Green Side Up

MarcusWorking in a native plant nursery, I’ve heard of some pretty interesting ways people have killed their newly purchased native plants. Sometimes it’s due to not knowing what to do, while most times it’s actually due to kindness.

When we bring new plants back to our homes we want to do the best we can for them. After all, it’s another life to nurture and help grow, something like a stationary new addition to the family. So we dig a nice big hole, add lots of organic matter and a good helping of expensive fertilizer. We gently place the plant into the hole, firm the soil around it, water it well, and two weeks later we try to figure out why it has gone all yellow and lost half of its leaves. Unfortunately its demise was a result of good intentions.

You see, the best way to kill natives is to give them more fertiliser than they actually need. So it’s the fertiliser in the hole and the added organic matter that has most likely led to it’s demise. The good thing about natives is that they don’t ask for much. Good drainage, enough to drink and a layer of mulch is all that they need.

Another common cause of death for native plants is the practise of teasing out the roots. This may be fine for some European plants, but our natives will complain bitterly if you disturb their roots. After all, they have delicate, super-efficient roots which have evolved to extract nutrients effectively from our nutrient deficient Australian soils.

If you’re worried about buying a root-bound plant, there is a simple solution. Ask the nursery staff to show you its roots by removing the pot from the plant. And if you see a mass of roots wound around the inside of the pot, simply choose a younger plant. Speaking of removing pots from plants. Never grab plants and pull them out of their pots. Always remove the pot from the plant. If this makes no sense to you, come to Yuruga Nursery and get a staff member to demonstrate it.

Which brings me to the final point. No, you can not plant them while they are still in their pots! Some people have actually tried this method with, predictably, very unfavourable results. At first the plants will just sit there and grow very slowly as the roots try to make their way out of the pot via the drainage holes. But finally they will die, strangled by the tight plastic collar around their base. Unfortunately, I’m not kidding, I’ve seen this done before.

Planting natives is a simple activity and it’s best kept simple – just remember… green side up!

Marcus Achatz
Yuruga Nursery

(Published in Cairns City Life magazine, March 2009)