Shade plants looking HORRIBLE

liftngwaghtJune 19, 2007

Location: MD

Garden Type: Shade

Sunlight: Partial sun for 3 hours in morning and 3 in afternoon

Soil type: Clay with good quality manure, peat and top soil tilled in

Plants: Astible "Europa", Huechera, Japanese Fern, Japanese Dwarf Maple, Hosta "Patriot"

Now that I have those out of the way.... I planted my first shade garden 4 weeks ago. Tilled the soil 12" deep and mixed clay soil with topsoil, compost and peat. Planted all plants and water heavily the day of for approximately 1 hour. Watered everyday over the next 2 weeks for about an hour each day. Days have been typically 70-90 degrees. I first noticed the Astible leaves were starting to curl and the Hosta leaves were starting to have small cracks. I suspected not enough water so I increased watering. Plants looked worse and worse and now the Astible leaves have all curled and started to turn brown. Hosta leaves are severly cracked and starting to have holes in them. The leaves on the japanese maple are also starting to brown on the tips. I dug a square foot of soil up tonight and the soil didnt seem to moist or too dry. I havent watered for the past 4 days in fear that I was overwatering the plants. I am at my wits end as what to do. Any suggestions? I took several pictures but have been unable to upload them to this site. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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chris_ont(5a Ont)

Yikes, that does look nasty.
My first thought was overwatering, too, but this damage looks weird.
The astilbe might be suffering from transplant shock; they don't really like to be moved. Is the newest growth also affected, or mainly the larger outside leaves? Three hours of afternoon sun might be too much for astilbe, especially new transplants - is this direct sun?

The hostas look like they've actually sustained physical damage. Did they get roughed up during the transplant? They could have sustained thin cracks, and when they grew rapidly, perhaps because of all the water, the cracks got worse. Seems like a long shot - I've never seen damage like that.

I would leave things to take care of themselves at this point unless you see any obvious pests. There is no wilt on the hosta; it'll likely come back just fine next season (this damage will remain for the rest of this one, sorry). I also think the astilbe will recover but be vigilant about overwatering. Astilbe like lots of water but too much of a good thing is NOT a good thing.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 10:33PM
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No they do not look good at all. The picture of the Astible shows the worst off plant. The other "2 Euproas" are starting to curl their leaves in. About an hour of direct sun in the morning and evening....most of the day its all shade.

The plants were taken from Walmart (very good condition) and handled with care from travel to planting. Never roughed. The Hostas were in amazing shape and looked good until just a few days ago when they started cracking severly.

I live in a neighboorhood, no real woods around and I have never seen stray animals, so im not sure about pests.

Any other ideas out there? Thank you Chris for your reply :-)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 9:58AM
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How disappointing for you, after all that hard work.

I do think you are watering too much. Also, did you add a vast quantity of manure? It can burn if too much is added. My only other thought is that maybe 6 hours of sun each day is too much for your shade plants.

I'm certainly no expert, but I do agree with Chris that you should just let things be and watch for improvement. I'm in So. CA with temps in the 80's and up, also probably much less humidity than MD, and I would not think of watering for an hour every day. Wait until you see the soil start to dry out on top a bit, or even longer if your plants look ok (as ok as they are LOL).

Don't get discouraged, you'll get it figured out and have a lovely garden.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 4:57PM
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That damage actually doesn't look absolutely horrible. I had the same problem with a couple of astilbe my mom gave me last year that I divided into too many plants. They limped along through the season, came up this spring & proceeded to die. Astilbe are pickier about being transplanted as may be commonly thought, I think. I know they need a lot of water, but perhaps watering them as much as you have seemed to do was too much. I'm not sure, though, b/c you obviously are in a warmer zone than me.

hostas, too, I've not been that lucky with when transplanting. They don't like too much water; certainly much less than astilbe.

Why am I wandering on? I don't think what happened to you & your plants is fatal. Plants do weird things; I guess that's part of the "joy" of gardening. OK, that doesn't sound encouraging. It was meant to be. Bottom line: it's not you. :-)

    Bookmark   June 20, 2007 at 6:57PM
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I think what you are seeing is primarily transplant shock. I do think it is also exacerbated by not enough water. The leaves on the astilbe and hosta are pretty classic examples of drought stress. It sounds like you did a pretty thorough job on amending your soil, so suspect that you have improved drainage to the point were the water is moving too freely through the soil. If the soil is well draining, it is pretty difficult to deliver TOO MUCH water. And I'd have to ask how you are delivering the water - sprinkler, soaker hose? Water applied directly to the soil at the root zone is preferrable and more efficient than overhead watering.

I'd keep on with the daily deep watering - as long as the drainage appears to be as good as it is. I think a combination of warm tempratures, afternoon sun, recent planting and perhaps not enough water is producing the results you see.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2007 at 10:32AM
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I've been gardening in mostly shade for many many years, and I've had a few challenges. It can be frustrating, but when you figure out what the problem is, and find the solution, it makes it worth it.

I planted a bunch of astilbe under a maple tree and watched them suffer (like yours). I tried giving them lots of water, but they never thrived. After struggling with them for several years, I read that astilbe don't like maple trees. I moved them to a different shade garden (far away from any maples) and they're doing great. If your shade comes from a maple tree, you might want to find a different spot for the astilbe.

The hosta might have been damaged at the store. It should look better next spring.

I would not fertilize your garden. Hostas don't like fertilizer, and it's not a good idea (in general) to fertilize plants that are struggling.

One more thought... How deep is your mulch? I find that any more than 2" can cause problems. ...And the mulch shouldn't actually touch the plant - there should be a few inches of bare soil around the plant.

Don't give up. It sounds like you picked an attractive mix of plants. If you stick with it you should have a lovely garden - it just might take a year or two.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 6:44PM
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Go bucks, I'm glad you mentioned about astilbes not liking maple trees. I was wondering why this year mine finally look happy. We cut down our maple tree last fall! Thanks for the info!

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 8:01PM
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Just an update to everyone. I didn't water the garden for a week after I first posted the topic. I have been watering every 5 days and wow are the plants looking amazing now. I also sprayed all the plants with an insecticide and placed snail killer around the peremiter of the garden. My hostas have litterally taken off and now have 3-4 "stems" coming out of them which I assume will flower. The astibles are looking almost dead so we will have to see if they come back next year. I think the main problem was over watering and secondary was slugs. Thank you to all those who commented :-)

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 3:26PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Glad to hear things have turned out well! Funny, when I first read your post, my first thought was overwatering. But then I saw the photo of your astilbe, and it looked just like the one I left in a pot on the hot patio, and which fried in the heat. So who knows? That's why lots of times I offer commiseration and encouragement, but not advice, lol! Because most of the time I just don't know!

Hope your astilbes do better!

    Bookmark   July 4, 2007 at 9:47PM
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With the obvious over watering I do not think we are patient with the idea of transplant shock. What were the temperatures around the day you planted? Bottom line with hosta anyway, even if they had not perked up this year next year they will be 100% fine. With that much sun your SHADE plants will be HUGE in no time. Be ready to divide and move.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 8:28AM
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knottyceltic(S/W Ontario 5b)

Looks like overwatering AND transplant shock to me. They should all be lovely next spring/summer and fall but don't water so much. You want the roots to extend deep into the soil so that when they are mature they can fend for themselves over long periods. If the roots stay close to the surface from over watering, they will never grow deeply into the soil. Your ammendments of the soil may have been "too good" too. If you bought the flowers in pots they are just in a cheap potting mix and lack nutrients so they may have been shocked by the large amounts of water and nutrients that you suddenly gave them. Regardless, they should be fine if you cut back on the watering to about twice a week to give the roots time to dive deeper into the soil and get established.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 8:20PM
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This is for anyone who has come looking for info on growing astilbe in MD's heavy clay soil. I planted two astilbe last year in similar conditions as liftngwaght, only the spot I put them in receives much less sun, and what light they do receive is indirect due to mature bushes. Anyway, within two weeks of planting, my healthy plants dried up and died. I chalked it up to the spot's notorious death-to-all-plants policy and went back to researching what to plant there this year. Imagine my surprise when this spring both of the astilbe came back--with a vengeance! If at first yours seem dead, give them a year and you might be pleasantly surprised, too!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 10:07AM
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