The Q&A Archives: What am I doing wrong?

Question: I have trouble keeping transplanted hydrangas and gardenias alive during the first month after I buy them. I have some established plants that do quite well in my garden. What am I doing wrong?

Answer: You may be transplanting at the wrong time, or not planting them at the proper soil level. It's less stressful for gardenias and hydrangeas if they are planted when outdoor temperatures are cool (65-70F) rather than during the heat of the summer. Prepare the planting holes by digging holes the same depth but slightly wider than the nursery container, then roughing up the sides and the bottom of the holes. Gently loosen the roots of the plant as you remove it from the nursery pot, set the plant in the hole, then fill in around the rootmass with soil you removed from the hole. Tamp the soil down gently, then water the plant well to help settle the soil. The ideal is to have the plant sitting at exactly the same level as it was in the nursery pot. A final step is to build a watering well or basin beneath each plant by mounding up 3-4" of soil in a circle, about 12" away from the main stem of the plant. When you water (usually once a week for the hydrangea, 2-3 times a week for the gardenia), fill the basin with water, allow it to drain, then fill it a second time. This concentrates the moisture directly over the root mass and allows it to trickle down, wetting the roots completely.

Hope these tips help you have more success with your transplants!

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