Longevity of Mediterranean Plants

This article discusses how we can make our plants live for a much longer period without plants becoming long and leggy and overgrown resulting in eventually having to remove them after a few years and replace them because of their unhealthy poor condition.

Have you ever had a climbing plant, shrub or even perennial plant that you have never pruned or cut back just to find that eventually the nice fresh foliage growth has eventually ended up at the top of the plant, but the bottom of the stems are bare from the base up? Of course after several years you can safely say that the long woody stems look rather unhealthy and ugly. This happens very frequently with Mediterranean plants in gardens. Why? because we are simply not maintaining the garden plants as they should in such hot climatic conditions.

So here’s some tips on how to keep your garden looking in tip top condition for years and years to come. First of all, if you have not been looking after your plants, i.e. pruning regularly then it may not be possible to try to resurrect an old woody stemmed plant. It may simply be too late. Pruning is a method that needs to be adopted right in the first year of planting. The reason for is that plants grown in sunnier climates grow ten times quicker than they do in, say, a colder climate with lower light levels, say the UK. It is connected to photosynthesis and when we grow plants that have a good automatic irrigation system, plenty of sunlight and good conditioned soil, the plant tends to bolt. In other words. Plants rely on 3 things for good healthy growth, sun, water and nutrients and in mediterranean gardens we have abundant of all three and creates photosynthesis to occur much more rapidly. So what is photosynthesis? Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy, normally from the Sun, into chemical energy that can be later released to fuel the organisms’ activities. So controlling your plants right from the beginning before they get out of hand is so important. For example, take the plant Solanum, you probably recognise this shrub by its abundant displays of deep purple buttercup sized flowers. This is a perfect example of how quickly a plant can start to get overgrown and look out of control. Initially the shrub should be planted very small, so buy it in approximately a 5 Litre pot size. If it is planted in full sun, coupled with an automatic watering the plant will need to be pruned down to its lowest green shoots, the reason for this is that it will then encourage the plant to bush from the base, and if it starts to grow foliage from the base it will always look nice and lush because it will begin it’s life the correct way – it will begin to produce dense foliage from below and then it will always keep foliage from the base.

Most people however, don’t like to cut back hard when they first buy a plant – but, in this instance its better to be cruel than to be kind. As long as the garden is not planted from Dec-March, you will see after, say 3-4 months a lot of rapid growth occurring, then, at this time it is better then to give your plant another prune, but this time, don’t prune so hard back, – try to allow a little more growth, this time, say prune to above 3-4 new shoots, then when the plant begins to grow it will again begin to bush from the base and more lush foliage will be produced.

If you have lived in the Mediterranean climate for a long period of time you will understand that it can be extremely hard work to keep plants under control – however, if you start looking after your plants right from the beginning you will have far less of a headache in the future and a far more beautiful garden for years to come. Here are some more shrubs that need to be treated in a similar way:- Hibiscus, Anisodontea (pink, buttercup size flowers), Plumbago (sky blue trumpet shaped flowers), Margarita rose (button pink flowers), Santolina (button pink flowers), Osteospermum (white or deep pink flowers), Lavenders and Rosemary, bush bougainvilleas. If you are in any doubt always contact a qualified Plant Advisor.

Need some plant advice? For more details, pest and disease advice or plant ideas for your own individual garden conditions – please contact me on the home page or write to me at the plant diagnostic service contact home page

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