Problems with shrubs drying up

kashka_kat(z4 WI)August 17, 2013

Im referring to both ones I've planted and one Im keeping in a pot til fall when I can move some stuff around in the garden to make room for it.

At first I thought they were root bound, but not really. Whatever they're planted in is hard and stiff like cardboard and even though the soil around them is nice and moist the moisture doesnt absorb and get to the plant. Unless they're watered every day they wilt and ry up.

One I planted two years ago this fall - It gets wilted frequently so I pulled it up and it was still in the same pot shape with very little root growth beyond the original pot size !

What's going on here? Im thinking I need to more aggressively break up the potting stuff and replant directly into real soil (maybe soak in rooting hormone first). Does that sound like a plan?

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


w/o a pic.. its impossible to give you any advice ...

see link on how to plant ... it would be easier.. if you review that.. then ask more specific questions ...

FORGET about spending more money on rooting hormone.. or any other snake oil ...

are your pots in full shade ...??? ..... pots themselves get very hot.. and plants really dont like hot roots ... which makes the soil dry too fast.. and makes the plant wilt ...


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 8:02AM
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Your instincts are right - break the soil in the root ball up and replant. Check out Ken's link about planting, and, as he said, skip the rooting hormone - it's unnecessary. Good luck, and let us know how it goes. And pics!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2013 at 8:23PM
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You're talking about a 'compostable pot'. The well meaning garden center folks tell you to plant the shrub - pot and all, and the pot will rot away in time. Not! More than a decade ago, I pulled a poorly performing shrub 3 years after doing this and the pot was well intact, the roots unable to penetrate into the surrounding soil.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 8:57AM
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kashka_kat(z4 WI)

Pictures of what? Not sure what you're looking for. I dont have a camera so the verbal description will have ot suffice.

One is a hydrangea pinky winky- in plastic pot. You pull it out and the roots + the peat-like stuff its growing in is a solid stiff mass shaped like the pot. It's not potbound.

The 3 others are little princess spireas that were planted about two years ago. Last year I dug them up and same thing - solid mass in the shape of the pot. I cut into the bottom and pulled the roots out more and spread them in the hole (those were slightly potbound, with a couple roots circling around but nothing really bad ) but then this spring/summer they've still been looking wilty and dry-leaved. I really do think the problem is the peat-like stuff they're planted in as I've never had this problem with bare root or stuff that comes in burlap root ball.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 11:13AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Once peat dries out, it is terrible to rewet. About the only way to do it is to sit the pot in water for a couple of days.

In the ground, you may be having issues where the difference between the native soil and the pot soil are so great that the plant won't spread out. Barerooting it at an appropriate time will solve that problem.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2013 at 12:20PM
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Almost all plants sold today in pots are grown in a peat based planting medium. As madgallica noted, once the peat dries out it is very difficult to rewet. In addition, as it dries it shrinks creating a gap between the root ball and the native soil which creates a barrier that prevents the exchange of water. Raking out the root tips before planting helps, but not always. Digging up the plant and soaking will also work but tends to be a temporary solution. A better solution is to water by placing the hose at the base of the plant and adjusting the hose so that just a slight trickle of water comes out. Run the hose for anywhere from half an hour to several hours. By doing this you're insuring that the water goes to the root ball only. Watering with a larger volume via a sprinkler, etc. creates more problems because the native soil becomes overly saturated while the root ball stays dry. You may have to water this way for the first 2 or 3 years if wilting persists.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 5:40AM
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" You pull it out and the roots + the peat-like stuff its growing in is a solid stiff mass shaped like the pot. It's not potbound "

It is potbound.

Always tease potbound circling roots away from rootball to encourage them to grow into the native soil.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 10:58AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


potbound.. means.. that the roots go ... like the wheels on the bus.. round and round.. and round.. and round..

they NEVER venture out into mother earth ....

meanwhile.. mother earth.. wicks/sucks all water out of the high peat media ... and the plant dies ...

you ask.. we tell you.. you deny ... what more can we do?????

good luck ...


    Bookmark   August 20, 2013 at 1:19PM
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kashka_kat(z4 WI)

My goodness - much ado about nothing.

"its not pot bound" means exactly that. It means the roots are NOT circling around- its the planting medium itself which solidified. I know what pot bound is, and this aint it.

Upon the advice of mad gallica above and an article on other website (which described how peat, if it dries out completely does in fact become highly unabsorbent and water added from above rolls off.) I soaked the pot in a tub of water a couple of days and plant is doing much better. The article suggests poking vertical holes in the medium before planting so water has somewhere to go. I'll also do some loosening of roots when I plant.

This post was edited by kashka_kat on Sat, Aug 24, 13 at 20:54

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 1:09PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

If well-soaked at planting problem is texture difference between original root-ball and soil in planting hole. If not mulched in summer sun can bake water out of top of root-ball also. However, if kept moist enough to function adequately in first weeks (during growing season) new roots will grow out of original ball even if root-bound; main issue with root-bound woody stock is circling roots cause mechanical problems later in life of specimen, such as toppling or girdling. That is why there is a million live trees and shrubs around that were planted with intact root-balls in amended planting holes, if they make it through the watering issues at first then they are good to go - until and unless they fall over or girdle later. Nobody thought there was a problem with undisturbed roots and amended planting holes because many trees and shrubs given this treatment do manage to live and grow; indeed there are still plenty of sources advocating obsolete methods like this, even though the drawbacks to them started to be noticed in the 1960s.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2013 at 1:51PM
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