Purple Hopseed Bushes will not grow - Knowledgebase Question

Peoria, AZ
Question by csmith375
November 7, 2005
I have 3 hopseed bushes that will not grow. One has already been replaced. All 3 look like they are borderline dead. I have tried fertilizer and it doesn't seem to be helping. I do live in the desert but all other plants are doing fine so I don't believe it is the soil. The plants were recommended and are on the community plant list. There are other hopseeds in the community that look fine. These were planted during the summer months by the landscape company. Any suggestions. Thanks.

Answer from NGA
November 7, 2005


If you've already replaced one of the hopseed bushes, there's something wrong - either with the soil or with the watering techniques. It can be stressful for even desert-adapted plants to be planted at the beginning of summer and establish root systems during the heat. I'll provide you with some basics of watering below: Desert soil and water both contain salts, which can accumulate in the root zone over time. This salt buildup forms where the water stops penetrating. If you ?sprinkle? plants lightly and frequently or run drip irrigation for short periods, the root ball doesn?t get moistened. Salts will build up in the top layers of soil and damage or kill your plant. Salt burn often shows up first as browning leaves. Deep watering?or leaching?prevents this by flushing the salts past the root zone. It's essential that you allow your drip system (or hose) to run long enough for water to penetrate the appropriate depth. Depending on the size emitters, soil type, etc. this might take several hours or even 10 hours. You can reduce the time you run the system by putting on extra emitters or changing to emitters with higher gallon/hour flow rates. For trees, water should soak 3 feet deep, for shrubs 2 feet, and for annuals, perennials, cacti and succulents, 1 foot.

If you don't know how far the water is penetrating, use a soil probe (any long, pointed piece of metal or wood to poke into the soil) to check how far water has penetrated. The probe moves easily through moist soil, but stops when it hits hard dry soil.

Here are some watering guidelines for establishing desert-adapted plants from Desert Landscaping for Beginners, published by Arizona Master Gardener Press. Weeks Since Planting 1-2, water every 1-2 days; Weeks 3-4, water every 3-4 days; weeks 5-6, water every 4-6 days; weeks 7-8, water every 7 days. Gradually extend the watering as plants establish. Note these are guidelines, which will vary depending on your soil type, microclimate, etc.

Here are some other possibilities to consider when 2 or more of the same species planted in the same area and supposedly receiving the same care respond so differently. One may have good drainage and the other have poor drainage. One could be getting more water than the other. The soil could be compacted where one is located. There could be construction debris under one, inhibiting root growth. One could have been root bound when planted so the roots continue wrapping around themselves, inhibiting growth. Did the roots dry out before transplanting? Was there any damage to the roots? Has there been any construction activity near the plant? Heavy equipment compacts the soil and can damage roots. Have you applied any weed killer nearby? Any chemical drift from the neighborhood? Transplant shock is a possibility. Sometimes one plant is just not as healthy as another. Hopbush is not susceptible to much in the way of disease or insect problems, but you might want to take a sample back to the nursery to see if they can diagnose something in particular. Good luck!

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