Plants Lost and Found

In the fall of 2016, I planted 5 Hoary Vervain (Verbena hastata) in the Driveway Border. The following spring and throughout 2017, I continued to look for them, but to no avail. I assumed that they had wasted away to oblivion for some reason or another.

Hoary Vervain

Then this year, what do I see? Hoary Vervain, that’s what. (This is another plant that needs a new common name. Hoary Vervain sounds like a ghost who haunts wine cellars. But that’s a rant for different day.)

Hoary Vervain is not a high impact plant. But it’s blue and it’s a larval host for common buckeye butterflies, so I wanted some. Not every plant should be extra zippy.

It must have been growing inconspicuously (or maybe not at all) above ground while building up its roots. Then this year it makes its mildly dramatic entrance.

Wild Senna emerging from the Bee Balm. It’s the one with the little leaflets on long stems.

I had a similar experience with Wild Senna (Cassia hebecarpa). The first year I couldn’t even find it. Now it has made an appearance, though it looks like it won’t bloom or reach its full size (4-6′) until next year. It’s about 3′ right now.

This gives me hope for the several species (I will NOT admit how many) that I planted this year or last and that I can now find no sign of. Either they have wasted away or they are in hiding, preparing to make a grander entrance next year.

Some of this is my own fault. I have developed a certain hubris over the fact that most of my plants almost never need supplemental watering. And so I forget that new plants need a little coddling, especially during a spell of hot and dry weather. The rainy spring we had reinforced my overconfidence.

Bottle Gentian at Lurie Garden.

Take the Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andewsii) I planted this spring. I thought it must be hiding under the leaves of the Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum), but instead it seems to have withered away. But perhaps it has only gone dormant? A man can hope.

I suppose this could be an argument for buying larger plants from a local nursery as opposed to ordering smaller plants from a mail order operation. But then, you’re so much more likely to find exactly what you want via mail order.

Have you had plants come back to you after you thought they were gone for good?

52 Comments on “Plants Lost and Found

  1. Yes, my original rose campion plants did not make it through the winter, but I was delighted to find several seedlings growing in the late spring.

  2. My disappearing plant was the dwarf version of Lavatera Barnsley. I planted it two summers ago. It bloomed that summer. It did not come back last summer. I even pulled out the plant label.

    Then, it started growing again this spring. It now has one flower. It’s not a very vigorous grower, especially compared to its parent of Lavatera Barnsley. I took several cuttings several years ago of it and they all grew.

  3. Yes, I’ve had a few disappearing plants. We were given a pretty Spanish Iris when we moved into our house/garden, and the beautiful flowers disappeared amongst the violets. Then I found it flowering away unnoticed, and moved it to a spot where it could be admired …and it disappeared again…for good I fear.

  4. I could say no, I have never had a plant disappear – but I’d by lying! I think you need to have a bit of a steel nerve when it comes to the kind of perennials that disappear and then reappear, if you are lucky and if you haven’t forgotten them and absent mindedly dug them up.

  5. I prefer the smaller plants because they get established more efficiently. However, I do not need to contend with such harsh climate conditions that are harder on smaller plants.

    • You’re right, the smaller plants are better at adapting to the new location, but they’re easier to lose in all the other vegetation.

  6. I bought a beautiful hibiscus last year, but when spring rolled around it was no where to be found. But, then midway through the summer, it popped up. I’m still hopeful I just might see a bloom. I think I’d better find something to cover it with for next winter. Maybe one of those styrofoam rose covers. 🙂

  7. What beautiful happy surprises. We through wild flower seeds in the back of our cottage beds because we got them free. Our clay soil doesn’t lend itself to direct sowing so I never expect much. We got some beautiful wild carrot and several other things that I actually don’t know what they are. Waiting for flowers. I am always trying bulbs and probably lose half to flooding.

    • Well, the good thing about seeds is that they are usually pretty cheap, so not much is lost if they don’t come up. Do you find caterpillars on your wild carrot?

  8. oh yes, I have. I am sloppy with labelling (to put it mildly – it would be honest to say, I just toss stuff in without much though, forgetting in a day or two, what I put where). So I always get surprises. I am also sure, I weeded some of the plants, I seeded earlier.

  9. I was just weeding in a bed that had gone rogue and discovered a Rodgersia that I had completely forgotten I planted last year. It has such a distinctive leave that I recognized it but it is so tiny it looks like it was put in as a seedling. All it did was survive the winter.

  10. I have lost count of how many plants have gone missing in my garden. This is, in some part, because of my cavalier attitude about watering them that crucial first. I have mended my ways and have become a watering fool. So far, so good.

    • Yeah, I’m a big slug when it comes to watering. I sort of feel that if a plant can’t get by without supplemental water, it doesn’t deserve a place in the garden. Of course, I’m the one who ends up paying the price (literally).

      • Yes, yes. In the past, I’ve been the same way. This year, partly because it’s been so very dry, I’ve watered more, and everything looks really good.

  11. Yes! This year’s greatest thrill in that regard has been the (re)appearance of Euphorbia corollata, which I planted two or three springs ago, only to see it wither away. That was my second try with a small mail-order plant, and I’d concluded that the only chance for success would be to sow seed in place. Now that I know what it looks like from emergence to bloom, I can use fresh seed from my single blooming stalk to beef up what’s here!

    • Funny you should say that. I had the exact same experience with E. corollata. I thought it was a goner, then last year just a couple of stems pop up. This year the clump has expanded, and a new stem has appeared a foot or so from the other plant.

  12. Yes I have – one year you think it’s gone, then the next…there it is! I’ve also lost plants that have not come back – lupine comes to mind. This spring I transplanted baby Gaillardia and they too have not been appreciating the hot weather and droughty conditions – I only now see 2 of the 7 I planted and even those are wee things. The others either withered or the rabbits got to them. I guess I’ll find out next year!

  13. Hello Jason, you win some and you loose some. I also don’t tend to water plants more than a few times after they have been planted out but our soil is always on the moist side and can hold a lot of water. I mainly lose plants when they are smothered out by surrounding companions. I tend to plant densely so it can be a “survival of the fittest” in the borders.

    • I have a similar approach. I like to plant very densely, and feel like the plants should fight it out among themselves for supremacy.

  14. Plants can be strange that way. I’ve had similar experiences with podophyllum that vanished for a year or two and then appeared.

  15. My “lost” plants seem to stay lost, unfortunately. Occasionally an absent member of the garden will pop up elsewhere, but usually gone is GONE. This year I have replaced some of those MIA’s: ‘Lucifer’ crocosmia, red penstemon, and ‘Luna Red’ hardy hibiscus. Maybe some of the perennials I planted this year that have already disappeared are working on their roots and will reappear next. Fingers crossed.

  16. Yes, My Dutchmans Breeches were gone for 2 years. I forgot about it and it rose up from the dead this spring. It didn’t bloom but I was happy to see some at least seeking the light of day.
    I planted some Hoary Vervain too. It is doing ok. Not playing hide and seek anyway.

  17. Oh…how I agree with you re plant names, some are just ludicrous! I am always forgetting where plants are and am often surprised when a plant suddenly appears a few years later. Some lovely varieties here, glad they came back for

    • I keep saying that I would be available to make sure all the plants have really proper names, for a reasonable fee, of course.

  18. I though my original epimedium was gone for good, but a couple years later it reappeared in multiples of the original planting. Once established it become a favorite early spring woodland plant. Vervain? Isn’t that the plant that repels vampires?

  19. I love that bottle gentian… don’t think I’ve seen that one before. I haven’t had plants that came back when I thought they were dead, perhaps because I have a lot of hope that something is not dead. I have even tended dead ones, thinking they were alive (a cactus that had looked dead even when it had been alive).

    • Well, now that yo say that I suppose one’s outlook could determine the answer to my question. I tend to be a pessimist, maybe a little too ready to believe a plant is a goner.

  20. Well, now that you say that I suppose one’s outlook could really determine the answer to my question. I tend to be a pessimist, maybe a little too ready to believe a plant is a goner.

  21. As you can see, I am way behind in my blog reading. I used to have lamb’s ears growing in the front and then about 20 years ago, they disappeared. Last year, there they were. I now have two lovely plants and who knows when they may disappear again.

    • Maybe your Lamb’s Ears decided to come back from retirement. More seriously, they say seeds can stay viable for many years, perhaps that’s what happened.

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