Perennial Help - Knowledgebase Question

South Lyon, MI
Question by bowhead1
August 9, 2011
Both my daughter and I planted 3 of the same plants but live in different cities (South Lyon and Westland) and have the same problems with 2 of them. 1) We both planted the Lo & Behold Blue Chip Butterfly bush last year and they were doing great. This year, they were doing great as well and were in full bloom, then one day, the leaves started turning limp and the plant died. One plant had one branch at a time wither up and die. We are stumped on why this would happen. 2) We both planted Hidcote Lavender, and one stem at a time, withered up and died. We both lost all of our lavender for the second time. I bought 2 more plants 2 months ago and still have them in their original containers from the garden store and they are doing great. Once again, I'm stumped as why they do good in the pot but not in the ground. 3) We both planted Jupiter's Beard. Mine is doing great. My daughter's was doing great - 3 feet tall and in full bloom. Then one day, the whole plant died. I looked at the plant, the plant just didn't die, there were no roots! Stumped again! Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.


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Answer from NGA
August 9, 2011

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The problems with your plants seem a little mysterious but I suspect that they are related to heavy, poorly draining soils. Root rot can cause the symptoms you describe and the best approach is to plant your butterfly bushes and your lavender in raised beds or on mounds of soil so you can control the soil drainage. It's important to water these types of plants on a regular basis, but to make sure the soil dries out between waterings. Plants in containers usually fare better than those in the ground because of the drainage holes in the contaienrs. But, the moisture does tend to concentrate at the bottom of the pot so even if the top inch or two of soil is dry to the touch, the roots may still be sitting in soggy soil. I'd prepare a raised bed or a mound or hill of soil by mixing half and half garden soil and potting soil and then planting your drought tolerant lavender and butterfly bush. Water thoroughly but then allow the plants to go without water for 5-7 days. Stick your finger down into the soil. If the top two inches of soil feels dry to the touch, you can thoroughly water your plants. I think this small adjustment in soil prep and in watering practices will make a big difference in the health of your plants. Best wishes with your garden!

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