So why isn't that plant growing?
Whatever the plant, usually we have put some time, effort or money into it, and when it does not thrive where it is, we question why it is not doing well. Some questions we may ask are the following:
Is this a plant that loves sun and is getting too much shade?
Is this a shade plant that is receiving too much sun?
Is it planted too deep or is it sitting too close to the surface of the soil?
Is the soil it is planted in fertile and well-drained?
Is it getting enough moisture, or is it competing with roots from larger plantings?
Plants that love the sun are those which can withstand the hot summer afternoon sun, and often times the wind. If a plant was just watered in the morning and usually by afternoon looks wilted, wind blown and exhausted, it is probably not in the right location. Be sure to always read plant labels whenever you select plants, especially when they are for the south and west side of your home. However, most plants do better if they have at least some protection from the summer's hot afternoon sun, for a couple hours at least.
Some annuals that have proven themselves to be sun-lovers are: geraniums, petunias, dahlias, sanvitalia, coreopsis (daisies), salvia, marigolds, zinnias and candycorn plant.
Some perennials are: peony, day lilies, Asia and Oriental lilies, butterfly weed, Echinacea (coneflower), rudbeckia (type of daisy) Iris and phlox.
Succulents are a great choice for the south and west sides of our home. They have a lot of personality with their varied shapes, colors and textures. They make great container plantings and we are seeing more varieties of succulents available each year. While you have to protect many of them during the winter months, some like the reliable hen and chicks, and most varieties of sedum can survive our zone 3 winters and add color, texture and interest to our winter landscape.
Another choice for these hot areas are shrubs such as junipers. These low growing shrubs evolved in regions with low rainfall, poor soil conditions, and extreme temperatures. That is why they are considered a rugged shrub which seems to thrive on neglect. If you choose shrubs you need to put down landscape cloth or four layers of newspaper and cover the area around the shrub with four inches of mulch, being sure to pull back the mulch four inches around the stem of the shrub.
If you are doing a container garden it should be deep so it can hold a good amount of potting mixture. A good mixture is two parts peat moss (to absorb water), one part perlite or vermiculite (to aerate the soil), and one part potting soil. The container must have a drain hole, because roots which stand in water will rot quickly. It is important that containers get adequate water and are fertilized once a week with a half strength solution of plant fertilizer like Miracle Gro.
If you have tried different plants around your house and have had little success, it may be the fertility of the soil around your house. The soil immediately around the base of a house is building site soil, which was often mixed with clay and subsoil when the house was built, and was also compacted very solid during the construction of the house. It may be advantageous if the soil is worked up and compost, peat moss, some rich potting soil, well rotted manure and 10-10-10 fertilizer are added to the soil mixture. This would improve the soil by loosening and aerating it, and adding structure and water holding capacity.
Plants need a lot of care. They need to be deadheaded, pinched, pruned and cut back. Deadheading is important so that no seed head is formed. Then the energy in the perennial after blooming will go back down into the root system to restore the plant for winter and the years ahead. Annuals also need to be deadheaded to make them continue to bloom all season. Because they too will form seed heads and quit blooming as their life cycle is complete.
So if a plant is not doing well, try to consider why it is not thriving. It may benefit from being moved. Most perennials (with the exception of peonies and tap root plants) benefit from being divided every 3 to 4 years if they are going to continue to do well.
Kyle Schulz is a Wadena County Master Gardener from Sebeka, and the regular gardening columnist for the Wadena Pioneer Journal.