The Q&A Archives: Pieris Japonica Mountain Fire is dying...please help.

Question: Hi! I have purchased a Pieris japonica Mountain fire. I put it in a large pot with well drained soil in my sunroom. The sunroom gets the morning and afternoon sun. The sunroom is part of our home that is heated and cooled for each season. I have regularly watered it now since planting it in it's new pot about 2 weeks ago. When I purchased it at the nursery, it had the clusters of pretty bell shaped blooms. Anyway, it seems to be dying and I don't know why. The water seems to drain off into the catch basin as soon as I water the plant. The little bell shaped blooms dried up very quickly and now the inside leaves are shriveling up and dying. The nursery told me that it does not like full sun, however one websited I checked said Full to Partial sun is ok. In my sunroom it gets lots of sunshine, but not bunring down on it, as it is on the wall opposite the wall of floor to ceiling windows......Should I just palnt it outside, or is the sunroom ok.....if so,(outside or inside) what kind of light does it like? I am in Bristol Tn which I believe is Zone 5. (Bristol TN is in the tip of Northeast TN right on the TN/VA state line. Can you help me by providing any insight? Thanks! Lisa D. Bristol TN....

Answer: I think it is suffering from shock due to the change in growing conditions from the grower to your indoor location -- and possibly underwatering as well as overly warm conditions.

I would strongly suggest you plant it outside on the east side of your house where it will receive full direct sun all morning. Sun all morning through noon is actually considered full sun, but it is not hot sun.

Since it has been inside for two weeks, you may need to recondition it to being outside. Set it outside in a shady spot and each day move it so it receives a bit more morning sun for a longer period gradually working up to all morning. After about a week, plant it.

It sounds like the soil ball has dried out and turned hard so water is running off instead of soaking into it, sort of like a dried out sponge. To counter that, fill a bucket with tepid water and hold the container submerged in the bucket to rehydrate it completely. When it is rewetted it will feel much heavier. Then allow all the excess water to drain out the holes in the bottom of the pot. After that, keep the soil just damp. When you water water slowly and make sure it is soaking into the soil and not running out the sides. If it is cool outside and it is in the shade you may not need to water it too often, but use your finger to check the soil and see.

When you plant it, plant it no deeper than it is growing in the container. Water it thoroughly at planting time to settle any air pockets and then mulch over the root area with two to three inches of organic mulch.

Water as needed to keep the soil evenly moist but not sopping wet or saturated, and not bone dry. To know if you need to water, dig into the soil under the mulch with your finger. If it is still damp, do not water yet.

Since it seems to be stressed, you may also want to consult with your retailer. Good luck with your Pieris, I hope it will be okay.

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