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Drought tolerant plants dying after planting?

Posted by sd_brthumb CAL (My Page) on
Fri, Jun 19, 09 at 2:36

We recently relandscaped with all drought tolerant plants. They are on a drip line every other day for 10 minutes. We were told to add extra water everyday. Somedays we did, somedays we didn't. Now 4 weeks from planting, most look very good except the ceanothus and fremontodendron. The weather has been cool, overcast mornings, and low 70's days. Are they getting too much water or not enough? How long until they are established and don't need extra water? Is it transplant shock?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Drought tolerant plants dying after planting?

Hmmm. Sounds like you made a major investment in your landscape. I'm not an expert, however, I do have a mix of drought-tolerant plants, natives, and traditional plants, but I only hand water once a week, and the natives only once every 2 weeks. Usually, I try not to water unless it's a new plant, or I see something wilting. Plants, in general, seem to be a lot more drought tolerant than we think. But it might also be the frequent shallow waterings. I might try longer, deeper soaks less often.

It could be your soil. I recently went to Las Pilitas and they have some very strict recommendations about planting natives. They tell you to do a deep soak when you first plant them (which is very important) and then once a week or so (depending on the plant) for the first few months (sometimes up to a year) and then back off. I recently planted 3 drought-tolerant plants in the same general area, did my deep soak...and a three weeks later, 2 are going gangbusters, and one is shriveled up and brown. The only thing I can figure is there's something in the soil that killed it.

RE: Drought tolerant plants dying after planting?

This is not the time of year to plant native shrubs. You might save the ceanothus but I doubt the fremontodendron will survive the water. These two should only be planted in the fall or winter. Frenontodendron will not tolerate summer water and if not well established when the weather turns hot it will not survive. Most drought tolerant plants will say in small print"once established"they are drought tolerant. Al

RE: Drought tolerant plants dying after planting?

Drip is bad for natives. The first year soak them well as stated above about once a week, depending on how hot it is.
Constant moisture is not good. You want their roots to go deep and establish themselves.
They both should be planted no earlier than Oct. The rains will help in giving them a good start.
I had a fremontodendron which survived the first winter but not the summer. Theodore Payne told me at least 2 gallons a week for it the first year...but again depends on how hot it is and how much sun it gets.

RE: Drought tolerant plants dying after planting?

Also make sure the crown of the plant is at least an inch above grade. These plants get crown rot very easily.

RE: Drought tolerant plants dying after planting?

As stated, planting is best done in late fall-early winter, that said, if you plant at other times of the year, you should treat them like any other new planting.

They are NOT drought-tolerant at the time of planting and the rootball needs to be kept moist for the first several weeks. I generally do what someone called "mud planting". I fill the planting hole with water several times to make sure the area gets moist. When the water stops draining and sits in the hole, I plop the plant in and backfill, then I soak it again. Thereafter, depending on temperature and drainage, I water heavily when I water (could be every day, every other day or longer). After about 2-3 weeks, I back off, and maybe just a good heavy soaking every week or 2. Frequency will always depend on your drainage and temperature.
Drought-tolerant plants will not be very drought tolerant until they become established which generally takes at least 1 year and possibly 2.

RE: Drought tolerant plants dying after planting?

My first fremontodendron took three trees to get one to survive the first summer after a winter planting. At the first heat of the year they would wilt terribly and even though I had been told(by Barbara Coe, then with Saratoga Hort Foundation)DO NOT WATER, I could not let them die and so I did water. And they did die. The last one I decided I would not water no matter how much it wilted. It looked really bad for about a week, then it started perking up, with absolutely no water being added. Sometimes it pays to take the advice of the experts. Al

RE: Drought tolerant plants dying after planting?

Well, first of all, sd_brthumb, it depends on where in California you are.

If you live in the Central Valley, ceanothus are not really very well adapted. They require excellent drainage and do not like hot summers or clay soil. I know some people on this forum grow them there but they generally struggle. If they're to have any chance of survival, they need to be planted in the winter, when it's cool and moist, and given some time to establish before summer blasts them.

I'd think fremontodendron would do better in hot areas, but again, I wouldn't plant them in a Central Valley summer.

If you live near the coast, you can plant ceanothus or fremontodendron any time of year, provided you give them the drainage they need. I water newly planted ceanothus and fremontodendron every couple of weeks through the first summer and after that not a drop. Some ceanothus are able to tolerate summer water, but fremontodendrons will die.

Drip irrigation anywhere near the coast will rot the roots of either of these.

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