Most plant tags say that the plant requires “well-drained soil” or “excellent drainage.” What exactly does that mean? How do I know if my soil is well-drained?
Plants that require well-drained soil are sensitive to prolonged periods of saturation since oxygen has been displaced from the soil pores. Only a few plants like willows and red-twig dogwood can tolerate this condition, while most others require much better drainage. To determine whether a soil is well-drained, first ask the question, “Do I ever see standing water in that spot?” If the answer is yes, then you’ll not want to consider this area well-drained. If no standing water occurs, dig a test hole about 12 inches deep and 16 inches across. Fill the hole with water and watch how long it takes to drain out. If the hole completely drains within a few hours then consider yours a well-drained soil. Keep in mind that these conditions can vary greatly from place to place within your yard, especially near low areas or where soil compaction may once have taken place. If you wish to plant in areas that do not drain as well, keep in mind that a very wide or elevated planting hole may be the key to establishing a plant in that situation.