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Perennials/Phormium Flash Dance


QUESTION: Hello Donna,
I planted a couple phormiums into a planter at the end of January, and by March 1st, one of my poor plants looks quite wilted in one section and I was wondering what the cause might be. I have attached a picture so you can see the drooping, especially compared to the other phormium next to it. Do you think planter is overcrowded? Or perhaps the phormium has a disease? I have watered the plants on four occasions ( watering deeply) based on our weather ( southern Ca).  We have had some rainy days along with mid to upper 80's since planted. They are in full sun,  facing south.  Any help,you can provide is greatly appreciated and thank you so much for your time and expertise.

ANSWER: Hello Dana,

I am so sorry you have having trouble with your phormiums. They are such lovely plants!

One thing that does jump out at me from your very complete explanation and helpful picture (thank you!) is that you have had temperatures in the 80's. Phormiums prefer cool temperatures in the winter, and I think that mid to high 80's are too much for them.

If they are outside, you might want to bring them in, since your home is undoubtedly cooler than outside. Do keep them in light, but cool them down. I do not think that, at this size, they are too crowded in the pot. I think that they are simply getting too much winter heat, since they are in full sun, facing south, and it is quite warm there. I notice that the larger one is coping better, but that may simply be a function of it's size.

Does this make sense? Please feel free to write again.



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

Thank you so much for your ultra speedy reply! I can't bring the planter indoors because it is extremely heavy...but I wasn't very clear regarding the temperatures we have experienced since planting. Majority of the days have been in the 60's, but last week we had three days or so with temperatures in 80's - do you think the change in temp shocked the smaller plant? Can I trim the drooping blades or will that make things worse? If I can trim, what is best way (as close to base of plant as possible)?
Thank you so very much for your help - I can't tell you how grateful I am!
I hope you have a fantastic day!

Hi Dana,

I am happy to try to help. I have plants that struggle and I know that speedy help can make the difference.

Yes, the smaller plant may have had more of a struggle with the three days of sudden heat.

Even drooping blades may provide nutrition to your baby plant. It needs that chlorophyll! I would leave it for the time being. If it dies, of course, snip it off, but only the tissue that is dead. The living tissue may still be able to make food.

If you get another very hot spell I would try to provide your plant with some artificial shade (an angled umbrella?) It will make it in the long term. Just make sure you don't start overwatering it, and heaven forbid don't fertilize it for a while, and I think that it will surprise you.

Again, please feel free to follow up, and have a lovely day.




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Donna Mack


I am a Master Gardener through the University of Illinois Extension.I can answer questions about pest control, especially voles, rabbits, chipmunks and slugs, and have done so on Dave's Garden Watchdog under the name DonnaMack since 2002. I have a lot of expertise with ornamental grass, hardy roses and old garden roses, minor bulbs such as ornigothalem, chionodoxa and allium as well as most types of lilies. I am knowledgeable about organic methods and I grow perennials, annuals and vegetables from seed.


I have been gardening since 1998 and have raised roses, peonies, annuals and perennials (the latter two from seed), and numerous shrubs and trees, many of which I have planted. I am familiar with many organic techniques and use as many as I can but know the chemical solutions, which are most benign and how to use them. I LOVE gardening, and I get great satisfaction with helping others so that they reach the state of joy that gardening can bring to those inclined to it.

The American Lily Society

I have numerous entries in Garden Watchdog under the name DonnaMack. I write three to four columns a year for the Kane County Chronicle.

I successfully completed the University of Illinois Master Gardening Program in March of 2013. I did this to augment extensive self study through books (I've probably read 100) and an arts degree, which helps with aesthetics. I am purely an amateur, but one who studies, reads, and documents extensively. My gardening log began in 2000, and has hundreds of entries, so that I can use my successes and failures to assist other gardeners.

Awards and Honors
The University of Illinois created a Team with Work Award for master gardeners who work together to create what they regard as an outstanding project. I won this award as part of a group that created "The Idea Garden", which suggests plants for home growers to attempt to grow. My personal contribution was salvias - ornamental and culinary hardy and tender perennials, which I grew from seed and tended through the season.

Past/Present Clients
I am currently overseeing and performing the maintenance of two large English style gardens in a suburb of Chicago, and recently acquired the management and redesign of a large estate garden(2015.)

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