The Q&A Archives: Can you help me save my plant?

Question: I am new at gardening. In the past when ever I put a plant in ground it died shortly there after. I enjoy plants and I don't want a black thumb. So help me please. I purchased an plant Iris Blue Magic I put two in a pot they bloomed and promptly died. The rest I put out front in my planter they bloomed and are now green ( I haven't killed them yet)... What can I do to get them to bloom again and is there hope for the bulbs to come back next year for the brown ones in the pot on my patio. I keep watering them because I don't want to admit that I killed them. I want to garden I'm just not very good with container plants. Is there any hope for me?

Answer: I don't think you did anything wrong at all with your blue magic irises. Irises bloom only once a year and Blue Magic typically blooms around Mother's Day so yours flowered a little early this year. After the flowers fade you should cut off the flower stem but leave the foliage alone. It will continue to grow and fan out, expanding the underground rhizome. Next year they will bloom again. Irises grow and flower best in full sunshine and appreciate a deep soaking once each week during the growing season. The plant you put in a pot may have gotten overly wet or overly dry. Why not unpot them and check the rhizomes? If they are healthy looking, fleshy and without dry areas, plant them outdoors in a sunny spot. Just barely cover the rhizome with soil and water them in well to help them take root. You might be surprized at how they react to being free and outdoors.

As for gardening in containers, there's always hope. Just keep in mind that containers must have adequate drainage holes and that the soil dries out quickly, especially during the hottest months of the year. Also, if containers are sitting in the sunshine, the roots of your plants can be baked. I try to group containers together so they'll shade each other, or set them near a shrub or even a large rock so the containers themselves do not get direct sunshine. A final caution about containers - sometime the soil can dry out enough to cause air pockets in the soil around the roots. And, even though you water thoroughly enough for excess water to drain out of the bottom of the pot, all of the soil may not be getting completely wet. To overcome this tendency, immerse the containers in a larger container of water every 10-14 days. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes, or until no air bubbles rise to the surface. Then remove and drain. This will force the air pockets out and thoroughly saturate the soil.

Some plants that do well in containers include zinnias, chrysanthemums, geraniums and ornamental grasses. Why not try working first with annuals, then you can graduate to perennials in your containers.

Best wishes with your garden!

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