The Q&A Archives: Plants Drying Up

Question: Everything I plant (in a small garden about 5X6 feet) dies within 3 weeks. It appears that the plants (impatiens, asters) dry out from the roots up (Hubby water daily in the morning and afternoon). I have planted three times since October and ALL of the plants have died. My mother thinks we have an armadillo (I've never seen a live one in our neighborhood). I'm thinking that last year I grew hot peppers and have tainted the soil somehow. Can I have the soil tested? If so where? I successfully grew flowers prior to the hot peppers (which grew abundantly). Could it be some type of bugs? I don't see any in the soil when planting. The plants just seem do dry up and die. Please let me know any thing you can, I really miss my beautiful colors. Thank you!

Answer: Wow! Your question is a real stumper! Let's begin by vindicating the peppers and the armadillo. Peppers won't "taint" the soil and armadilloes will dig small holes looking for grubs and other such food but won't cause "dried up" plants. You should contact your County Extension Office for information on soil testing. Some nurseries also offer the service.

Possible causes of very rapid drying and death of plants include: root feeding pests (carefully dig up a plant and look for severed roots), root rots (shows up as brown to grey, watersoaked roots and/or base of the stem), fertilizer burn (caused by overapplication of a salt based commercial fertilizer or placing fertilizer in the planting hole), or chemical burn (some pesticides, including insecticidal soap, can burn plant if mixed too strong).

I would have my soil tested as a general guide for future nutritional needs. If the above examinations yield no culprits, try replanting too see if the problem has corrected itself. They often do!

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