Perfect conditions

Entrepreneur and I built our current home back in 1996. Well, we didn’t literally build it with our bare hands, but we did design it…and then found a fantastic general contractor who could complete our vision. We have upper and lower patios. The lower walk-out patio is compliments of a ginormous retaining wall. With stairs wrapping both together, I thought it would be just wonderful to have a flower bed between the concrete patio and retaining step wall.

And that’s when the fun began. Eager to plant colorful summer flowers, I rushed to the store and came home with all sorts of summer annuals…which promptly died in record time.

Not to be discouraged, I paged through my landscape books for plants to grow in part shade/part sun/urban-jungle-type of conditions (aka: in and around concrete). Asters! With wonderful daisy-like, blueish-purple flowers. Very hardy.

They all promptly died within weeks.

Upon further inspection, we found the “dirt” four inches down was 100% clay. Mixed with a little gravel. When it rained, the consistency became sticky, icky, suffocating modeling clay. So to the neighborhood nursery I went.

I have a planting bed about 20 feet long, 2 feet wide, east side of the house, surrounded by concrete…with clay and gravel. What do you suggest?

Houttuynia (say: hoo-TY-nee-uh) she said, not missing a beat.


Houttuynia, she repeated.

Okay. How many plants do I need?


Did you hear the part about 20 feet?


She was correct. Four little plants looked hopelessly inadequate. But as you can see, they’ve filled in nicely. And it only took…

wait for it…

ONE year.

These suckers are amazing. Amazingly prolific. Dying down in the winter, they come back every spring en mass. And it’s a good thing they’re contained. Because from time to time, they’ve been discovered escaping their confinement on the OPPOSITE side of the steps. Yep, that means they grew under the concrete steps three feet to get to daylight.

Houttuynia. Classified as an alien invasive species…that grows well in moist to wet soil and even slightly submerged in water in partial or full sun.


7 thoughts on “Perfect conditions

  1. You’ve described the condition (well not so much the concrete) of most of my yard — shady and dead clay soil. Glad to hear there’s something besides weeds that will grow there. Weeds thrive here.


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