Beat the Heat: Three Ways to Help Your Plants This Summer


Heat waves in summer can be very stressful for ornamental plants on Virginia’s landscapes.  But are there ways that you as a homeowner can proactively set your plants up for success this summer?   Here are a few ways to help your plants not just survive but thrive during scorching summer days.

#1 Water Your Plants in the Morning

Watering in the morning (2-3 times a week) has several advantages.  First, this allows the water to penetrate into the soil before high daily temperatures cause evaporation on the surface.  Second, water applied later in the day can absorb heat as well as cause a magnifying glass-effect on your plants, increasing the potential for damage.

Watering late in the day can also increase the chances that your landscape plants develop problems with harmful fungal growth. Diseased or insect infested trees are more prone to drought stress. Trees with canker diseases have a harder time sending water up to the foliage. These diseases act like a blood clot, clogging up the xylem and phloem. Stressed trees send out different chemical signals that attract pest. This is how nature turns itself over. Preventative borer applications are recommended for valuable/older trees.

#2 Apply Mulch to Trees and Shrubs

Applying mulch is a great way to protect your trees and shrubs during the summer.  Mulch absorbs excess moisture while also preventing evaporation of the soil below during high temperatures.  Apply mulch around the root zones trees and shrubs which may be exposed to full sun throughout the day.  Be careful though, too much mulch (piled above the root flare) can cause problems for trees and shrubs.  Trees and shrubs with pre-existing grass around the root zone should have the grass removed first.  A root zone aeration is an excellent method for applying mulch to existing trees and shrubs.

#3 Monitor Moisture Levels

Periodically check your landscape trees and shrubs for proper moisture.  Ensure irrigations systems, sprinklers, hoses, and drip lines are functioning properly and not leaking.  Too much moisture can be as damaging to plants as too little moisture.   Overwatering symptoms are similar to drought symptoms.  Look for withering and yellowing leaves.  If you have been applying water and your plant is exhibiting drought symptoms, it may be that you are watering too much.

We recommend buying a moisture meter. These are cheap devices available online or at your local hardware store and are a good way to monitor moisture without getting your hands dirty.   You can also check soil conditions by feeling the soil below the mulch line several hours after watering.  Soil with proper moisture levels should be moist or lightly damp, but not saturated or wet.

Following these three easy steps will ensure your plants have a head start on keeping your plants looking healthy and confident this summer.