The Q&A Archives: newly planted bougainvillea

Question: I just bought La Jolla bougainvillea to plant in my front yard. Being desert plants, do I still need to water them a great deal initially? I have a dripper going to the base of the plant. Water a little every day? A lot every few days? Thanks for your help.

Answer: Desert soil and water both contain salts, which can accumulate in the root zone over time. This salt buildup forms where the water stops penetrating. Short periods of watering cause salts to build up in the top layers of soil and damage or kill plants. Salt burn shows up as yellowing, browning along leaf edges, and leaf drop. Deep watering?or leaching?prevents this by flushing the salts past the root zone. Always water slowly, deeply and as infrequently as possible. Water should soak as deep as the root zone, not just moisten the top layer of soil. As plants grow, drip emitters must be moved outwards to keep pace with the expanding canopy. Apply water at the outer edge of the canopy, called the dripline, where roots are actively growing and absorbing water.

Here are some watering guidelines for establishing desert-adapted plants from Desert Landscaping for Beginners, published by Arizona Master Gardener Press. Weeks Since Planting 1-2, water every 1-2 days; Weeks 3-4, water every 3-4 days; weeks 5-6, water every 4-6 days; weeks 7-8, water every 7 days. This first summer, it may be necessary to continue watering once per week. Gradually extend the watering as plants establish to every 7 to 21 days in summer, 14 to 30 in fall, 21 to 45 in winter and 14 to 30 in spring. Note these are guidelines, which will vary depending on your soil type, microclimate, etc.

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