Why Did My Plant Die?

by Ben Bowen

Why are my plants dying?

You did your research (or paid a designer to). You went to the nursery (or paid your landscaper to). You carefully chose a location for your new plant, dug a hole, and planted it (or...you get the picture). Then you watered the plant and waited for it to grow. 

It's totally understandable that you are invested in your plant. You have literally invested in it, and really want it to thrive for years to come.

Now, less than a year later, it is dead or dying. What happened? I have 3 good answers for you:

mountain laurel
  1. The honest answer. No one knows. Plants can't talk and plant doctors are expensive. 
  2. The likely answer. Your plant just happened to be subjected to the hottest and driest summer on record. Don't waste your time looking for complicated explanations (disease, planted too high, planted too low, bad soil, herbicide overspray, lack of micorryzal fungi). It was very hot and very dry. New plants die in higher numbers when that's the case, especially here in the PNW.
  3. The possible answer. It was the wrong plant in the wrong place. If you planted a shade loving hosta in full sun, it is now dead. If you planted a manzanita that needed good drainage directly on hard clay, it died. These are easy mistakes to make.

What should you do now? If we planted your plant, then let us know. It's probably under warranty. We normally expect to lose 2%-3% of the material we plant. This summer we saw losses closer to 6%. Some projects saw even higher numbers. (Why? See #1 above.)

Did you lose a mature tree? Then you need a great tree service and a Portland area stump grinder as well.

Don't give up. Go to a great Portland-area nursery and get a new plant. Fall is a great time to plant, giving your new friends lots of time to prepare for next summer. Let's all hope it's a little less hot and dry than this summer was!