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Careful Planting of Nursery Plants

By clintbrown
June 4, 2012

When you purchase plants at Lowe's or other big box stores, they often are potted in potting mix that consists of mostly bark. If you don't remove some of this before planting out, the plants often will die a slow, painful death.

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Name: Evan
Pioneer Valley south, MA, USA (Zone 6a)
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Jun 3, 2012 7:34 PM CST

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Clint offered this advice after I described my wilt problems with a new Echinacea purchased at a local nursery. I dug it up and sure enough the potting mix had a lot of small wood chips in it. After a quick shake, replanting and about a week later the wilting problem has pretty much gone away. Thanks for this advice Clint. Thumbs up
[Last edited by eclayne - Jun 4, 2012 10:40 AM (+)]
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Name: Susie
Phoenix AZ (Zone 9a)
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Jun 3, 2012 9:39 PM CST
I read just yesterday that using wood chip mulch in the garden is OK at first but soon, with watering, it will mat like cardboard and prevent water from quickly seeping into the depth/roots.
“Don't give up too quickly"... unknown, I heard it somewhere.
Name: Joy Wooldridge
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Jun 4, 2012 1:17 AM CST
Well, This explains some things. Thank you for this article.
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Name: Speedie
Southern Maryland (Zone 7a)
Jun 4, 2012 3:05 AM CST
I had never heard this before, and I work at a nursery! Blinking I don't recall seeing any bark mulch down in the pots of stuff I bring home from work, but if I should ever bring anything home from somewhere else (a big box store?? The thought makes me giggle), I'll be sure to do this, and I'll remember to share this with my customers too, thank you very kindly. Thumbs up
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Name: Marilyn
Kentucky (Zone 6a)
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Jun 4, 2012 3:06 AM CST
Thanks Clint for this info! I tip my hat to you. Hurray! Thumbs up

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Name: Clint Brown
Medina, TN (Zone 7b)
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Jun 4, 2012 7:41 AM CST
Thanks. I bought some Phlox and Veronica at Lowes last week that were in the pure bark stuff. If you don't water almost every day they wilt. I hate it because it is so easy to lose plants that started out in it. I learned this the hard way. I had a few plants that died. I removed them and saw how dry the bark was.
Name: Melissa E. Keyes
St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Zone 11+
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Jun 4, 2012 8:20 AM CST
Something along the same line, here's a photo of an Adenium that I'd dug from a moving-away neighbor's yard. On a rather steep slope, I was afraid, before I started that the plant had sent it's roots down many feet in the three years it'd been in the ground.

The "soil" was just like the clay ceramics people use to make pots, solid and sticky. The friend had dug the hole, and put the potted plant in. With lots of rain, the plant couldn't use the water, so sat in a bowl of water! The caudex had not developed, but there were lots of feeder roots. I was able to wash the plant out of the ground, I wound up with the hose running, and digging with my fingers.

The puddle in the photo didn't drain before I left, in more than an hour!

Lesson? Plants' roots can't always penetrate the ground they're in. Another trick is to cover the new plant's potting mix with just a little soil, or mulch, as it can dry completely out, while the surrounding soil is quite moist.

Thanks for this tip, Clint!!!

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Name: Monica
Texas Gulf Coast (Zone 9b)
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Jun 4, 2012 8:21 AM CST
I agree

I always remove most of the planting medium, bark or peat. Actually prefer bark as it's easier to remove with less root disturbance than peat. Every shrub and a few perennials I've purchased in the last few years, big box or local nursery, is in a bark medium.
Name: Marilyn
Greenwood Village, CO (Zone 5b)
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Jun 4, 2012 9:29 AM CST

I really think that explains why some of my plants have died an early death. I will be very careful to check that in the future. Love that this site gives such practical information. Hurray!

Thanks for sharing!!! Thumbs up
Name: Jean
Hot Springs Vlg, AR, DeLand, F
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Jun 4, 2012 5:38 PM CST
Thanks so much for this advice. Thumbs up
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Name: Rick Corey
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Aug 21, 2013 6:56 PM CST
>> I read just yesterday that using wood chip mulch in the garden is OK at first but soon, with watering, it will mat like cardboard and prevent water from quickly seeping into the depth/roots.

My theory, FWIW, is that that applies mostly to fine shavings, very small chips, and mixes with sawdust.

Those can mat down and interfere with water penetrating. Or (sawdust) absorb so much water that only the very heaviest rain can saturate it and reach the soil, at all!

But coarse wood chips on top of the soil are great for several years. When big chips start disintegrating, it's time to use them for pathways or feed them to the compost heap.

P.S. Nothing used as top mulch can cause nitrogen deficit in the root zone. No matter how much some fungus or bacterium wants to digest the wood it is clinging to, it can't suck N up from the depths. At the most, it might deplete N in the very top 1 mm of soil.

No problem.
[Last edited by RickCorey - May 16, 2014 10:29 AM (+)]
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Missouri (Zone 6a)
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Nov 14, 2013 9:20 PM CST
I do this when I plant trees also, shrubs, just about anything gets shook down to the bare roots and then I mix what I shook out with the soil I dug out of the hole and then plant it with the mixture.

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