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Old 11-04-2015, 10:43 PM
cilantro cilantro is offline
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Default Salvia "Dara's choice" dying, and other problems

I'm beginning to get into CA native gardening, and I thought I'd start with Salvia "Dara's Choice," monkey flower, CA fuchsia, woolly blue curls, Allen Chickering salvia, Austin Griffiths Manzanita, golden flowered currant, lemonade berry, narrowleaf milkweed and CA poppies. I had the plants waiting for a few weeks in the shade, and then for one week in pots in the plot I planted them in. During that week we had a massive heat wave (I'm on the border of LA and Orange county), but all the plants seemed to be fine in the pots.

However, the two Dara's choice I planted both completely died within four days of being put in the ground. The woolly blue curls, which is between both of them (about four feet away from both), seems to be doing fine after a month in the soil. The Allen Chickering sage in the same plot is doing very well and growing quickly, as are the monkey flower and yarrow. I planted CA poppies from seed early last spring and they are doing well.

The manzanita, currant, and lemonade berry all seem to be alive, but none of them have grown a single leaf in the two months I've had them. The golden currant's leaves are slowly turning brown and falling off, and it has green buds all over its stem, they just haven't grown for two months.

All the narrowleaf milkweeds I planted in the milkweed patch got oleander aphids and died, but there's a Ribes sanguineum that's come up as a volunteer from the base of one of the dead milkweeds. That one's growing very quickly. The Asclepias speciosa, curassavica, and physocarpa are all thriving in the milkweed plot.

A CA fuchsia "Everett's choice" I planted there last year has been surviving and blooming well, but turned brown and twiggy very early and has been that way since. The same has happened to the Catalina CA fuchsias I planted two months ago. They're turning brown and twiggy, but blooming fine.

The plot is all full sun, and when I did a soil test I found that there was almost no nitrogen, very little potassium, and medium phosphorus. About two weeks ago I added half a teaspoon of ammonium sulfate at the base of each plant, and watered it in with a gallon of water.

The plot was sprinkled with reclaimed water twice a week every week for at least the past 8 years, but it's no longer sprinkled. I grew some nasturtiums there last year, and their seeds have begun sprouting and growing quickly from near the base of the dead Dara's Choice. The soil has some sand and is low in organic matter, and is moderately hard packed, although I loosened it and added compost in a 1:1 ratio around the roots when I was planting.

Anyone have any ideas on what killed the Dara's Choice salvias so quickly, and why the manzanita, lemonade berry, and golden flowered currant aren't growing?
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Old 11-05-2015, 11:01 PM
terrestrial_man terrestrial_man is offline
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From my understanding of chaparral species, root growth occurs in the fall and winter months. With our current seasonal cycle being somewhat askew with warmer than usual late summer temperatures the demand on the root system of the natives would be more significant than would be expected under what is generally the norm.
Planting chaparral natives into the ground when their roots would not be actively growing could mean a greater stress on the plants if appropriate watering does not occur. However, extra watering when ground conditions are not suitable to adequate drainage could result in root loss because of lack of sufficient aeration to the roots, hence the roots drown.
With an area that has been watered for an extended period with reclaimed water, I would look into just what the soil chemistry is. Test kits are available. My general treatment for native chaparral is to dig up the plot to be planted and add inert materials, such as decomposed granite in order to open the soil up and improve drain off.
Another practice I use is to soak each potted plant in a tub of water and then drain while making sure the soil ball has been thoroughly drenched. Doing some spreading out of the root mass into an oversized hole and then filling in would provide a greater surface area for the roots to be in contact with and possibly facilitate acclimation to its new home.
Probably you should have waited to make your plantings during late fall or in winter. Less environmental stress on the plants and root growth would be at its optimal performance.
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