The Q&A Archives: Stunted Plants

Question: I would like to add some height (tall plants like hollyhocks, sunflowers, etc.) to different areas in my backyard. Everytime I plant the seed or plant tall flowers from the nursery they grow to about 6 inches, bloom sometimes and then die. I am so frustrated! Could it be that my soil is lacking something or is it probably just my black thumb?

Answer: Plants will grow to their full potential when given the right amount of light, moisture and nutrients. If you're not having reasonable results with your plants, it's probably time to take a serious look at the growing conditions you're offering them. Start by spreading 3-4 inches of compost, aged manure, or other organic matter over the planting beds and digging it in to a depth of 6-8 inches. Organic matter will loosen the soil, help it retain moisture, and will release nutrients as it decomposes. When you plant, make sure each plant gets the correct exposure to the sun. For instance, hollyhocks and sunflowers need direct sunlight all day; Delphiniums and Columbines can get by with some partial shade. Choose your plants carefully so they'll be happy in the growing conditions you offer. After planting, water well, and remenber to provide about an inch of water per week to your plants. You can mulch with compost to keep weeds down. As you water, some of the nutrients from the compost will trickle down into the soil where the roots can utilize them. Following the above guidelines will help you turn your black thumb to emerald green!

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