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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - January 24, 2011

From: Los Angeles, CA
Region: California
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Diseases and Disorders, Soils
Title: Plants to grow in high zinc, lead and copper soil in Los Angeles
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We live on the Westside of Los Angeles and have just been given the bad news that our beds are high in zinc (86.39), lead (45.98) and copper(12.95). Can you recommend some plants that may grow in these conditions. Thank you!

ANSWER:

Since we are not soil chemists, we are unfamiliar with the numbers you gave us, so we did a little research and found three websites you could look at, compare your figures (if they are measured the same way) with the figures in these papers:

Fact Sheet: Zinc in Soil

Lead in Garden Soils

Environmental Effects of Copper

Again, this is pretty far out of our field, and we don't know how your numbers compare with the "safe" numbers quoted in these articles, nor do we have any lists of plants that can survive in those soils. We are curious, if those numbers are abnormally high, to know how the metals entered your garden soil. However, we would suggest that, at least for your flower beds, you replace that soil, or amend it with compost and other organic matter, which will dilute the effects of the metals. Without knowing your sun exposure, soil moisture or space requirements, there is no way we could recommend specific plants.

We are assuming that if your garden has that problem, others in your area share it. Your best source for on-the-spot information of this sort is the University of California at Davis Cooperative Extension Office for Los Angeles County.

 

 

 

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