Planting and Weigela



A misconception about planting is that one can only plant in the spring or fall. There are a number of plants, such as birch, which have a far greater success rate when transplanted in the spring. However, if they are spring-dug, they can be replanted at any time during the season. The earlier in the season planting takes place, the more time a plant has to establish roots. Despite this, if you can water during the summer months, your plants will grow quite fast. Other than the issue of watering, there is no good reason to avoid working new material into your landscape in July and August.

With an inexpensive timer and soaker hose, or sprinkler, you do not have to commit yourself to hours holding a garden hose. For large trees, you can set up a drip irrigation system that conserves water and gets it down to the deepest roots. Early morning watering is best. It is wise not to wet the foliage in the heat of the day, nor in the late afternoon and evening hours. There are a number of products on the market, such as Stockosorb, which help the plant retain a lot of water if they are incorporated into the soil around the rootball.

Fall planting can be very good if you have a site where watering is difficult or impossible. Fall rains usually start adding moisture lost during the summer and less watering is needed. And, being in the ground ready to start first thing the following spring allow roots to begin to establish before summer drought. My experience with fall planting is that it works well with deciduous plants(which lose leaves in the fall), and, as you get progressively closer to winter, less well with evergreens. A winter with little snow cover or extreme low temperatures can doom fall evergreen planting. Anti-desiccants, such as Wilt Pruf, sprayed over the foliage in the last warm days of early November will greatly increase success by helping evergreens retain moisture.

The burning question, and the key to plant establishment, is how much water is enough. It is rare that someone overwaters their plants. If you water two or three times a week until the soil is saturated to the point water sits on top of the ground for a few minutes, you are doing the right thing. More watering has the potential for drowning a plant. Less watering means slower growth, at best, or death of the plant. In sandy soils you can water more without adverse effect. Heavy soil should be broken up with the addition of about 50% compost and will retain water longer. When heavy soil dries out it is very difficult to re-establish a good moisture level. A water meter will take the guesswork out of how much water is enough

Marcia, This is a good time to run the watering article and planting ties into that so I hope the above works for you. There follows a column on weigela which, due to space, you may wish to run the following week.

Do you need a versatile shrub which can be used as a border plant, or , with certain varieties, around the foundation? Weigela may be just right for you. Border plants are plants suitable as a backdrop for other smaller plants or they attain a size which makes it difficult to use around the foundation or small garden area.

Weigela has a medium sized pointed leaf. Certain varieties can be purplish-green or variegated with a yellowish margin. Fall color is generally not its strong point. However, most insects are not attracted to weigela leaves so they are apt to be there all summer without spraying insecticide.

Weigela prefers sunny locations with rich, well-drained soil. They appear to thrive, when established, in either sandy or heavy soil. The key is to prepare the soil properly and, especially, to water well the first two seasons. Thereafter, this plant can do well on its own.

Flowers appear in June, and, in many varieties, continue less abundantly through the summer. The 1 ½" tubular flowers attract hummingbirds and many butterflies. In June, the flowers rival any of the better known shrubs for their abundance and beauty.

The only weakness of weigela is some winter tip dieback in extreme winters. Some light pruning is all that is needed when leaves have appeared and damage is evident. Pruning to reduce size or eliminate older, woody stems can be done in early spring before bloom. When the plant has been in the ground for 3-5 years, I like to remove to ground level the larger stalks, taking up to one third of the plant. Late in August the plant can be shaped on the outer tips of branches to keep it below windows or from overpowering nearby shrubs.

Java Red Weigela grows to about 4' tall and has purplish green leaves. Profuse deep pink flowers completely cover this shrub to the point where leaves hardly show. Midnight Wine Weigela (Weigela florida "Elvera") has similar leaves and flowers, but only grows to about 2' tall.

Red Prince Weigela grows to about 6' tall and has green leaves. Flowers are bright red and this variety keeps flowering all summer. Rumba Weigela grows to about 3' and has deep red flowers.

White Knight Weigela provides a nice contrast to Red Prince with white flowers covering the plant and reblooming all summer. Variegated Weigela grows to about 4' and its green leaves have a white to light yellow border. Medium pink flowers show well in June with a few showing during the summer.

Give this plant a try for nearly every sunny location. You will not be disappointed.


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Poland Spring, Maine
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