Native Lupinus question

slowjane CA/ Sunset 21July 1, 2014

I've been landscaping my small front yard with CA natives from Theodore Payne - all planted last winter, watered in to establish them though now I am trying to take the cue from each plant to see how much water they're wanting as they come in - one that seems to be struggling particularly is my silver lupine. It's in full sun during the summer - in winter this area gets a lot of shade (very tricky to figure out plants that can handle this seasonal change.) As you all know, we got (almost) no rain this winter.

It looks like the leaves are sunburned to me - and they're very closed up - not open like pictures I've seen. Is it just going dormant in the heat? Any advice would be great!!

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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I haven't grown that plant, but that looks like drought damage. I would expect an established plant to be happy with a half inch of water during the monthvof July in the basin. A younger plant will need more of course.

Do you have a small soil core tool? They are invaluable when you are learning to walk the line of minimal watering.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 12:41AM
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slowjane CA/ Sunset 21

thanks nil13 - i dont' have a soil core tool but seems useful! is it something i can find at home depot or where would you recommend looking?

one question about that though - would you risk damaging roots with it? i guess natives should mostly have really deep roots though - and if mine have shallow roots i'm doing it wrong. ;)

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 12:47PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

You can find the tool at Ewing Irrigation or online. They aren't cheap but worth it imo. They make a hole about an inch in diameter so not too damaging.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 3:52PM
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Shorty_CA(10B CA)

While you're looking into a soil core tool, this plant is telling you it needs more water.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 5:52PM
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slowjane CA/ Sunset 21

Yes, I gave a deep watering yesterday - hoping it will help. It's really tricky to figure out how much to water these plants this first summer... They are all low water plants but I know they need a little extra help the first year.

What I did yesterday is use my 32oz yogurt container with pinholes in the bottom to water it several inches from the base of the plant - filling it up 4 times over a couple of hours. So a gallon total. I have a hard time understanding what "an inch: of water would mean in this case - each plant has a berm about 18" wide around the base. 1 inch in that berm doesn't seem like enough. And obviously I don't want to water the entire yard - seems a waste of water and also will bring up weeds.

Does that seem like a good strategy?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 8:53PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

Here is agood place to start regarding learning about irrigation. You can find the reference evaporotranspiration rates (ET0) for your area. That lupine is listed in the Perry book as requiring low water in the winter and very low water in the summer (est. Plants). What that means is that in the winter you want to put down about 25% of ET0 and in the summer you want to put down about 10% of ET0. The December ET0 for LA is about 1 inch so the plant would need about a quarter inch over the month which should happen naturally. In July the ET0 is about 6 inches so the plant would need about .6 inches over the month.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cimis

This post was edited by nil13 on Wed, Jul 2, 14 at 21:38

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 9:21PM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

I'm not a big fan of just watering in the wells. Especially if you have sandy soil. You end up with a narrow column of water that goes past the root zone very quickly and is wasted. I prefer to water the entire planting area. You want not only deep roots, but also wide roots. If you just water in the well the plant will have a hard time breaking out sideways into the native soil because it will be dry. Roots don't actively seek out water like some people believe. Roots grow wherever conditions allow them to grow. So if you have a zone of dry soil between a plant and a zone of wet soil, the roots won't go through the zone of dry soil to the zone of wet soil. Now if you have wide and deep zone of moist soil, the roots will grow out and down as far as they are able. The problem that people try to void with deep watering is a shallow band of moist soil that disappears before it can work its way down the soil column. Ideally, you want to maintain that whole soil column in a state of just barely moist for those drought tolerant plants while establishing them. That will encourage a good solid deep and wide root structure.

Also, be careful that the container medium that the plant came in isn't getting super dry compared to the native soil around it. That is a common problem when people try to minimally water not yet established drought tolerant plantings.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 9:35PM
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slowjane CA/ Sunset 21

Thanks for all the great information nil13!

I guess I was thinking that if you do really deep watering around the "drip" line of the plant, which would be about where my wells are, it would encourage deeper roots - but I didn't realize you also want wider roots. I haven't gotten it all planted yet, so there is quite a bit of space between plants still. I wanted to see what would withstand the winter shade/summer full sun conditions of the front yard.

The Black Heart Mallow has done great - it's huge and seems decently happy, the two Ceanothus centennials croaked when it got hot/sunny, the tall Ceanothus "Siempre Blue" tree in the middle has also done really well so far. The silver carpet sandasters are hanging on - the one on the right has been shaded somewhat by the annual wildflowers (clarkia amoena mostly) that I've just pulled up, while the one is full sun seems somewhat stunted (or just going dormant?). The Red buckwheat and moss landing buckwheat are doing well and blooming now.

Would you recommend putting a sprinkler over the whole area to water between all the plants deeply? I'm not sure what to make of .6 inch of water over a month. I guess I was hoping to avoid weeding in all the dead spaces.... Or what about widening the berms around each plant now that they're larger? What if I made them more like 30" wide?

I need to put down more mulch also as it has thinned out since the fall....but I know you don't want to mulch right around the base of native plants....?

Thanks for all your expertise!!! I am such a newbie - but the long term idea for this area is that it is very low water, low maintenance in the future....;)

    Bookmark   July 2, 2014 at 10:35PM
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Interesting points made here but one question: what kind of soil have you planted the natives into?
I have the belief that natives need as much soil aeration as water in order to grow well. So working on a clayey soil I got a load of pea gravel and worked it into a section of my yard to at least a depth of 3 feet at a rough percentage of 50% gravel to 50% clayey soil.
At one time I had a fine looking plant of Salvia apiana growing in it until people started breaking off pieces to supposedly use in rituals so I took it out.
Currently the area is supporting a great growth of Lavatera besides Agapanthus.
I try to water weekly, hoping to broadcast about an inch of water over all. Water percolates rapidly into the soil.
While natives may be supposedly drought tolerant only the succulent species manage without substantial watering. Natives that are drought tolerant are so but that observation is based upon the species receiving a minimal amount of water throughout the year.
Understanding the soil dynamics of your growing area will help you make the best choices as to the frequency of a watering scheme.
Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Some advice on growing natives

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 5:14AM
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nil13(z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Washington))

To be any more specific about this we need to know your soil composition. Perform the test linked below and let us know.

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil structure test

    Bookmark   July 4, 2014 at 2:02PM
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