We have all been there. You have found a plant that you love, and you take care of it, but then after a season or two, it is dead.
Sometimes the reason is simply that the plant isn’t getting the full attention that
it truly requires, or we as the caretaker can’t realistically provide the full attention that the plant needs. Given enough time, money and effort, any plant can be grown, however, if the environment is not right for that specific plant, it may eventually die.
There are seven main reasons why plants don’t live up to the gardeners expectations. We may assume that we can change the soil a plant grows in by simply adding some compost, and we may think that the soil is perfect. Proper soil takes time to improve, and while the initial addition of nutrients is a great step, it will take several annual applications of organic material that will get worked into the ground by means of the freeze and thaw cycle. So what do you do if you have poor soil? One method is to use a “layered” approach to your garden. What this means is that you will start your garden with plants that are well suited to the existing conditions, and then as the soil improves, you will add new plants that are suited to the new conditions.
When it comes to the moisture content a plant requires, you need to be realistic. You may think that you can plant a moisture hungry perennial in a dry garden because you intend to water it every day, but in reality, you may not be able to keep up with that commitment. Even if you are diligent in your irrigation habits, you may unintentionally be over watering other surrounding plants. The best thing to do in this case is to know what your watering goals are going to be and to select a plant that will thrive in those conditions.
People sometimes use wood chips around their plants instead of mulch, and that can be detrimental to your garden because wood chips actually use nitrogen as they decompose. Plants also need nitrogen, so the wood chips may in fact be competing with the surrounding plants rather than helping them. Plants will do better with a mulch that is closer to their natural environment, even better if the mulch is a local mulch.
Over fertilization can also be an issue and not allow the plants to grow at their full potential. If your plant is in a container, then it will probably need frequent fertilization, but for a plant in the ground, it is possible to overload the nutritional needs of a plant. Some signs of over nutrition may be a plant that is producing excess foliage which cuts down on flower production, or if the plant is becoming floppy.
Plants need care and attention, and while your initial effort of watering the plant for a few weeks seems like the thing to do, it is not enough. Most perennials take time to become established in the garden, and you need to understand that as the needs of the plant change, so must your care for the plant.
We all love to go to the garden store and see the wonderful plants that are available, however, we need to be careful not to fall in love with a plant that is wrong for our garden. You may find out that the plant you just bought home is going to need extra care to thrive in the environment that you have to offer. This is ok, but you do no want a garden full of needy plants that will not get your full attention. It would be better to have a garden that is well suited to the existing conditions, and then choose one or two plants that you know will take extra care.
Lastly, don’t take on a bigger task than you need to. Many times your garden project is just too big. Your garden needs to grow with you, and you need to be asking yourself one question, are you having fun? You don’t want to end up with a garden that has some plants taking over and others are dying. Plants want to live, and you need to be mindful of the conditions that you are putting them in. Choose the right plants, use proper mulch, and water as needed. The right care will lead to a garden that will become what you want it to be.