue Spires Russian Sage, that I tought I would have trouble controlling, is doing the worst. Two types of Yarrow - Moonshine and Kellers (white and yellow resp.) are doing almost equally as poor. The European Cutleaf Sage has been eaten down to almost nothing by some wildlife (I must say it is showing some fight though as I see lots of green ready to come up from the brown stem). I have watered them, fed them, mulched them. They are getting lots of light. Are they just suffering transplant shock? I am still sort of new to gardening so I didn't know about using a root stimulator until about a week ago. I used a Miracle Grow root stimulator product (name escapes me) at that time. Anyone else had experience with these or similar plants having trouble getting established. I planted them just about a month ago now.
Any thoughts would be appreciated. I was hoping for some really hardy, fast growing plants.
Zone 7a

This message was edited Apr 11, 2008 4:07 PM

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I suspect either transplant shock or improper watering (or both). If your weather has been warmish and sunny since you planted them that could definitely lead to transplant shock, if that's the case then you might try rigging up some shade over them for a little while to help them out. Also make sure you're watering them appropriately--resist the urge to water because you see them wilting, make sure you actually check the soil and make sure it's drying out before you add more water. Particularly if you have clay-ish soil, these plants won't appreciate wet feet so if you've been giving them too much water that could also make them struggle.

The other thing to check is go back to their website and see whether all of your plants do well in the eastern part of the country. Many of their plants do better in dry western climates and may not do well in the southeast especially if your soil tends more towards clay as opposed to sand. If you go to the page for each plant, scroll all the way to the bottom and it'll give you info about how much annual rainfall they can tolerate and whether they can grow OK in the eastern part of the country or not. Generally if you have sandy soil you can push things toward the upper limit on rainfall, but if you have clay soil then their tolerance for rainfall goes down.

In my experience, I've found that xeric plants typically do better with fall planting rather than spring--with the exception of cacti/succulents which hate the combo of cold/wet, many xeric plants can tolerate moisture better when the soil is cool than when it's warm because fungus can't grow as fast. And having cooler weather stresses them less so it's easier to get the watering right (in warmer weather, it's much harder to get them enough water without overwatering).

Buford, GA

Thanks ecrane- that is very helpful. I have not been giving very much water, as the soil is clay and we're getting decent Spring rain. I guess I can only sit and wait. All of the plants I bought are green, except for the ones that have been eaten down. Green is good. Thanks again!

Rosamond, CA(Zone 8b)

I was told that these plants need watered no more than three x's a week for the first three months if planted before the hot heat. I used to water too much. The drought tolerant plants also do not do well if they are in heavy soil with poor drainage. Flax and other xeriscape plants from Australia do not take any fertilizers at all or they die. I just found this out.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Given your clay soil on top of the fact that you probably get a bit too much rain for some of these plants I think you will probably have trouble with some of them even if you get them past the initial transplant shock. I looked your plants up on HCG's website to see how much rainfall they can handle, and all of yours are listed as ideally wanting 30 inches or less per year, but can handle 30-40 inches with care (which means absolutely perfect drainage and no extra watering once established) Looking at the rainfall map of GA, it looks like the driest parts get in the 40-45 inch per year range, and many parts get a lot more than that so that would already challenge them even if you had perfect drainage. I've just started realizing this year (since your original post) what problems that excess rainfall can cause for people, there are a number of people in the eastern half of the country who are having problems with drought tolerant things like gaillardia, gaura, agastache, salvia, etc not coming back after the winter, and my current theory is that it's the excessive moisture that they're exposed to.

Dawn--I think it's the phosphorus component in fertilizer that's a problem for the Aussie plants (at least that's the case for things in family Proteaceae). That shouldn't be an issue for American native xeriscape plants though, although many xeriscape plants will do better if you keep them in poorer rather than richer soil so it's certainly not necessary to fertilize them much if at all.

San Marcos, TX(Zone 8b)

I have a heavy clay as well and I have noticed a few things about drought tolerant plants. You do have to make sure they dont dry out the first three months or so. Only water on an as needed basis after that. Heavy clay and too much water is not a good combo. I had to amend the soil since most were used to a more well drained soil. Make sure they get the appropriate light. Usually full sun but check. Since I did that, they are taking over my yard.

Rosamond, CA(Zone 8b)

juju I most definitely agree.

I know most of the xeriscape plants that I own take fertilizer and need some but that darn flax looks like crap now and my little tea trees look a bit stressed all on their own, not sure what they want, I have never had luck with them.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

The tea trees don't need oodles of water but they're not one of those ones that needs hardly anything after it's established. Mine have always looked better with some water so it could be yours just need a bit more than you're giving them. The flax I think is more drought tolerant but if yours are fairly new it could need more water too. With both of them I've had MUCH better luck with fall planting, I've lost a number of them when I planted in the spring and then it got hot too quick, but if I get them in during the fall they do a lot better.

Rosamond, CA(Zone 8b)

I got this one in the ground in the winter, but it was doing fine till I fertilized it. The Leptos just look like crap. grrrr. They were plugs sent from Oregon so they already had some battles to overcome but I have never had luck with them. It is a zone pusher in my Sunset book anyhow. sigh.

Central, AL(Zone 7b)

When transplanting, I avoid adding fertilizer too soon. That could stress the plants out even more. I'd wait until the transplant adjusted to its new home prior to giving them added supplemental fertilizers.

Rosamond, CA(Zone 8b)

jsknutson did we lose you? You need natives from your region and they should do great.

NE Medina Co., TX(Zone 8a)

I'd agree on that. Try the xeriscape natives that have done well in your area for others. Even native doesn't say it all because there are natives that need too much water.

Rosamond, CA(Zone 8b)


Sierra Foothills, CA(Zone 8a)

If you bought you plants from High Country Gardens, they give specific instructions as how to give them as good start as well as listing their needs. Another really cool thing is that they have some fertilizer products that can be used with the types of plants that they are growing. I purchased their "Yum Yum Mix, and Alfalfa mix, when I placed my orders as they are specifically formulated for drount tolerant plants, with low nitrogen, and completely organic. (Not miracle gro - that is great for annuals and lush perennials. IMHO.....


Rosamond, CA(Zone 8b)

Good to know, thanks

Calistoga, CA

My Cistus Rose is losing leaves (dry ) from the bottom part of the plant. The top looks good...any idea why? I too have had a lot of problems with watering in my new garden. It seems like the landscapers did not integrate the soil in the pot with the soil in my garden.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Can you give us a little more info (and a picture would help too). Like when it was planted, what sort of soil you have, how often are you watering/fertilizing, what is happening to the leaves before they dry up and fall off, etc. The problem definitely could be the way it's planted, you're best off getting rid of as much of the container soil as possible when you plant something--container mix tends to dry out much more quickly than the surrounding soil so you have most of the plants roots being very dry in the potting mix and then the ones that are on the outside of the rootball are in contact with the wetter surrounding soil (which may often be a bit too wet if you have clay soil), so that's a bad combination.

Rosamond, CA(Zone 8b)

I agree.

Boise, ID

I live in Idaho, hot and dry. I grow all of the plants you mentioned. The first year it was hitting 100F in June. I cut everything back, and watered so they could establish good roots. They rewarded me in the fall. People thought I was crazy cutting things back, but with the heat, I wanted all of the energy going to the roots. The second season, I watered because again it was very hot. Now the plants are established and they can handle the heat and drought. I have clay soil, it holds nutrients well, so I give a light feeding in the spring.

Once established, the secret is neglect.

Rosamond, CA(Zone 8b)

Great tips Misty. I notice that when I transplant stuff, if it goes into shock, if I cut it down to a nub, it usually survives. I hate clay and find it is my enemy here as it holds too much alkline and water when it does get water.

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