The Q&A Archives: Shrinking Red Apple Ground Cover

Question: My red apple ground cover's leaves seem to be "shrinking" and is very slow to grow and fill in. I feed it Triple 15 every 4 months per the directions and water it every 3 days for 5 minutes. Is it normal to "shrink" up during this time of year: right before winter?

Answer: Aptenia cordifolia 'Red Apple' is a drought-tolerant groundcover, best suited for arid gardens. I suspect you've been overwatering it. When you water every three days for five minutes at a time, you're encouraging the roots to remain close to the surface of the soil. If you water only once every week or two, and apply enough water to thoroughly soak the soil, you'll encourage deep rooting and make the plants less dependent upon frequent watering. Once the root system is better developed, your plants should perk right up.

Since it's autumn and the plants won't put out a great deal of growth until spring, hold off on watering, and allow natural rainfall to take over. If the garden receives less than one-inch of rainfall in a 10-14 day period, water deeply and thoroughly. Wait again for 10-14 days before watering again.

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