Lavender and Mexican firebush issues

cherryjetJuly 8, 2012

Hi! I'm new to the forum. I have recently begun xeriscape gardening pretty heavily on my own for relaxation. I love it! I'm a stay at home mom of two small children and gardening has really helped me stay centered.

I have been successful with most native and adapted drought tolerant plants until I get to my front yard. First off, I had a lavender plant that was potted in a restaurant size vegetable steamer with many small holes. It was doing fine in there for a long time and then started to look bad so I transplanted it to my front yard on a rocky slope where my rosemary bush was thriving and I think its too late to save it. I stil can't tell if it was bad soil, bad soul drainage ( too much water) or not enough water. Any ideas?

Strangely I had a potted lavender that was thriving in the back yard and I moved to the front yard, not changing its pot or soil and it looks little less happy. Some of the older growth of bigger leaves are a little yellow in hue. The pot it is in has a really tiny hole for drainage. Too much water?

My lavender plants in recycled car tire rubber pots are thriving!

What's worrying me most right now is my newly planted Mexican firebush. I have a rather large potted one that is thriving that I have been using for comparison. The newly planted ones bark halfway down the plant and towards the root is turning a super light, almost white brown. The potted plant's bark looks like the newly planted ones top half, a darker brown. So once again I am thinking is it bad soil? I haven't grown many plants in this spot due to a bad gutter system in the past and sitting water but there hasn't been any rain and I added top soil so the yard would angle down from the foundation for good soil drainage.

I'm starting to worry about everything I have put in the ground in the front yard. It's xeriscape basically so I know the decomposed granite can really heat things up. My skullcap insnt looking too hot either. It's planted on a slope. I thought that they did well on hills.

Sorry to be so long winded! Any advice!? I don't want to lose my Mexican firebush, bottlebrush or my flame acanthus which I thought was different than a Mexican firebush but it is actually the same plant? This plant looks a little different and looks a little unhealthy as well. Please help! Educate me!

Also, one last question. A fly by night landscaper started a job he never finished with these fairly cheap baseball size rocks which look okay I guess. I went to custom rock today and bought a lot more granite and it's larger in size to cover everything. I also bought some limestone boulders to put on the hill to help with erosion. I also bought some Mexican beach pebbles on clearance. Love this rock! Ideas on how to use it? Will all this work to combat erosion help the quality of my soil? Any ideas on how to get rid of all the ants?



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tx_ag_95(7/8 Lewisville)

What do you mean by "xeriscape"?

When/how did you plant everything and how often have you been watering the plants? Are you using the rocks as mulch? How much sun does the front yard get? What about the backyard? Which direction does the house face? What type of soil do you have and how deep does it go? If you can give us answers to these questions, we'll have a better idea of what the situation is and maybe someone will be able to answer your questions.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 4:23PM
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Ok. I've put tons of compost and top soil in the bed. 0ver 6". Same soil I've used for the backyard that has grown most native plants successfully. The soil in my yard has a lot of rocks and some clay but as far as its PH, I'm not sure. My house faces north. Front and back get full sun. I've used decomposed granite for mulch and egg rocks. I've been watering about every other day but not heavily. These new plants I planted about 10 days ago. Bulbine and brown eyed Susan are happy but Mexican firebush varieties are dying.
Xeriscape- : a landscaping method developed especially for arid and semiarid climates that utilizes water-conserving techniques (as the use of drought-tolerant plants, mulch, and efficient irrigation)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 6:29PM
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I can really only speak to your Lavender issues. I tried and failed with Lavender once before, but have had amazing success on my latest go-around.

Do you by chance know what variety of Lavender you have? The reason I ask is not all can deal with our heat.

After doing some research, I found that the variety "Goodwin Creek" is supposed to be suited to the heat and drought of central TX. I planted 8 of them last winter and they've absolutely thrived. I don't know about now, but earlier in the season they were readily available at the big boxes.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 7:28PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

Cherryjet, welcome to the forum and congratulations on being a stay at home mom.

Against my own better judgement I planted two gallon size Mexican honeysuckles yesterday. I say that because it's hard to successfully move things this time of year from the enclosed environment of their pot into the hot dry ground, in full sun no less, where the dry ground around the plant wicks the moisture away. However, the one I planted this spring looks so nice among several Henry Duelberg salvias that I wanted to continue the color scheme so I took a chance.

It's a risk because planted in cooler weather the roots have a chance to spread widely and get settled in before hot weather when most growth stops. To help them along I laid the hose at their base after planting and let the water dribble to get the whole area well beyond the roots well wetted. Then I covered the area with a thick mulch of ground tree limbs which some tree trimmer left to keep the moisture from evaporating away too quickly. I'll be watching them and let more water drip on them if they show signs of wilting.

The main task is to keep the roots cool and damp, but not so wet as to rot. Mex. firebush and Mex. honeysuckle are similar in that they are very drought and heat tolerant and how the established plant manages to stay looking fresh in this heat is beyond me. Their roots probably roam deep and wide.

Another trick you can use to plant things now is to prop a box up on sticks to shade them during the heat of the day for two or three weeks. I'll do that if I see what I planted wilting. If your firebush looks like it's dying try cutting it back by about half and cover it with a propped up box to give light and air, but no sun. Not having so much top growth to support might give the roots a chance to recover.

I never had much luck with lavender, but I know they like very well drained soil so the elevated position they have in the tires helps a lot, and as bjb said above the variety makes a lot of difference too. Planting anything out in this heat is not the greatest of ideas, but even the experienced gardeners among us keep trying anyway. So we'll wish each other lots of luck and if stuff doesn't make it we can plant again in the fall.

One mistake all new gardeners make is not watering shrubs deeply enough. Once I alerted my next door neighbor that an established shrub was wilting and needed water. She ran over and watered the foliage and ground for a few seconds with the hose full blast. Most of the water ran off and I dug down a bit to show her and only the top inch of soil had gotten wet which did the roots no good.

Keep us posted!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 8:32PM
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Thanks Rosalee for the advice! Just an hour ago I couldn't take it anymore and I dug the fire bush up to put it in a pot to see what's going on and see if it will live through the transplant. The soil was pretty wet! I have not watered much but I think it has root rot! Maybe I should get the soil's PH tested?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 10:20PM
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roselee z8b S.W. Texas

Yeah, I've dug plants back up and put them back in a pot in hopes of saving them too. As for the pH being a problem in my experience Mexican firebush is pretty tolerant of just about any soils. I don't think you need to do pH test. Sometimes if it is root rot you can pick up a sour or rotten smell, but if water doesn't stand in the soil it doesn't usually rot the roots.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 10:37PM
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Oh really? Hmm... I noticed the oil was moist and a lot less sandy than the rest of the yard and there were a lot of bugs hanging out. So you think it was shock from the heat?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 10:50PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

Everything I plant at this time of year dies except for cactus and even some of them. I try not to plant and just to tend things now. I prepare land and do rock work and ready things for planting in september and October, In the vegetable garden I try to plant tomatoes and seeds and have not very good luck there either.

I like spanish lavendars for central texas.

Mexican Firebush is Hamelia patens
Flame acanthus is Aniscanthus quadrifidus var wrightii
They are different plants unless one of yours was mislabeled.

I suggest to water your garden and take your kids swimming and don't plant anything past May till it cools off unless you do not mind if it dies and it is always a gamble at this time of year.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 11:52PM
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