The key is plant culture – the closer you get to putting a plant in its ideal location the happier and more stress tolerant it will be. Conversely a stressed out plant (one who is struggling to survive) may throw in the towel after a tough year like last summer and winter. Just like humans – if things are going well in our lives and we are happy a traffic ticket may catch us off guard but we can take it in stride. If we are having a bad week – boss yelled at you, kids lost their third sweater in 2 weeks and your husband forgot about the Momma Maria tickets and scheduled and important business meeting out of town. Then when you get pulled over for speeding, you just may start to cry for real.
1) Site analysis – What are the different areas of your yard? Full sun, part shade, slope, exposed or protected, infertile soil, etc. Knowing this first helps you to select the “Right plant for the Right place”.
2) Culture of plant – magic formula. What does the plant prefer? Acid or more neutral soil? Full sun, sun, light shade, part shade, and full shade? Moist, well-drained, sandy or infertile soils? Hardiness Zone (heat and cold tolerance)? Try to stick to the ‘does best in’ criteria as much as possible – if you can’t find an exact match, pick 3 out of 4.
3) Correct planting procedures – For Shrubs and Trees - Start by digging the hole 3 times the width of the plant’s root ball but no deeper. Digging the hole deeper than root ball can result in the plant being too deep due to settling. Be sure to expose the tree flare to determine proper depth, the flare is where the trunk or branching stops and the roots begin. Backfilling the hole should be done with existing surrounding soil not peat moss or other soil amendments.
4) Water efficiently - Do you have plants that are never happy? Review their culture maybe they would be happy somewhere else or maybe you just need to try a different plant. Do you have an irrigation system? Do you get it checked annually? Is it set up to vary with the different water needs of different plants? (i.e. North side of house doesn’t need as much as south; trees and shrubs, once established, need less than lawn and Perennials). Remember too much water is often deadlier to plants than too little water.