When Plants Drown

About two months ago I planted a Daintree Penda close to my driveway as a feature tree. You see, this hard-to-get plant produces an artificial-looking flush of almost blue leaves every time it grows, and for that reason alone deserves to be seen. Unfortunately it’s dead now, and instead of being blue, its foliage is yellow and limp.

However I’m not blaming the tree because I know what I did wrong and I’m 100% at fault. My mistake was that I planted this poor little tree in an area that I knew would get waterlogged for much of the wet season. So basically I drowned it.

The roots of most plants need air to survive, and without it they cease to function and eventually just rot away. Without its roots being able to take in nutrients and water, a plant will actually look like it’s drying out on top. So if you notice a plant going yellow, and its leaves becoming limp and falling off during the wet season while the soil is obviously not dry, then the most likely cause is waterlogging. And to be honest, once a plant has reached that stage it is highly unlikely that it will recover no matter what you do. Just pull it out and learn from your mistake.

So what should I have done differently? Well, I should have been more patient, and waited till the wet season was over before planting that tree in that location. Many rainforest trees will tolerate waterlogged soils for short periods as long as they’ve been given time to establish their roots in that location. They’ll extend them outside of the limits of the hole you dug and advance into stable soil where pockets of air are trapped in the matrix of the soil. Unfortunately the roots of my newly planted Daintree Penda were still confined to the potting mix it came in, and now, with no drainage due to the water logged soil around it, it has sadly passed away.

Once the wet season is finished I’ll give it a second try. But this time the new Daintree Penda will have seven months to get its root system established before it has to cope with a wet season and more water than it needs.

Or I might just plant something that loves growing in waterlogged soils, like a Leichhardt tree.

See you at Yuruga.