Heatwaves come and go, but that doesn’t mean your plants also have to. As temperatures soar beyond 90°F, most plants start to suffer. Out of their comfort zone of 55-85°F, the typical signs of weather damage begin to show.
Generally, heat stress presents itself primarily as wilting, showing that water loss has taken place as leaves turn crunchy brown before dying. But your plant will cry for help in more ways than one.
Signs your plants need a break from the heat
- Leaf rolling and cupping.
- Dry leaf edges.
- Blossom and fruit drop.
- Blossom end rot.
- Exposed roots or spilling out of drainage holes.
As temperatures soar, many plants will even shed some of their foliage in an attempt to conserve water.
Will I have to protect my plant from heatwaves?
Well, it all depends on the plant, really. Succulents hold moisture in their fleshy leaves, while most plants do not share this luxury.
But, not to worry! You can do plenty before and during the heatwave to make sure your indoor plants survive the heat. Here are 5 of the most essential summer plant care tips to get you started. Contained or planted, the anti-heat wave strategy is much the same.
How You Can Protect Your Plants During A Heatwave
Deep watering treatment
Keeping plants alive in the blistering summer heat requires a lot of H20. But, since this isn’t just any sun, we’ll have to go deeper – soil deep. Watering as per usual just won’t cut it. Deep watering the base of your plant for a long time is the best way to revive and protect plants. If moisture only penetrates the top layer of the soil, that’s where to roots will stay. What you want is to coax their roots deeper into the ground/soil – especially just before a heatwave.
Primarily considered a preventative measure, it’s recommended that you deep water your plants every one or two weeks. The frequency depends on your soil, but long enough to saturate the ground a good foot in depth.
But don’t be too heavy-handed. Overwatering can be just as damaging to plants as underwatering. If a pot feels heavy or the soil feels damp an inch or two under the ground, your plant has likely had its fill.
Promote high humidity
The above said, some plants like moisture more than others. Many epiphytes and tropicals such as fittonia, calathea, and most ferns) should be frequently misted through periods of heat. Or fill a dish with water and place your plant within.
Don’t water in the sun
As tempting as may seem, don’t hose down your plants in the middle of the day. While they bask in the scorching midday rays, they might look like they’re parching, but the opposite is the case. Those tiny water droplets can quickly turn into mini magnifying glasses on the surface of the leaves that only serve to magnify the intensity of the sun’s rays.
Set up some shade
Shade is a sure-fire way of protecting your plants from a heatwave. However, this incredibly effective cooling tool only works if done right during a heatwave. By diminishing the heat and intensity of sunlight beating down on plants, soil stays cooler, holds moisture, and generally reduces the stress of excessive heat.
What to use as shade?
Umbrellas, airy cloth, old bedsheets, tea towels, and propped-up cardboard to give your greenery a rest from the scorching rays.
That said, you’ll want to ensure that air can circulate freely around the plants and that the material used isn’t too dark. But, if you use a dark color, be sure to keep it several inches away from any foliage. These materials tend to trap heat and can become searingly hot in only a matter of minutes, leading to burns on any plants touching them.
Say no to fertilizer
Many plants will be teetering on the edge of survival mode during a heatwave, meaning they’re focusing most of their energy on retaining moisture. As a result, their energy is shifted away from nutrient absorption. If you apply fertilizer during this time, it likely won’t benefit your plants, maybe even hindering their ability to hold on to their precious moisture cargo!
Don’t overlook the mulch
Did you know that plants are much more sensitive to changes in their root zone and soil than surrounding ambient air temperatures? As a result, a plant can often bounce back if its external parts are damaged. However, put its delicate and life-giving root system under duress, and the outcome is different.
Fortunately, plant owners and gardeners have one tool on their hands that can fight against this plight – mulch. Working as a buffer against temperature changes and promoting steady soil conditions, mulch keeps harmony in your plants.
To get the most out of mulch during a heatwave, apply about 2 inches of organic mulch material on the soil surface and around the base of plants (add an extra inch or two if using lighter mulch materials.) Organic mulch includes straw, small bark or wood chips, shredded leaves, pine needles, and aged compost (our favorite).
But if you have none of that on hand, damp newspaper or cardboard will do.
And last but not least, preventing your plants from succumbing to the elements is a 365 days of the year job. By ensuring your plants are well-nourished, watered, and kept in a suitable environment always, you prepare them for the worst. So, even if a few too many rays get through your shades cracks or if you miss a watering session, your plants will be able to weather the temporary drought, living to bloom another day.
A heatwave doesn’t have to spell stress or disaster for your beloved plants. Keep both your and your plants stress levels low by giving them a good drink, setting up shade, and getting your mulch game on. Your plants may slow down during a heatwave but they’ll bloom again if you just give them a little extra care – good luck!