Xeriscaping forum→Establishing landscape plants

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Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
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Baja_Costero
Sep 9, 2019 12:04 PM CST
Please share how you might go about establishing xeriscapic plants, so as to gear them up for maximum drought tolerance.

I am using the word "establish" in the way some plant tags advertise that plants are "drought tolerant when established"... the landscape sense. I'm curious about how your approach might differ from my own, and how that might relate to your climate and the plants we choose.

My plants are almost all succulents and xerophytic plants. I prefer to start with a 3 gallon size plant. Our soil drains very fast and does not hold water, so I do mix some extra compost into the hole. We get 70% of our 10" annual rainfall in the winter and 0% of it in the summer. I water well but not particularly deeply.

The short answer to my original question: I water new installations every week or so through their first year or two, specifically up until their second rainy season. At that point I might relax to watering every 2-4 weeks, or stop watering completely. The drought tolerant plants become zero water plants at that point, or I might continue watering every 2-4 weeks if I don't want them looking too scrappy.

Your approach to watering while you're waiting for new plants to get properly settled in? I'm all ears!
Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
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dirtdorphins
Sep 9, 2019 10:02 PM CST
Approximately the same...watering periodically the first few seasons, decreasing frequency over time...

I like to plant and transplant in the fall because the plants can concentrate on root development in cooler weather rather than top growth, until winter settles in. Soil stays warmer than the air for quite some time. (Here we do have a proper winter, with the bulk of our annual precip falling as snow, so winter is not our growing season.) I find that they are much better suited for dealing with the following summer with this 'head start', so to speak, as compared to a plant installed in the spring trying to establish roots and grow and survive summer, which is hot and dry.

I'm also not adverse to planting tiny things--seeds, seedlings, 2 and 4 inch pots, and the like if I've got a suitable competition free, quasi protected area -- my rationale is that young plants are really quite vigorous in establishing themselves and will send their roots where they need to be quite readily, whereas larger potted plants sometimes seem to resent giving up their confines and venturing out of that comfort zone they are so accustomed to...
A lot depends on the plant, too, naturally, but just for example, an unwanted tree sapling grown from a seed is waaaay harder to remove than a comparably sized sapling planted from a 3 gallon pot with two or three years in the ground.
Name: Daniel Erdy
Catawba SC (Zone 7b)
Pollen collector Fruit Growers Permaculture Hybridizer Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener
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ediblelandscapingsc
Sep 9, 2019 10:27 PM CST
Looks like folks in SC are going to have to start xeriscaping before too long. In my part of SC we have only seen about 1 inch of rain since late May. The trees in the forest are dropping leaves already and the threat of fire lingers. Last year was bad but this year is one for the record books.
@Baja_Costero winter is our rainy season also, how do prevent your plants from rotting during winter?
­čî┐A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered­čî┐
Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Region: Utah Bee Lover Garden Photography Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Photo Contest Winner: 2014
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dirtdorphins
Sep 10, 2019 7:11 AM CST
Baja_Costero said:
Our soil drains very fast and does not hold water, so I do mix some extra compost into the hole. We get 70% of our 10" annual rainfall in the winter and 0% of it in the summer.


I'm thinking that free draining soil with 7-10" rain in the 'wet' season is probably not all that risky for rot...
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
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Baja_Costero
Sep 10, 2019 9:33 AM CST
Yes. Also, our winter temperatures do not dip below 46┬░F at night, and always make it up into the 60s during the day.
Name: Daniel Erdy
Catawba SC (Zone 7b)
Pollen collector Fruit Growers Permaculture Hybridizer Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener
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ediblelandscapingsc
Sep 10, 2019 10:45 AM CST
Good point, so for anyone with clay soil amending the soil for improved drainge is vital for overwintering xeriscaping plants I take it or would you not recommend xeriscaping plants in areas with clay soils period?
­čî┐A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered­čî┐
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Sep 10, 2019 12:12 PM CST
Xeriscape means different plants in different areas...

In South Carolina, planting native plants natural to the area... would solve the problem of winter rain...

Xeriscape means that we don't have to provide supplemental water... different areas of the country get different amounts of natural water.

What kind of xeriscape plantings are you looking for in SC, Daniel?

There are a number of plants that would thrive in clay...
[Last edited by stone - Sep 10, 2019 12:13 PM (+)]
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Name: Daniel Erdy
Catawba SC (Zone 7b)
Pollen collector Fruit Growers Permaculture Hybridizer Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener
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ediblelandscapingsc
Sep 10, 2019 12:28 PM CST
I want plants that look like they belong in a desert but still do well in clay. I do grow a few natives but I'm not a super huge fan of natives. I like things in the garden that make me forget I'm in SC if you know what I mean. Sticking tongue out
­čî┐A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered­čî┐
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Sep 10, 2019 12:40 PM CST
Hmmm...
How much shade do you get?
What kind of clay?
The red clay hills kind or the real sticky kind?

Have you tried Opuntia cacti?

Grows very well here... there's the small kind that is everywhere, and the giant kind that is easily had.... just grab a pad off a bush or wait till a real cold spell, and then grab a section that relaxed to the point of laying on the ground...

I guess that you could plant Kniphofia...

I'd rather plant bright colours... like miss huff lantana, and malvaviscus arboreus and ruellia elegans and hot lips salvia microphylla... which all do fine (in our area) with no water, and should do fine in clay as well as sand.

Also... cannas and flowering gingers... which love clay soils...
Name: Daniel Erdy
Catawba SC (Zone 7b)
Pollen collector Fruit Growers Permaculture Hybridizer Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener
Daylilies Region: South Carolina Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Photography Herbs Region: United States of America
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ediblelandscapingsc
Sep 10, 2019 12:54 PM CST
I grow cannas and Opuntia but cannas can not deal with our drought they look horrible right now. our clay soil is the sticky red stuff that when wet will add 20lbs to your boots and when dry turns I to a brick. I don't think many of our native plants are equipped to handle a drought of this extent. When I took the kids to school this morning almost every tree I passed was yellow and even roadside weeds in the ditches are drying up. One good thing is I have not gotten bit by any mosquitoes in almost 2 months.
­čî┐A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered­čî┐
Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Region: Utah Bee Lover Garden Photography Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Photo Contest Winner: 2014
Photo Contest Winner: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016 Photo Contest Winner 2018 Photo Contest Winner 2019 Photo Contest Winner 2020 Photo Contest Winner 2021
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dirtdorphins
Sep 10, 2019 6:41 PM CST
Oh Daniel I feel for ya--there are not many plants that tolerate the heavy wet sticky stuff part of the year and dried out brick soil the rest of the year. Here we have alkaline silt/clay loam and it's a challenge too. We don't generally have a long wet season though, just a couple of weeks when the snow melts.
And, I also have a garden full of stuff that helps me forget that I'm in UT Hilarious!

Here's a couple links for ideas of 'waterwise' plants for clay soil and tips
http://mgsantaclara.ucanr.edu/...
https://www.highcountrygardens...
https://www.wildflower.org/exp...
https://www.finegardening.com/...
Name: Daniel Erdy
Catawba SC (Zone 7b)
Pollen collector Fruit Growers Permaculture Hybridizer Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener
Daylilies Region: South Carolina Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Photography Herbs Region: United States of America
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ediblelandscapingsc
Sep 10, 2019 8:58 PM CST
Thanks and I'm sorry Baja for hijacking your thread *Blush*
I will check those links now Thumbs up
­čî┐A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered­čî┐
Name: Baja
Baja California (Zone 11b)
Cactus and Succulents Seed Starter Foliage Fan Xeriscape Container Gardener Hummingbirder
Native Plants and Wildflowers Garden Photography Region: Mexico Plant Identifier Forum moderator Plant Database Moderator
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Baja_Costero
Sep 10, 2019 9:23 PM CST
Not a problem, Daniel. Smiling I can't give any useful advice because my experience is in another climate, with different soil, and different plants. I was glad to see Stone and Dirt had some tips for you.

I would still be curious to hear other folks' experience relating to establishing newly installed plants for the purpose of drought tolerance. How long does it take for a good sized (but not extra large) plant? How much do different plants vary in this respect? How many corners can you cut? Do you choose a particular season, like Dirt and me? (Fall is my preferred time too, because it immediately precedes our rainy season.)
Name: Eric
Wisconsin (Zone 4b)
Cactus and Succulents Plant and/or Seed Trader
Hallow
Sep 11, 2019 9:21 AM CST
ediblelandscapingsc said:I want plants that look like they belong in a desert but still do well in clay. I do grow a few natives but I'm not a super huge fan of natives. I like things in the garden that make me forget I'm in SC if you know what I mean. Sticking tongue out


What type of plants are you looking for? In my area I have to deal with both clay and sand. There's no in-between lol. Here we have basically 2 wet cool and dark seasons. Early spring and late fall. You can have "natives" that don't look like natives. I am a lazy gardener but it's gotta look good. nodding
Name: Eric
Wisconsin (Zone 4b)
Cactus and Succulents Plant and/or Seed Trader
Hallow
Sep 11, 2019 9:35 AM CST
Baja_Costero said:Not a problem, Daniel. Smiling I can't give any useful advice because my experience is in another climate, with different soil, and different plants. I was glad to see Stone and Dirt had some tips for you.

I would still be curious to hear other folks' experience relating to establishing newly installed plants for the purpose of drought tolerance. How long does it take for a good sized (but not extra large) plant? How much do different plants vary in this respect? How many corners can you cut? Do you choose a particular season, like Dirt and me? (Fall is my preferred time too, because it immediately precedes our rainy season.)


I know my climate is way different than yours. But I like to give 2 years for a plant to reach it's full potential. But is really depends on the vigor of the type of plant itself. If you use fertilizer stay away from nitrogen based, if I remember correctly potassium builds roots and overall plant resistance. I would use a fertilizer with the highest potassium numbers. Like a 3-20-20. That will help with root growth and overall plant toughness
[Last edited by Hallow - Sep 11, 2019 9:40 AM (+)]
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Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Sep 11, 2019 1:31 PM CST
ediblelandscapingsc said:I grow cannas and Opuntia but cannas can not deal with our drought they look horrible right now.

our clay soil is the sticky red stuff that when wet will add 20lbs to your boots and when dry turns I to a brick. I don't think many of our native plants are equipped to handle a drought of this extent. When I took the kids to school this morning almost every tree I passed was yellow and even roadside weeds in the ditches are drying up. One good thing is I have not gotten bit by any mosquitoes in almost 2 months.

While the cannas look poor.... they do not die.
For me, when a plant can survive stress... that's all I ask... they aren't expected to look like magazine photographs when it doesn't rain.

I used to have a patch of kaolin in my previous garden... and after adding plenty of horse poop... the cannas positively thrived!

Was walking around the garden this morning, looking for plants that would thrive in clay... plants that I can barely keep alive in the sand... but were fantastic in the clay... No matter how dry it was...

try... swamp hibiscus, swamp sunflower, jerusalem artichoke, vernonia altissima, rudbeckia laciniata...

also try sea oats, smallanthus uvedalius, centrosema virginianum, Clitoria mariana, ipomoea pandurata, datura inoxia, 4 o'clock, Verbena rigida...

also... annuals like cypress vine, moonflower, orange cosmos, calico pepper, Cucumis anguria, Croton capitatus...

How about beauty berry? How about bluestem grass?

if you have shade... maybe try Acalypha hispida...

Thumb of 2019-09-11/stone/8c20f1
Acalypha hispida not happy in the sand, but doesn't die...

Thumb of 2019-09-11/stone/d950bf
Cucumis anguria... spiny cucumber, I made pickles last week...

Thumb of 2019-09-11/stone/741708
Beautyberry bush.

Thumb of 2019-09-11/stone/182101
These calico peppers self sowed in my previous garden... also in the clay in Macon... they don't come back in the sand...

Ok, I took a bunch of great pictures this morning... but you get the idea... the right plants do not need supplemental watering.... they may wilt when when it heats up... but usually look good in the AM.

re: when to plant?

Usually when I pull them for weeds in town...
Good possibilities usually thrive in the weed patch that most of us have in an unobserved corner...
The trick is simply encouraging likely possibilities.

Of course... there are select plants at my house that have proved impossible to divide, or grow from seed, or any other propagation effort in spite of when I've attempted.
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Sep 12, 2019 5:27 AM CST
I forgot to mention....
Verbesina, spiderwort, rose of Sharon, vitex...

Hmm... how about coming to my house and digging up some yucca?
Real PIA... Walk near it, get stabbed.

Absolutely tons of stuff for the east coast...

Out west... We're pretty much stuck with cactus and succulents...
Of course, a yard full of hen and chicks is attractive...

Maybe a nice Joshua tree?
Name: Daniel Erdy
Catawba SC (Zone 7b)
Pollen collector Fruit Growers Permaculture Hybridizer Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener
Daylilies Region: South Carolina Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Photography Herbs Region: United States of America
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ediblelandscapingsc
Sep 12, 2019 9:35 AM CST
Hen and chicks don't really like our heat in SC. I have about 100 left from 200 varities over the years. I agree my yuccas are unfazed by the drought but my rose of Sharon, vitex, and hardy hibiscus all had to get supplemental water this year. I grow several differnt named jerusalem artichokes in 30 gallon pots but they get watered every evening with all my other potted plants. I have 5 sprinklers on 14 ft tall 4x4s that spray for 90 minutes each for all my potted plants but I have about 3000 potted plants so its the only way I'd have time to water that many. Thanks again for all the suggestions I will look into the others for sure. Thank You!
­čî┐A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered­čî┐
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Sep 13, 2019 6:44 AM CST
Yeah, I've never been able to grow hen and chicks in ga.

I can't believe that you are dumping water on the stuff that I grow without ANY supplemental water...

You are going to need to tear a page out of my notebook... Just find a source of manure/compost that will allow you to carry it away by the truckload....

As you like the western plants... Try agave... I can't hardly grow it in the sand, but it loves clay... If you can get a good patch going... Maybe you could even harvest it for syrup...

Suggest apios Americana. Can't hardly grow it in the Sand... But a good clay plant. Also try various mateleas. And... Asclepias tuberosa.

Edit:
Don't be afraid to use a LOT of manure.
When I was in the clay, I went down the beds and dumped it in overlapping wheelbarrow loads and dug it in... And then top-dressed with more.

In the sand.... I was backing up the pickup and emptying it out in overlapping piles...

The thing is... With the sawdust and wood shavings in the horse poop (around here), it is less about fertilizer, and more about soil conditioning and moisture retention and when spread on top of the beds.... Weed prevention.

Edit:
Check the manure piles behind the frozen mustard greens 2 winters ago.

Thumb of 2019-09-13/stone/2140f3
[Last edited by stone - Sep 13, 2019 7:20 AM (+)]
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Name: Daniel Erdy
Catawba SC (Zone 7b)
Pollen collector Fruit Growers Permaculture Hybridizer Plant and/or Seed Trader Organic Gardener
Daylilies Region: South Carolina Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Photography Herbs Region: United States of America
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ediblelandscapingsc
Sep 13, 2019 7:15 AM CST
I have apios Americana from Dr. Blackmons breeding program at LSU
Thumb of 2019-09-13/ediblelandscapingsc/c3f566

­čî┐A weed is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered­čî┐

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