Thursday, November 1, 2018

Kiwi rescue

"I think its days are over" ... "eeeeew, not a happy chappy" .... "needs a bigger pot" .... These were just some of the perfectly accurate comments my sad-looking potted New Zealand Christmas bush attracted two years ago. It was thin, bedraggled, its leaves dull and sparse. It was a wreck and it was, I am ashamed to admit, all due to my prolonged neglect. But now, two years later, it's back in good health, like it should have been all along.

The only thing my NZ Christmas bush now lacks is good timing. It always flowers in spring, rather than at Christmas, but there's nothing I can do about that. It lives down the side of our house, and one of its main jobs is to hide the view of our garbage wheelie bins from passers-by. It's not alone in that task, as there are also some large cane begonias in pots doing a similarly good screening job.

Rescuing Mr Sad & Bedraggled was a fairly simple task. First step, get out the secateurs and cut off everything that is spindly and unhealthy. So that meant cutting off a lot of stuff. One simple technique I use is to keep on cutting stems until I can see green wood. If a cut reveals dry and dodgy looking wood, cut some more. Once you see green signs of life, there is hope.

The second technique is to give the potted plant lots and lots of seaweed solution. I just made up a watering can of it (here in Australia my shed has two containers of seaweed product in two major brand names: Seasol and eco seaweed — but there are others). Seasol is already a liquid, while eco seaweed is a dry flaky powder. Both products are diluted in water. I kept on applying a 9-litre can of seaweed solution every week for the first month or two, and scaled back to monthly when it started to show some new growth.

This pot and plant has got to the stage that it's too big and heavy for me to lift any more, so I couldn't use the alternative method, which is to soak the whole plant, pot and all in a very large trug of seaweed solution for an hour or three. Ideally, try have the liquid covering the top of the soil level. This totally re-wets ultra-dry soil, which is why it's the ideal treatment option.

This might be the best option, but it's not practical with this big pot and my dodgy old back. If you are thinking it might work for your sick plant, and you can manage lifting the pot, etc, the best product to use is Seasol Super Soil Wetter and Conditioner. Just follow the packet directions in mixing it up, but here's a tip: don't add the product before you add the water, as it foams up like dishwashing detergent. Add the product to the water, towards the end of filling. I've recommended this treatment to friends with sick potted plants, and the success rate has been very good.

So, while I've been rabbiting on about products and watering cans and trugs, I've also been showing you some photos of how worthwhile the whole project has been. NZ Christmas bush (Metrosideros) are beautiful, tough and well worth growing in the ground, if you have space, or in pots if you don't have enough space. 

I feel a bit guilty about neglecting it and letting it get bedraggled, but as it is now one of my star patients in the hospital ward of my garden, I hereby promise never to neglect it again!

PS: Note to Auto-Correct Spell Checker Software Thingy ... When I type in the word "trug" please do not auto-correct it to "drug"! It gives my readers a totally misleading impression about me, and my methods. Thank you.


MDN said...

I didn't know this plant but it's very beautiful!

Jamie said...


It's found throughout the Pacific. It's a wonderful seaside planting, as it has tough foliage and can grow very close to beaches. I'm not in that kind of position, but it also grows well in a wide range of climate zones, from cooler New Zealand through to tropical Fiji and Hawaii.

There's quite a few varieties of it too, bred for different flower colours, and differing plant heights.

Phil in Newsy said...

You got me thinking, Jamie, about how hard it is to water pots, especially large ones that, if they dry out, tend to pass watering down the insides and leave the center root zone untouched.

In my Google image search I came across an image of over-watered cannabis (at '') so I guess your spell-checker is just doing its job according to the times :0)

Self-watering pots are so expensive they're no option for me, so my pots (and I've about two dozen) are all drip fed from a perimeter irrigation pipe and have big saucers. The imperative is for regular waterings to prevent the dry out.

It took me a few years (about 50) to realise one can move the bigger pots around, even up stairs to & from verandas, using a $20 furniture trolley. Just never occurred to me until I got some pots that were immovable after I filled them in the wrong place.

PS: The idea of diffusion containers in the soil of a pot means less room for the roots, but the compromise might be worth it. Jury's out on that.

Btw, great pics of the Kiwi!

Phil on Newy said...

Jamie, you and your readers might enjoy this. I was researching for an article and stumbled into this marvellous story by the designer of the White House Rose Garden. Couldn't stop reading!
Just had to share:

Jamie said...

Thanks for the link, Phil. I've bookmarked to have a read once this busy weekend is over.

And you're right about watering pots. It ain't easy!

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