Help, perennials, everything is dying/wilting!
I'm not a big gardener but I recently filled raised beds with new compost and then fresh topsoil on top, I bought around 10 plants, wanted cheap and cheerful perennials that would just regrow and flower every year. I watered them every other night for the first week I had all the plants, however went away for a week (it rained over this period). Everything has been in slow decline since I planted even though everything recieves ample light and water, flowers are disappearing and more dead heads arising, when I gently take away the dead heads nothing seems to grow back!. I know it is hot recently so I have been watering everything every night in order to try and get them going. The latest casualty was the supposedly hardy sunflower! I planted three have watered every day and the sun has been glaring on them all day on the sunniest side of the garden and even they have started to wilt! My hanging basket has virtually died aswell, not sure what I am doing wrong, have tied both overwaering and underwatering too. Here are some pictures showing how bad everything has got.
Last edited: 25 July 2016 19:43:36
Well, some of your choices have just finished flowering and gone over. If you used MPC to fill the beds I'd guess the bed is waterlogged to an extent. Pure soil would have been a better choice. Your phlox looks OK but theyre pretty indestructible. If you want a perennial display then you need to choose a range of plants that flower in succession and overlapping. To be brutally honest you haven't chosen well. Sorry.
Many of those simply have flowers that are finished for this year as Dave says. The lilies for example, and foxgloves. Remove the spent heads if you don't want plants to go to seed, and to tidy the plants. Letting plants go to seed weakens them too, especially when they're young plants, as they put their energy into making seed instead of maturing.
There aren't really any plants that flower continuously throughout the year, apart from annuals - and that's not what you have. There are exceptions like the phlox which flower for a long period in the right conditions, and it can be very useful as a foil for other things, but you need to pick a few more plants to give succession. Some small shrubs will help with that too, and give some structure when the perennials are dormant over winter.
I've also just noticed that your soil doesn't seem to come anywhere near the top of the beds - there's a lot of timber showing. That doesn't help light get to plants. The soil level should be much higher, and it might be because the compost will have settled and compacted. It would have been batter to mix the soil and compost rather than layer it, and you then need to let it all settle before planting. Weather will play a part, and you usually need to top up raised beds a couple of times to allow for that settling.
Last edited: 25 July 2016 20:15:40
I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
Hi Rory, I remember reading an Alan Titchmarsh article in a Gardeners World mag where he suggested buying one or two flowering perennials each month, so that you have continual flowering succession in the garden throughout the year and I have tried to follow that as much as possible. I have a couple of the same plants as you have photographed and I try to dead head them as they need it, therefore prolonging the flowering season of each plant i.e. primula Vivaldi that I have is now having a second flowering session, also the gazannias will flower for quite a few months if deadheaded when needing it.
Great advice thankyou, so we think a lot fo these flowers have stopped flowering and not dying well that makes me feel a bit better. In regards to the raised beds they are about half full (2 beams and soil is up past the 1st beam) I thought that would be a compromise between light and protection from the elements. They do get light on them for a long period in the day, although our garden is NW facing it is a little suntrap. I will buy some more topsoil and raise them up a bit more.
You make a good point about buying different season plants, I need to find some late summer bloomers. I have spaced them quite far apart so was going to get more when I can afford it to pt in between.
Are there no plants that stay flowered for the whole summer June-September etc? All I want really is something hardy which will have flowers for as long a spossible and as much colour as possible the brighter the better.
Any reccomendation on the sunflowers? I have watered them loads and they are in the area of most direct sunlight in the garden, cant believe they have deteriorated, makes me think there is something in the soil that the plants do not like.
In terms of seeding plants, surely I should want them to seed so that my plant spreads further?
In terms of annuals I would prefer something which flowers for longer and is hardy what do people suggest. I don't see the point of flowering something which will die after a year and will need something putting in its place that is why I stuck to perennials.
How often should I be watering all of my perrenials is every night fine or too much? Also my hanging basket and small pots every noght for those too? The only thing I can get to grow at the moment is my grass and a cactus, terrible gardener!
Rory - the smaller the pot or container a plant is growing in, the quicker it dries out, especially in a sunny site, or if in the shelter of a house wall, so they need watering more frequently. In long,hot dry spells baskets need intense watering-often twice a day. Once they dry out, you need to plunge them into a bucket of water till completely rehydrated. You can't successfully get them damp otherwise - the water just runs through them. Many people use all sorts of different methods to prevent that - water retaining granules,plastic liners, tray of water at the bottom etc.
Plants in the ground need watered well until established and growing. That depends on the soil and your climate and the aspect. Always better to give a plant a good watering can full then leave till the soil's dry again. If you're unsure of that, push your finger into the soil - if it's dry lower down than an inch or two, that's when you need to water. You'll get a feel for it when you've grown hundreds and hundreds of different plants!
Re plants seeding - plants rarely come true when allowed to seed. That's fine if you don't mind what colour they turn out.
I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
I like long flowering perennials that flower from May/June to first frosts if at all possible so I go to the garden centre and make sure I look at all the labels to check the flowering period.
Some but not all perennial geraniums flower all year - google.
Things like potentilla flower all summer, scabious (as long as you haven't got heavy clay - they don't like it), hellebores will flower all winter and look great when everything else is dead, shrubs like pyracantha have blossom in spring and berries in autumn and are evergreen so all year round interest. They can grow quite big but I clip mine to shape and keep them small.
Verbena bonensiaris are lovely and tall and flower all summer, heuchera look interesting all year round and things like wintergreen will gradually cover the bed as it creeps and provides groundcover, nice tasting berries too - like toothpaste.
I love perennial geraniums as they will just fill a bed in no time but they die back in winter.
Once you've found 4-5 long flowering types for winter and summer interest I'd probably plant in groups of 4 or 5 which looks a lot better and will fill the bed.
One single type of flower on it's own usually looks a bit sparse.
Don't forget summer flowering bulbs also, things like gladioli and crocosmia will come back year after year with no fuss and it's just a matter of popping a bulb in the beds.
Perennials are beautiful but although they flower every year, they only flower for a short time and many need a lot of care to put on that fantastic show. I feel that you may need to do a bit more research and think about what you want to achieve and how much effort you want to put in. However, a few basics:
Your soil is too shallow and may not be suitable for the plants you have chosen. Use multipurpose in the baskets and top soil in the raised beds.
When you plant up young plants, avoid extremes of weather so that they have time to recover and settle down.
Water when the surface is dry. That might be once a week or twice a day, it depends on the weather.
Remove deadheads as often as you can. Many perennials such as delphiniums will then stop flowering until next year and foxgloves flower once and then die, so it's worth finding out about them before you buy.
It's all about learning as you go. I hope you soon enjoy it as much as we do. Good luck!