Kinnikinnik groundcover and plant spacing

tonigFebruary 26, 2010

I am going to be needing some help from all you experienced gardeners on this site now that my husband and I are finally tackling the landscaping around our house. We want to use mostly native plants to cut down on watering and maintenance. I am purchasing 400 kinnikinnik plants in 4' pots. I live on 2 mostly treed acres with gravely well drained soil. Our house sits on a hill and we had many large stones brought in to terrace the front and back areas. On approaching the house there is a sunny slope facing east. On it we have planted red-Flowering currents and a few other shrubs (that the deer have been enjoying). In this open area on the slope we want to plant the kinnikinnik, I think it should very grow well here. I would like to know how close to space the plants when planting. I have read anywhere between 6" and 3 or 4 feet. Can anyone give me a better idea of what would be a good distance apart? Also, because we have very gravely soil with little to no organic matter, should we mix in soil when planting or top dress the area? We have a good layer of very course mulch on the whole area now.

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Closer spacing brings quicker fill, wider spacing allows for large eventual spread of each - and reduces money spent on plants. Take what you have bought already, spread it out over the space and plant.

Mulch after planting, keeping it off the crowns of the plants. Never dig organic matter into a planting hole or bed unless it is going to be replaced periodically, as when growing annual bedding plants or vegetables.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 3:47PM
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Thanks bboy, I will just guess on the spacing then. I read to try to space them far enough apart that they would fill in by the third year. But read also, that kinnikinnik can be slow to start, which lead me to wonder if maybe I should plant closer than I want. I ordered my plants from one of those Oregon wholesaler on craigslist. They are suppose to deliver tomorrow so we will see what they look like. I hope I didn't make a mistake!

When digging holes for planting I always run into several rocks-golf ball to baseball sized. There is never enough dirt left to fill in around the plant. Suggestions?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2010 at 11:58PM
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The kinniks I planted at least 2 feet apart overlapped each other by year 3. Rock garden type soil. There will always be random voids in the planting area due to the uneven spread of individual plants, but 6 or even 12 inches is too close.

Rocks1: Dig a much larger hole than needed and put the large rocks in the bottom of the hole, leaving enough soil left over for the plant.

Rocks2: Accumulate a bunch of soil scraped off the surface over a large area, use this for spare planting hole soil. Do something decorative with excess rocks or donate them.

No need to use Downy fabric softener as the auto-ad over the word d.o.n.a.t.e would suggest.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2010 at 3:18AM
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Well, it Downied over my word on the preview, maybe it will do it at random for someone else.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2010 at 3:21AM
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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

As a general rule you should not amend soil when planting native plants. Assuming you're planting native plants that are locally native, and in an appropriate habitat. Different species have different soil preferences of course, but the common widespread stuff generally does not want any soil amendments.

Kinnickinnik likes very well drained, lean soil. Gravelly soil should be perfect for it as is.

I know what you mean about the rocks! it seems like the rootball of the plant should take up the void left from removing the larger rocks but it doesn't always. Leave the smaller rocks in. They are part of the soil after all. Our soil is naturally rocky and gravelly and the locally native plants depend on that for drainage in our wet winters. It also cuts down on your garden's attractiveness to some weeds that can't take the extreme drainage and leanness of rocky soil ...

Use a mix of a variety of native shrubs and groundcovers. Large areas of one species are not very natural. A mix gives you a longer season of interest too.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2010 at 11:31AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I have planted Kinnikinnik on little mounds and filled the area between plants with a thick layer of mulch because it's slow to fill in and the deep mulch keeps the weeds at bay in the meantime. The rootball in a 4" pot is pretty small so watering this summer until they establish themselves will be very important this first season.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2010 at 12:18PM
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Thank-you everyone for all your suggestions. My craigs list plants came and they look good. I expect them to do very well in our yard. I just have to scrounge some extra "soil" to help fill the planting holes and get them in the ground.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2010 at 11:23PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Same soil texture throughout rooting area, with no pockets of different material around the roots.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2010 at 11:48PM
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drcindy(z8 WA)

Kinniknnik is very slow to fill in, but boy, once it does, it's amazing! I've got some in my front side yard and have had it there several years (at least 5?) and in the past couple years it's totally taken off. It's completely covered all the bare ground and even crowded out the less hardy groundcovers I had there. I think it looks very nice with the pretty pink flowers right now. It also serves as an excellent weed barrier.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2010 at 11:28PM
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Do any of you have pictures of your infill kinnikinnik? I just became aware of the plant (I am not a green-thumb) when browsing shrubs on the King County native plant site. I have an east-facing, very steep hillside that I was thinking they might work on (right now, that has grass that gets too tall because you can't mow, only weed eat it) and black berry vines that volunteer themselves and I pull/cut back regularly, and some filbert). Would this kinnikinnik fill in over time and keep the grass from growing through? Or, would I need to "remove" the grass in some way to keep it from growing through the kinnikinnik? Thank you in advance!

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 6:02PM
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Kirkhall -

Kinnikinnik won't keep grass from growing through. It's too slow growing & I don't think anything really crowds out grass. It either must be removed by smothering or herbicide. I have experience with the smother method.

Smother grass 1st with overlapping layers of cardboard & compost or mulch. If you have enough material you can plant right away on top of the cardboard. If not wait at least 6 months for the grass to die underneath. Then you can plant right through the material & mulch again.

The very steep hillside isn't in your favor for the cardboard, but if you stake it down with pieces of wood it might hold. We did that on a slight slope, but had to keep shoveling the mulch from the bottom to put back on top. Eventually plants rooted well and help hold the mulch. After 6 months the cardboard was gone and the mulch no longer slid down. A year and a half later the plants have established. Our parents are happy about the result, but it was hard bending over working on the slope pulling weeds and transplanting more plants to complete the garden.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 12:33AM
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