View Full Version : problem with low survival of new plants

10-14-2014, 10:37 AM
I've been trying to slowly landscape my yard (zip 95118) and so far experienced unacceptably low survival of nursery bought plants. All plants I've grown from seed have had no problems, and this includes a white sage, 4 narrow leaf milkweeds, and 5 eriogonum grande rubescens, and one California buckwheat. In the works are another Cali buckwheat, black sages, a few more milkweeds.

My method for planting nursery bought plants is to minimally disturb the native soil, which is a mix of sand, decomposed granite, low organic matter. Well draining soil. Once in the ground, I give plants a good soak, give them shade, and leave then be. So far, ive lost a lupinus albifron, Dr. Hurd manzanita, ceanothus diamond heights, bees Bliss sage, and possibly a ceanothus concha.

I'm not sure what is going on. Plants seem to dry out quickly. So quickly that the leaves stay green and turn crunchy and fall off. But the soil remains moist. Watering more seems to accelerate plant death, even if its only once every 1.5 to 2 weeks. I thought maybe roots were rotting, but not watering and shading also isn't helping. What is going on here? Any advice on his to better handle this? I appreciate any and all help I get from more experienced native enthusiasts.

10-14-2014, 10:40 AM
Apologies for long post, tried to get as much background knowledge as possible on a small space.

10-15-2014, 04:14 PM
I think all anyone can do is to speculate without being able to see the habitat you are placing the store-bought plants into. But

you might try soaking the plants before planting for an hour and then with a gentle spray from the hose, wash off most of the soil from the potted plant and then plant with the base of the plant just above the ground level so water washes off the plant crown.

Also I would give the hole you are placing the plant into a thorough soaking, filling it and refilling it so that water will percolate as deeply as possible.

Be sure the roots are spread out in placing the plant and are not crushed down into the hole but that the hole is deep enough to accomodate the roots that are spread out. That would mean that even for small plants a hole should be at least a foot wide for a 4 inch potted plant and proportion outward for larger potted plants. Plantings should be at least 3 feet apart.

Guess that is the most I can think of offhand at the time. good luck.

10-16-2014, 12:04 AM
Thanks for all the good info, I will be sure to give it a try. I think another problem is the nursery bought plants were not from native plant nurseries, so the soil used was the standard planting mixes. Peat, compost, a bit of perlite, and a wetting agent. I'm guessing the rootball may have stayed too wet and the roots died. I'll be visiting las pilitas nursery in a few weeks so i can see what they have to say as well.

Thanks again!

10-16-2014, 09:29 PM
Las Pilitas is a good source for good info. But their info is only for their plants and not for those grown by other growers.

One problem even with plants grown by Las Pilitas is a plant that is
pot bound where the roots of the plants have grown packed into the
pot. Soaking of such bound plants root systems is really necessary
with careful working of the roots free of each other and spreading.

You may want to try it with an inexpensive species, transplanting one
as is and one that you actually work into the soil by having the roots
spread and the native soil poured in around them and patted down.

Also do you mulch your new plantings?? If not then you may want
to consider a light covering of what appears locally native to your
area, ground up bark, composted leaves, gravel.

Keep in mind that the younger the plant, the easier it is to work with
it and the higher the probability that it can survive the shock of being

Also have you ever used fertilizers in helping your plants to grow??

Hope these comments will be helpful when you approach Las Pilitas.

10-17-2014, 02:02 PM
If I use any fertilizer, it is natural stuff like a bit of bone meal, coffee grounds, blood meal, etc. For natives, I don't use any amendments or any fertilizers. I need to get better at applying mulch, I just get a bit paranoid about using the wrong mulch for a given plant.

I'd rather have pot bound plants at this point. Plants I've bought at my local.nursery have weak, underdeveloped roots. Thin and wispy, like they just got a cutting to root and packed it in starter soil really quickly. Haven't seen many robust natives locally.

Thanks yet again for then additional info, this is all great stuff I need to consider.

12-01-2014, 07:17 PM
I also have similar problem with new plant.