The Q&A Archives: Need help with planting

Question: I purchased some flowering plants and they all died on me. There were 4 or 6 plants per pack. I spent over $30 on this projct and I feel sad. What can I do?

Answer: I'm sorry you had such a bad experience with your new plants. Here's how to avoid the problem next time:
First, choose plants that will grow in the sun exposure you have in your planting bed. Some plants prefer shade and others prefer sun. If you plant shade-lovers in the sun, they will die; if you plant sun-lovers in the shade, they won't flower. So, check the tag on the plant to make sure it will get the right amount of sunshine.

Just prior to planting, water the bedding plants well to thoroughly moisten the soil. Ideally, the garden bed should also be slightly moist prior to planting.

Don't get in a hurry to plant too soon. Most annuals prefer warm soils and stable temperatures to grow well. When you are ready to plant, lift plants from the cell packs or pots. The best way to do this is to either gently squeeze or push up the bottom of the container if pliable, or turn it upside down, tap it lightly, and the plant will fall into your hand.

If the roots are extremely compacted, it is a good idea to loosen the roots slightly by either breaking the soil ball apart slightly or cutting the sides of the root ball with a knife. This loosening helps to encourage better rooting in the garden bed. Some growers like to offer plants in flats without individual cells. In this case, separate the plants gently by hand or use a knife to cut the plants apart. When transplanting plants grown in individual peat pots, remove the part of the pot above the soil surface. If left on, it can act as a wick and dry out the roots around the interior of the peat pot. The bottom of peat pots should also be removed to allow for better rooting and drainage. Also, be sure that peat pots are moist before planting.

Plants should be set in the garden at the same level or just slightly lower than they were grown in the container. Carefully firm the soil around the plant and water well to wash soil around the root ball and eliminate air pockets. An application of a liquid fertilizer with a high phosphorous content such as 10-52-17, also called starter fertilizer, may prove beneficial at this time. Use about two tablespoons per gallon of water and apply a cup or two of the fertilizer water around each plant.

Water plants as needed to maintain uniform soil moisture around the roots. Using organic mulches will help conserve soil moisture as well as retard weed growth.

Best wishes with your new plants!

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