Bought new house and shrubs builder put in are dying

by Roman
the shrubs are all dying they are being watered regularly but one thing that seems to be a problem is a poorly coordinated gutter system... Another thing I've noticed is that we are in Georgia and one dead one we pulled up was buried in Georgia clay
  22 answers
  • Patricia W Patricia W on Oct 27, 2013
    Put in a simple french drain. It takes about 1 hour and very inexpensive to install. You can get all the parts at a hardware store that sells irrigation supplies. We put one in and it made all the difference in the world!
  • It probably is your soil. New home? What I would do: dig up all the plants and trim off dead and check roots to see if the roots were even loosened up when they were planted. The ground looks hard and they might have drowned. To check how good your ground perks, dig a hole about a foot or so deep and dump some water in it. If the water sits there for many hours or even a day, then your soil needs to be amended for sure. you need to dig a hole about 2-3 times the size and amend with some composted manure and the soil you took out of the hole (about 50-50 mixture). If the roots were not disturbed and look as if they just came out of the pot, then there is your problem! You have to loosen and sometimes cut the roots to free them to grow. You may be able to save the ones that are still green.You also need to mulch about 3-5" for moisture and weed control but do not mulch heavily around the base. I have saved many plants in my years of gardening. I do not think your gutters have anything to do with the plants.
  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) on Oct 28, 2013
    A few thoughts come to mind that I would like to share. It looks like some of your plants are Wheeler's Dwarf Pittosporum and maybe some Azaleas. Is the area in the shade? Second observation I note is that in a couple of the pictures it appears that they are planted almost next to the sidewalk, which I can't imagine any reputable landscaper doing. It also looks like some of the dead material (maybe Hollies?) are planted too deep. The soil look like it has some type of construction sand of some type in it. Did you have any roofing or reconstruction down prior to the planting? Something a bit more sensitive in nature to discuss, it that health of the plant that was planted. Questions we don't have answers to. Where did the plants come from? How were they taken care of before coming to your location? How long were they left in the pots after purchase and how much care did they receive while waiting to be installed into your landscape? It maybe be that the plants were damaged before you even laid eyes them and no matter what your soil and water has been since they have been in the ground, their health could have been compromised. Contact your builder and find out if they will warranty the material.
  • Cyndi Cyndi on Oct 28, 2013
    I agree with everybody and my two cents worth is.....I would dig up about the top six to eight inches of soil and put top soil, Black Kow manure and a little sand and then mix together well, can be done in a wheel barrow section by section, and then replace the mixture. This will give your surviving plants and future plants a good foundation. Then I would put mulch on top and around plants. I think your biggest issue is the soil because it looks compacted.
  • Leona G Leona G on Oct 29, 2013
    The only thing I don't agree with is the amending of the soil. All that does is create a bigger pot for the plant to grow in. Also how do you water the plants? New plants of 1 gallon size need at least 1 1/2" of water at least every other day for the first week or 2 after that you can taper down to 1 1/2" once a week then to every other week. I don't see an irrigation system and a flex pipe system is relatively easy to install and most of the supplies are available at the big box stores. Donna makes some excellent points. Also this could be an opportunity to personalize you landscape. Good luck
  • White Oak Studio Designs White Oak Studio Designs on Oct 29, 2013
    The first thing I would do would be to have my soil tested. A garden center may be able to tell you where you can have this done. Then you will know what to add this soil if anything. It is possible that the soil is mostly just "fill" and without any nutrients. The testing report will tell you. Then you can make a sound plan that is effective. Secondly, do you have underground sprinklers? Are you certain that the water reaching these plants? Sometimes they can be adjusted to make sure your shrubs are getting enough water.
  • Carolyn Fine Carolyn Fine on Oct 29, 2013
    Builders are notorious for popping in some plan to to make it look good until it belongs to you. Start over. Go to a nursery and look at plants you like then find out what conditions (water, light, space)they need, how big they will grow. Ask questions they will help. Go home and make a plan on paper. Dig up some plants and look at the soil clay smothers everything and holds water. Then put in a drain, amend the soil, whatever you need to have healthy plants.Then go back and buy the plants you like.
  • April E April E on Oct 29, 2013
    usually builders use the cheapest plant material they can find in bulk, this said they also seldom spend the money to properly fix the beds they plant in. 1 I would ammend my soil since you have georga clay (best buds w/ Oklahoma red clay) you best bet is to remove the plants, save the 1s you can IF you like them, use a rototiller and till down at least 18 inches and add in compost and since you have clay I would recomend fine pine(this is techanally a mulch however it is fine and it greatly loosens clay type soils and adds much needed nitrogen to clay as it breaks down). I would work this in deep with the tiller and allow the center of the bed to berm up as this too will help with drainage in the area. and while doing this look into the French drain system mentioned above
  • N. Susan Hart N. Susan Hart on Oct 29, 2013
    Amend the soil. Builders only plant plants to look good. Make sure the pots weren't planted with them. We have clay soil in MO. It has to be loosened up with good soil, peat moss , mulch, etc.
  • Cheryl @ Artzzle Cheryl @ Artzzle on Oct 29, 2013
    BEFORE you blast the builder, you might first talk to a professional landscaper in your area - questions and consults are usually free. THEN with some confirmed facts under your belt, go talk to your builder. Ask about how the plants were installed; the fact that most of them have pooped out on you. If you're calm and he's decent, you might get some financial reimbursement, or some new plants. If he's obstinate, bring out the landscaper's info and see where it goes from there. Also a good indicator of your builder's ethics is how he has handled any previous questions or problems with your new home. If he's understanding about those, he'll probably do something about the plantings. Good luck.
    • See 1 previous
    • Cheryl @ Artzzle Cheryl @ Artzzle on Oct 30, 2013
      @April E Hhm. Well I've only lived in four states, and built just two new homes, so that certainly doesn't make me an expert on landscapers OR builders. Just curious though where those statistics are from. Any nursery and/or professional landscaper we've ever worked with, had considerable knowledge in such matters. Maybe we were just lucky :) ? I will agree that there are some "not so great" builders out there; might even go so far as to say there are possibly "more poor quality" than excellent ones. As for the blasting thing ... I'm probably a bit old fashioned. My mom was a wonderful and wise woman. She believed in things such as "the benefit of a doubt" and sayings like "get more flies with honey than vinegar". And "calm is always more fruitful than crazy". This last one is mine though. "Have a problem (person)? Gather your facts, make sure they are correct, then approach calmly, state the problem ... and if they're obstinate or debate, sensibly present your research. Getting angry isn't a good idea, even if your problem person acts badly. I much prefer allowing them to look crazy, and/or have a heart attack. Standing back to watch the performance is a lot safer and also kind of a hoot. Anyway, Roman, you certainly have a lot of informational replies. Hope some of them help. Good luck.
  • Michael Willis Michael Willis on Oct 29, 2013
    In our landscape business we see and replace plants put in by builders. I agree with April we amend soil in heavy clay. Roots will drown in heavy clay.
  • Patricia Dash Patricia Dash on Oct 29, 2013
    I would amend the soil by digging it up & adding topsoil & sand to help loosen the clay. I would also change the type of bushes to something more suited for the soil conditions & after planting them I would fertilize on a regular basis. Before anything I agree with putting in a French drain .
    • April E April E on Oct 30, 2013
      @Patricia Dash mixed with a clay soil like the kind found in many of the southern us states top soil and sand can become a mixture quite like cement. to repair clay you have to add tons of organics such as compost and soil conditioners such as fine pine. these not only loosen up the clay but add much needed nutrients while allowing the few nutrients in the clay to be let out for the plant material to use
  • Carol Claremont Carol Claremont on Oct 29, 2013
    I agree with the soil amendment advice and want to add one thing. I live in mid TN and have the same heavy clay. We amend the soil when we plant and then give EVERYTHING a dose of Quick Start when planting and then also another dose in 2 weeks. We have planted probably 150 plants, shrubs, trees as the lot was pretty much bare. We rarely lose anything. Quick Start comes in a green bottle at Home Depot, Lowes or lots of other places., It is probably around $10 and you one use 1/2 capful in a gallon of water - I use gal milk jugs. It is a root stimulator and maybe will help your roots get established. Good Luck!
    • April E April E on Oct 30, 2013
      @Carol Claremont the miracle grow quick start is good to use but any fertilizer in a 1-3-1 ratio will do the same as the second number phosphate is great for rooting just mix it at 1/2 strength and save some money over the name brand. also fish emulsion is a wonderful starter if you can stand the smell lol
  • Linda Linda on Oct 29, 2013
    The soil around the house is usually a clay type fill that builders use for foundations. Also, lime leaches into the soil from the concrete blocks. Amend your soil with a good garden soil that you can buy in 50lb bags at Lowe's stores. Replant or buy new. Use a wood mulch. Add more mulch every year as it will decay naturally over time and helps to build your soil. Don't put the mulch right up against the house foundation. After a few seasons of doing this a shovel will go in the soil like a hot knife into butter, and everything you plant will flourish.
    • April E April E on Oct 30, 2013
      @Linda mixed with a clay soil like the kind found in many of the southern states just garden soil isn't enough to fix heavy clay. to repair clay you have to add tons of organics such as compost and soil conditioners such as fine pine. these not only loosen up the clay but add much needed nutrients while allowing the few nutrients in the clay to be let out for the plant material to use
  • Linda Jowers Linda Jowers on Oct 30, 2013
    I agree with all those who suggest amending the soli. Check with your county Extension service for help on doing a soil test in this & other beds, lawn, etc. They will also have great information on plants for your part of the state. I'm sure they also have a state website that will have lots of helpful information to download, answer questions, & materials you can. If you are interested in gardening, look into the Master Garden training available. You will learn a lot, make new friends, & be able to help others with their questions eventually. When you buy new plants from a reliable nursery, they will usually have a replacement policy for those that die wwithin a certain time period. Good luck from a 2nd year Master Gardener - still learning...
  • Nancy Martin Becker Nancy Martin Becker on Oct 30, 2013
    in many cases of new home construction the soil is quite compacted from all the heavy equipment. i would aerate the soil and replant.
  • April E April E on Oct 30, 2013
    those statistics were from my collage advisor when I started on a degree in landscape architecture and turned it into a dual degree in LA and hort. it also comes from being a operating manager of one of the top 50 garden centers in the country for 16 years. where we grew much of our own plant material and had a landscaping department, very fun interviewing designers and having them talk about plants that just do not work in our area, but my advisors statistics held true. basically because they had 1 semester of a plant id course that only applied to where they were being educated. I was blessed with a forward thinking advisor in collage and have be able to have a varied career in the horticulture fields when my health refused to allow me to continue in LA I got to go back to collage and work in research. however many independent garden centers hire and train very informed people for their areas. the reason I say a extension though is that is their whole reason for being. they are on hand to help the people of their area to have up to date info about issues in their area and they have no dog in the fight. the builder could just say she is wanting better landscaping on his dime if she gets a professional involved. but the extension can only provide correct information
  • Linda Linda on Oct 30, 2013
    Thanks April. Always learning.
  • Patricia Dash Patricia Dash on Oct 30, 2013
    April E. Thank you for the information , I appreciate it because now I 've learned something new.
  • Christine Brown Christine Brown on Aug 18, 2014
    @ Hometalk,GA Go get some maniure and spread it around the plants. Water only after dark. Instead of mulch,I found putting old carpet around the plants keeps the moisture in better than mulch. Never take it off. The plant will depend upon it. Turn carpet upside down. After a few week use some miracle grow. Are those the plants that need full sun? Check that out as well, if so plant the others some where else and put can have shaved plants on that side. They need a very slow watering process now.Put a soaker hose on them and turn it on a night and turn it off and then turn back on a little later that night, helps to grow strong roots deep.
    • April E April E on Aug 19, 2014
      @Christine Brown clay soil holds water and "drowns" the plants so the carpet would just speed up the issue
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Aug 18, 2014
    Have clay soil, too. Have had soil put in, but somehow the clay just works its way up after a couple of years. Don't know about bushes, but beesbalm doesn't mind this soil. The hollyhocks seem to be able to "overcome" as well.
    • April E April E on Aug 19, 2014
      @Marion Nesbitt you have to dig down and mix in also adding organics such as fine pine and compost help to "change" the soil texture over time and if you mulch i suggest using pecan hulls as the also help with the nitrogen deficit clay has and will alos help break down the clay as you dig the mulch in every year or so when it is replaced
  • Christine Brown Christine Brown on Aug 21, 2014
    @hometalk April E.I have clay soil also !! It works