Yeah! You made the effort to be green and you jumped on the conserve water, only use drought tolerant, native plants sustainability bandwagon and what happened? The plants died and you want to know WHY??? Here are 5 reasons why your drought tolerant, native plants died.
Fact: All plants need some water.
Yes, plants can be drought tolerant, but unless they are petroleum based (plastic), silk or preserved. They are going to need some water.
Fact: All plants need more water when they are first planted.
Often new plants are added to existing plantings. Ergo the problem. Established plants require less water than newly installed plants. Irrigation systems are often “dialed back” for established plants to conserve water and may not provide enough water for the new plants. But before you go and jack up the irrigation, check out the next reason plants die.
Fact: Too much water will kill a drought tolerant, native plant as fast as lack of water.
Most people overwater, especially when they see a plant wilting. But did you know a plant will “wilt” when overwatered? The difference is the leaf of a plant with insufficient water will be crispy while the leaf of a plant with too much water will be moist when squeezed in your hand. Here are some other ways to find out if you are watering your plants to death.
Fact: Not all native plants are meant to be planted anywhere.
As we say in the landscape biz, “Right Plant, Right Place.” What this means is before you plant a native plant wherever, check out where the plant is found in nature. Start with does it like sun or shade? Some native plants prefer to be in moist conditions. Salt tolerance is important if you live near the coast or irrigate with reclaimed water (especially with drip irrigation). Soil type makes a difference too. Some plants like high organic content which may not exist in your landscape if you are on a site where the topsoil was removed during construction in the last 10 – 15 years.
Fact: Sometimes plants die, even drought tolerant, native plants
In the south we call it the “Up ‘n Died” disease. However, there is usually a root cause. To start, newly installed plants are going to have a higher mortality rate as a result of transplant shock, which is one reason why companies and nurseries provide a warranty.
Once the plant is established, Mother Nature takes over. Critters (insects, rodents, dogs, etc.) will suck, chew or urinate resulting in the death of the plant. Diseases require very specific conditions so they come and go, but when the micro climate is ripe a disease can wreak havoc. The good news is only specific species (technically genus) are victimized.
Some plants just die of old age. How many years do plants live, you ask? I can definitively say, with absolute certainty, “Depends”. How many years to people live? As a general rule, trees live longer than shrubs, which live longer than perennials and then there are annuals which are just for show or agriculture that last a single season.
Finally my favorite is, “E – All the Above”. Often a combination of reasons cause plants to die. Sometimes a 1 – 2 punch (or 3 or 4) weakens the plant to the point where it is susceptible to other forces.
More Drought Tolerant, Native Plant Resources
While researching we find relevant material which is usually included in the post in the form of hyperlinks. Here are more links about drought tolerant plants we found to be interesting, but not in regards to why they might die.
- Why Plant California Native Plants
- Highways New Strategies to Manage Roadsides as Habitat
- Native Plants on Green Roof (thanks CBRE Greeen)
- Be Inspired by the Native Meadow in New York City