Yes, I know this sounds a little morbid, but sometimes plants just don’t survive. We planted about 50 perennials last fall, and after waiting and waiting, we finally accepted the fact that about 10 just weren’t going to come back this year. This can happen for a variety of reasons, but the first year is the hardest for most plants. In this blog I will give you some tips on keeping your plants alive, and what to do when they die.
Read the Plant Tags
Different plants have different needs. Some plants love the sun while others hate it, and some plants need lots of water while others take very little. Your plant tags contain all of this information, and are a great resource for knowing which plants to buy for your area and where to plant them. I suggest keeping your plant tags in a garden journal so you can reference them at any time (see Keeping Notes).
Typically when you buy local, you are buying plants that are already acclimated to your local conditions, or that were possibly grown locally from the start. Even the big name hardware stores typically only sell plants that will survive in normal local conditions.
Talk with the Experts
Gardeners at your local nursery are probably your greatest resource for plant advice. Every situation is different, and your local experts are familiar with possible conditions that can arise in your area. We had a peach tree that was looking pretty sad, and it turns out it had what is known as “peach tree curl”. It was too late to do anything about it last year, but we were told to spray it with a special fungal spray this year before the tree started to bloom. Apparently the disease can be controlled with treatment, and my tree will hopefully produce delicious peaches this year.
Reduce Transplant Shock
There are many theories on how to reduce transplant shock, but most suggest planting with a lot of water and adding vitamins when you plant. We used a root stimulator solution when planting our trees, and they all seemed to take off really well and most importantly are all still alive. Here is a great article from the Gardener’s Journal on preventing transplant shock.
Return your Dead Plants
Although some private nurseries have great policies, you can’t beat the guarantees from the big name hardware stores like Lowe’s. At Lowe’s, if your plants don’t survive, just dig them out (you must include the roots), find your receipt, and simply return them! We took our plants back, and it was like magic; we walked into the store with a bucket full of dead plants, and walked out of the store with a cart full of live ones.
I hope you have better luck with your perennials than I did last year. Feel free to leave a comment if you have additional tips or questions.