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Confusion in understanding growing instructions

FireFire LondonPosts: 6,439

I'm getting quite confused about growing instructions for plants such as Mexican fleabane. It thrives in cracks in paving and walls. And yet the RHS say we must grow it in fertile soil that does not dry out. I see this kind of description all over the place.

Here baby's tears is said to require moist soil, yet to my knowledge it's quite happy on gravel and paving cracks.

I'm also confused about instructions like 'moist but well-drained'. How can soil really be both. Surely if something is permanently damp it's holding water and therefore not drained.

This poppy, they state, grows well on chalky and sandy soil and requires 'deep, fertile soil'. Surely this is a contradiction in terms. Isn't sandy poor synonymous with being poor?

Ox eye daisies - moist, fertile soil such as sand.

Is it a question of situations where plants will grow if forced versus their ideal growing conditions? Do all these plants what rich fertile soil really but will survive on sand if they have to?




  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 14,351

    Moist but well drained, a basically gritty or sandy soil ( so it drains) but with a lot of humus added to retain water.  A slope helps.  A raised bed would help. Clay soil at the bottom of a slope is useless. except for a pond.

    You don't stop doing new things because you get old, you get old because you stop doing new things. <3
  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,127

    moist, well -drained soil appears everywhere in instructions and means not a lot as far as I can see. A few lucky people might have something like that. Most of us have clay or too dry, or boggy, or something else difficult

  • FireFire LondonPosts: 6,439


    "Moist but well drained... with a lot of humus added to retain water".

    Does this not seem like a contradiction in any way?

  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 5,571

    I just read it to mean soil which gets neither water logged nor dries out completely - ie which is usually just damp - but never saturated. 

    I dream of having such well behaved soil. image

    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • hogweedhogweed Central ScotlandPosts: 3,981

    I would call my soil moist but well drained. To me it means just bog standard dirt, not clayey soil, and easy to dig. We don't have limestone/chalk soils in Scotland. 

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • punkdocpunkdoc Sheffield, Derbyshire border.Posts: 8,070

    2 things.

    Labels are nearly always useless.

    Plants can't read.

    Somewhere in my heart
    There is a star that shines for you
    Silver splits the blue
    Love will see it through
  • FireFire LondonPosts: 6,439

    Punkdoc, indeed. I'm always amazed by the useful info labels don't mention - like if the plant is a perennial or not and what variety it is. Seems odd to me. Surely the variety name is pretty important. And I think that the powers that be should adopt a different system from noting full sun/partial shade. The phrase 'partial shade' is entirely hopeless.

  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 15,941

    I have absolutely no faith in anything the RHS site recommends, caught them out several times, as Firefly has found out. 

    I lost confidence in them when they said, on a TV programme that they never move or plant their snowdrops 'in the green' when I put that on this site everyone jumped on me.  I'm not sure if they even say that on their web site.

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 3,437

    Me too, Lyn I put on another post,  cannot be doing with the "moist but well drained lark, thats the one that drives me mad above all others.  Also feel the same about the RHS site, often seen lovelly plants, mags etc. put them on the RHS site it will tell me they dont exist, then a list of them!

  • LiriodendronLiriodendron Scariff, County Clare, IrelandPosts: 5,976

    I was taught at college that "moist but well-drained" is the condition you'd find naturally about halfway up a gentle hillside in - say - Devon, where a lot of wild flowers would naturally prefer to grow (and therefore, a lot of cultivated perennials, bred from their wild relatives).  It's well-drained because of the slope (as Fidget says), but gets plenty of rainfall for the "moist" bit.  If you don't live on a nice gentle warm damp slope in Devon you can add lots of humus to your soil (for moisture holding) and grit (for drainage) and keep watering.  And keep your fingers crossed...

    Commercial plant labels are designed to encourage you to buy the plant, not tell you useful things about it - like "not hardy in this area" or "grows to 60 feet"...  image

    "The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to understand the meaning of life."  Rabindranath Tagore
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