There is so much information on the web and some of it is contradictory. How can one know what to believe? This is a truly difficult question – whether we are talking about plants or anything else. As an example consider these two videos on planting native plants. The first video, by the Palos Verdes Land Conservancy, runs less than two minutes and provides some planting basics. Though short and catchy, I found myself questioning quite a few practices, including:
- They do not let you know that the new plant must be thoroughly watered before planting. The plant and the soil should be well hydrated.
- I think they planted too deep, though they suggested that the crown (place where stem goes up and roots go down) should be level with surrounding ground. Planting too deep is a common reason for new plant failure.
- The planting hole and surrounding soil is bone dry. It should be moistened before planting. The dry surrounding soil will suck the water out from the root ball. This is a critical step.
- They did not roughen the root ball at all. Unless the plant has very delicate or brittle roots, I loosen the soil of the root ball on the outer surface. This untangles roots that may have started curling around the pot and it gives you a chance to examine the root ball a bit to make sure it isn’t overly pot bound or diseased.
- I like the way they put the surrounding soil back around the root ball, firmly but gently pressing it in.
- The hose was set up to drip water into the planting hole. It would be better to set up a sprinkler or hold a hose with a gentle spray to moisten the hole and the surrounding soil (see #3 above). The soil below and around the planting hole must be moist.
- I think the new mulch placed around the plant looks odd. There is weathered mulch on the site and I would have just used that. Also note that it is important to keep the mulch away from the crown (stem) of the plant. This area is susceptible to rot and so it should be kept clear and as dry as possible.
Here’s the link:
Mike Evans from Tree of Life Nursery put up a 4-part video series on planting and watering new California native plants. This very informative set of short videos demonstrates how to dig the hole, plant the plant, water it in, and follow-up water several weeks (yes, weeks!) later. My only minor, and I mean very minor, caveat on this video is that Mike uses backfill beneath the plant. He emphasizes the importance of planting so the crown does not sink too low, but for beginners, if they use too much backfill and don’t pack it down well and get the placement just right, the plant may subside with time. I have spoken with Mike and he agrees that for beginners it may be simpler to instruct them not to backfill the hole. We both agree on the desired result – plant high enough so that the crown is roughly at ground level: Not too high in which case the upper roots may get damaged or dried out, nor too low, subjecting the plant to possible crown rot. Mike makes a point of reminding gardeners to plant and water so that the crown of the plant is not exposed to warm, moist conditions. Because planting and initial watering is so critical to successful gardening, Mike takes the time to carefully describe each step, including the reasons for doing them. Learn and enjoy!
To summarize, be careful about the information you get from the web. Check several sources and remember that very short instructions might leave out some important information.
This is the best time of year to be planting native plants. Save water by taking advantage of natural rainfall, planting after the garden has received some deep water, and hopefully will be receiving more. Happy planting!