That is a good one along with “it is struggling” or “It just died”. I always cringe when I hear those comments in regards to plants. It is important to me because I grow plants because I like the thought that it may enhance the lives of people, I want the plants to grow and become a beautiful part of their landscape. And I know the problem, it is water! But some people just don’t want to believe it is that simple. They think of plants as mysterious, difficult and easy to fail. They aren’t! Most of the time when they die it is because they dried up!. There is no inherent problem with plants, some issue just waiting for a person to buy the plant and take it home. It is the way people water. I have seen it so many times,from the person standing 20 feet away spraying water on the plants with a hose to having their shrubs watered with the lawn sprinklers. And the water problem is related to the soil, usually with it’s own issues. Most residential property has had it’s topsoil removed and/or compacted so the drainage becomes an issue. Heavy soil(clay type) can be a problem although it is some of the most productive soil in the world when handled properly.
The first thing to understand is nursery soil is fast draining. If you keep your plants you have just received in their containers you have to water them. If it is anything except cold winter weather, that means everyday. And when you water, WATER THEM, numerous times, not just a sprinkle! When you are done pick up a plant, you can usually tell if it is wet by the weight, and then feel the soil. Broad leaf plants will always give you a second chance, don’t assume they are dead, you just let them dry out. Water them and they will send out new growth in a week or so! When a plant is dry it will “wilt” , shrubs will show it with the new growth drooping, lawns develop dull almost grey patches. You can plant sunflowers here and there in your landscape as they show wilt earlier than most plants. When you plant make sure the root ball is wet and after you plant put a “basin” around the plant to fill it with water. Never plant the top of the root ball below the level of the surrounding soil. If you have heavy soil, plant it well above. Remember that the potting soil can be dry even if the surrounding soil is wet and if you have heavy soil it can stay too saturated. You want the roots to emerge into the surrounding soil which takes 1-2 weeks. After that you transition into a watering schedule where you give a deep watering ,then allow the soil to dry out between waterings. I keep the plants I sell pruned constantly and if I am sending out plants that need to be pruned, I prune them as they are boxed. If you are planting large plants(overgrown), prune them before you plant and they will do much better. I know, it goes back to the “size” issue, people want their plants big, but believe me, if you prune them they will do better. Gary