Plants I can’t grow

I hope everyone has this issue. I hope it isn’t just me. I have a few plants that no matter what, I kill them. I buy them from reputable nurseries, and invariably they tell me “This one is so easy. Just stick it in the ground, it will grow.” Or something like that. Or maybe that’s just what I heard because that’s what I’m looking for, who knows?

Bamboo Muhly is a lovely grass, swaying in the breezes and filling blank spaces with loosely woven tendrils that can get 4 feet tall, I’ve heard. Supposedly, it’s quite hardy and easy to grow (ha!).  Here’s what it looks like in other people’s yards:

Healthy Bamboo Muhly that is happy with its owner

Here’s what my Bamboo Muhly ALWAYS looks like:

This Bamboo Muhly in my yard isn't the first one of its kind that I've killed. I have 6 more that look just like this one.

You’d think,  being that it’s a Sedge, Sparkler Sedge should be fairly easy to grow. It’s so pretty in the shade, and I believe it would be lovely mixed with ferns. (Though I’ve never managed to observe that phenomenon). Here’s a healthy specimen:

Wow, can't you just see that brightening up a shady spot?

Here’s my 3rd try on this kind-of expensive and hard to find plant: (No, I’m not clenching my teeth with that statement, no).

This started out so big and pretty. Sigh.

And then there’s Shrimp Plant. You know that adage, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”? Well, what do you say when it’s the 3rd or 4th attempt at the same thing? A stupid rat? Insanity?

Here’s what a happy Shrimp Plant CAN look like, if someone else grows it:

Isn't this pretty? Wouldn't that be lovely in my yard?

Here’s what my Shrimp Plants invariably look like:

A new one again this year. I keep trying. Doh!

And I’m not going to mention my 3 year old Crossvines that do nothing, an Evergreen Wisteria vine that has never bloomed, and the number of Clematis and Potato Vines that have died on my watch.

However, having said that, sometimes I surprise myself with what does grow. Here’s my biggest of 4 Hostas, returning for the 3rd year.

Check it out – I do want to mention that the leaf beside it for comparison sake is an Aralia (Japanese Fatsia). Big ol’ leaves!

A mail order Hosta that was a trial. We've had 2 cold winters in a row that have helped, I think.

So ‘fess up. What plant can you not grow? Don’t leave me hanging thinking I’m the only one!


17 thoughts on “Plants I can’t grow

  1. You know mine — it’s Plumbago! Which everyone else can grow. My Carex ‘Sparkler’ is doing well, but I have lost two bamboo muhly in the last two winters, but I still want to replace it. Now you’ve made me think twice about it!

  2. I think it is more of a matter of what can I grow one year but not the next. Last year my Senorita Rosalita got the nod for a purchase of 3 this year. They are all struggling. They may not even make it. My fault, the weather’s fault, the growers fault? Who knows. My Japanese aralia looks beautiful for a few weeks then the leaves start to turn yellow and drop off-every single year. Can’t fathom that one. I don’t give up easily on plants I really want but I have given up on Hollyhock(rust) even the French one that had beautiful leaves all through the winter then succumbed to rust in the spring and never flowered. Can’t think of the others- I have blocked them from my mind.

  3. Diana, Plumbago is iffy for me as well. It seems to need more attention than I want to give it in order to bloom. It’s so pretty, though, that I keep trying.

    Jenny, I know what you mean. My Aralia does the same thing, and the plant is less than half the size that it was when I bought this house. Perhaps it’s the drought? And Srta. Rosalita was another iffy one for me. Last year I bought 4, one did well and the other 3 didn’t. And all of them went kaput overnight once August arrived.

  4. Vegetable plant: potatoes. plain ol’ red lasoda potatoes. I think they get early blight and then they’re done for.

    herb: rosemary. I finally have one that hasn’t keeled over yet – and it’s an upright variety whereas the two I killed were prostrate varieties.

    flowering plant: poppies. I had good luck one year and now I can’t get them to grow if my life depended on it. I also have never gotten passionvine to bloom, but it has spread by runners so it must be doing okay…

  5. Pretty much everything everyone’s listed! Haven’t tried an aralia yet, don’t plan on it. Plumbago? I have a single spring that hasn’t grown one iota in 3 years but comes back every year, the stupid thing. Senorita Rosalita? Sat there like a bump on a log right on top of a drip irrigtor for two months, wilted and died. Like Katina I had one good poppy year then nothing (my neighbor’s yard is covered in them) and some fly or mite took out both rosemary plants. And don’t forget, I killed a mature Salvia greggii–I killed a cherry sage for jim’s sakes! Disheartening.

  6. Katina, I’m beginning to feel better now. It isn’t just me! Passionvine – haven’t tried it yet because I’d be so disappointed if it didn’t bloom.

    Caroline, my trailing rosemary died back by half this year also. And I’ve killed a few Salvias, too, now that I recall….

  7. Robin, great post! Same thing here, though my shrimp plants do great. Can’t do the sparkler sedge. I killed a few rusty blackhaw viburnums until I found the right spot. Rosemary is tricky and I have a problem growing mint in the ground. I certainly can’t grow any of the plants that love great drainage, like four-nerve daisy and black-foot daisy, but that’s just soil. And my crossvines have never performed the way others do, though now that they’re getting more sun, they’re better. Sigh.

  8. Columbine. Can never get it to survive. But then I planted one at the school garden and it is gorgeous!!! I don’t know, maybe that depresses me even more. My shrimp plants look like yours, all leggy, so you’re in good company on that one. Finally, larkspur. I planted all the seeds that others have passed on to me and go…NOTHING.

  9. Linda, isn’t it funny how Rosemary is supposed to be so tough? And don’t get me started about clay soil….

    Bonnie, I killed Columbine for years until this year. My secret? Don’t tell… I put in a berm of Miracle Grow Soil and stopped buying Hinckley’s columbine (the recommended native one!). I still have blooms out there today! Also, they are under a deciduous cedar elm so they get full winter sun and summer shade – I think that’s the most important part besides the drainage. And larkspur – fortunately, I have a spot in the sun in decomposed granite where they are quite happy. Otherwise, I would be kaput on that one, too!

  10. Uh oh, I just bought 2 sparkler sedge! I recently killed three dwarf fountain grass plants…have no idea what happened to them…they even had new growth at the beginning of the spring then fizzled out. Last fall sowed seeds of bluebonnet, poppy and larkspur. I got two bluebonnet plants that produced two sets of leaves and a single, deformed flower and two larkspur. The larkspur were a surprise…they are only 8 inches tall and just started blooming this week…Ill take it.

  11. ha! it’s comforting to see a lot of my problem plants already listed. The muhly, rosemary and any kind of roses are my biggest losers. I’m also bad at taking care of potted plants and containers, so that stuff needs to be super hardy and neglect able or it doesn’t stand a chance. my most expensive disappointments have been 3 bottlebrushes and 2 japanese yews that i killed so fast it was scary.

  12. I’m so glad it’s not just me! I feel so vindicated!!! My Rosemary died…dead, dead, dead. Not hardy for me or in my yard. I’ve killed 2 Texas Mtn Laurels because killing just one was not enough. I’ve killed 3 Jasmine. I love the smell so I keep trying. I should just enjoy the smell in someone else’s yard. I think I’ve killed a potato vine as well that “grows like a weed” in my mother-in-laws yard. Mexican Heather? Don’t get me started. I think I’m a gluten for punishment because I keep coming back. Bound and determined to find what I CAN grow. Ice plant, yes! Ferns, yes! Lily of the Nile

  13. Cat, take those Larkspur and love it, for sure. I think this year, with it so dry, that two bluebonnets should be a good accomplishment.

    Suzie, I have several posts about the saga of my bottlebrush; very expensive disappointments!

    Erin, Yep, I’ve killed a few rosemary, too. I almost killed my expensive Mountain Laurel until I finally found a spot it seemed to like after moving it 3 times. Hooray for ice plant!

  14. I simply cannot grow an African violet ! I have friends with collections of them, and I can’t keep a one alive. Stopped buying them finally. The same with lavender. You’d think with our soil and drought it would be a cinch. Nope ! Not in my yard ! Becker vineyards can grow fields and fields of the stuff, but I can’t make one survive.

  15. I have beautiful Larkspur, shrimp plant, rosemary, passion vines (red and blue), columbine, cleome, etc etc etc…BUT….every single friggin coneflower has died on me!!! Wile purple…small start a big plant…sigh..they all shrivel and DIE!!! and i get soooo mad when all the blogs say…ole dependable purple coneflower…this thing is texas TUFF!! Well it aint friggin alma delia tuff…. oh well..maybe i will try seed this fall.. wish me luck!!

  16. Sadly, I have terrible luck with, of all things, mint and rosemary I have repeatedly been told the same line as you, “This one is so easy. Just stick it in the ground, it will grow.” With the mint, the line is modified to say “…it will grow like a weed.” Alas, though, everywhere, and every time I plant these, they die. I’m trying one more time with the rosemary–this time with three different varieties I have never before used. Cross fingers.

  17. Jennifer, mint is a common malady in hot central Texas. I grow it in my pond filter, so it is in continuous running water. Only way it can survive here! Thanks for visiting and helping with our list.

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