Plants need plenty of warmth and light to grow, but too much heat hurts them as much as it does the gardener tending them. Consistently high heat levels can cause wilted leaves, damaged surface roots, and low fruit, veggie, or flower production. The best way to combat this is to learn how to protect your plants from the summer heat. There are several methods for this, so you can use as many as needed to keep your plants healthy and happy.
Understand Your Plants
First off, it’s always important to understand your plants and what they need. Not all plants are going to be as affected by bright sunlight as others.
In general, the more light your plant naturally needs the less likely it is to be affected by excessive heat. On the flip side, plants that like partial shade or more are more susceptible to heat induced issues. Plants built to live in sunny, hot locations are naturally better adapted to survive the peak of summer heat than plants that like a bit more shade.
Keep this in mind, as it will change how concerned with heat damage you should be.
Signs Of Heat Damage
Signs of heat damage can vary, but generally you’ll start to see plants that look wilted or a bit burned out. Check for droopy stems and leaves as these are signs that the plant is being stressed by the heat. If you notice your plants are not looking great, and it’s a warm day, it may be a sign of heat stress.
In more extreme cases, you may begin to see yellow or browning leaves as the sun begins to burn them. This can lead to serious, long term issues for your plant, and should be correct as soon as possible.
This type of damage can be permanent, and lead to long term growth issues. Plants that have experienced heat stress tend to grow slower, produce less, and be more susceptible to pests and disease. That’s why it’s important to prevent issues before they become a problem, and fix them quickly if you notice them.
Steps To Protect Your plants
Here are a couple of easy ways you can help to protect your plants from heat. These can be used together for those in especially hot regions, and can also be done sporadically if you’re only getting a handful of overly warm days.
All plants need water, though you can’t just water them at any time. The hottest part of the day is the afternoon, which is also when evaporation is at its highest. When you water at this time, the moisture disappears before the plants can absorb much of it, leaving them thirsty. Plants also release moisture to protect themselves from heat, so they won’t be able to replenish what’s lost if the water doesn’t stay in the soil. Heat scald is caused by wet leaves being scorched by the hot sun.
To prevent these issues, it’s best to water plants in the morning when it’s still relatively cool. Doing so ensures the moisture stays in the soil for the roots to soak up. Morning watering also prevents scalded leaves and discourages slugs and fungal diseases. You can water in the early evening as well on extra-hot days.
Be sure not to overwater the plants, though. Too much watering can be as damaging as too little. Root rot and fungal diseases can occur when the soil is too wet to allow oxygen in. Check the soil first before adding more, and water when the soil is dry to the touch. Try not to wet the leaves when adding water since this can scorch or burn the leaves.
Mulch is one of the best defenses against hot weather for a few reasons. First, it protects the roots, especially those shallow ones, from being exposed to the heat. Though the leaves and stems can regrow if they fry during a heatwave, once the roots die, the plant won’t recover. Mulch also maintains the moisture in the soil, preventing evaporation, so you don’t need to water as frequently.
There are many options for mulch, though the lighter-colored mulches are best during hot weather. These will reflect the sunlight, keeping your plants and soil much cooler and happier. Grass clippings are another great example, though you may want to let them dry until they have turned brown before adding them to your garden.
You can also use straw, leaves, and pine needles. Bark mulch is another good option, though it may contain weed seeds, so check it carefully to avoid adding unwanted species to your garden.
Add Some Shade
Plants need sun, but several days of harsh, direct sunlight can be too much for even the hardiest species. When the leaves are sunburned and the stems wilting, it may be time for some shade. This gives your plants time to recover. You don’t need to cover them all the time, though doing so during the hottest part of the day will be a great help to your green friends.
There are several shade options available, depending on the size of your garden and where the plants are located. For smaller gardens, a patio umbrella is a great choice. These are easy to set up wherever needed to give your plants a break from the sun during those hot afternoons. You can even leave these up permanently, blocking the afternoon sun while still allowing the morning and evening light to reach your plants.
A shade sail is another great option. These are slightly larger than patio umbrellas, so they can cover larger areas of your garden. They are even big enough to offer you some shade while working in the garden, protecting both you and your plants at the same time.
A shade cloth or bed sheet can be laid right over the plants in your garden, protecting large areas at once. You may need to add stakes, trellises, or support hoops to keep the material from weighing down the more delicate plants. Choosing a lighter fabric is also a good idea to prevent plant damage. Lay out the cloth or sheet in the early afternoon and then remove it when the heat of the day starts to dissipate.
Utilizing the trees and shrubs in your yard is another way to provide your garden with some much-needed shade. When planting in the spring, consider which plants need the most protection and place them accordingly to get the shade benefits the larger plants have to offer.
Mist Your Plants
Another option to help reduce the effects of heat is to gently mist your plants. Take a small spray bottle, and gently spray your plants. This gives them extra moisture, which can help prevent them from getting burned out.
Misting works well when you don’t want to risk overwatering. A light mist doesn’t provide enough water to risk issues like root rot, but still provides some heat protection. You can mist nearly everyday without worry. Do so as the day reaches its peak temperature, and you’ll help provide a bit of protection to your plant.
Note that this is a small step that may not be enough to protect a fragile plant. It does however work well for brief periods of heat, for example, on unusually warm days.
Heat Protection For Indoor Plants
Your indoor plants aren’t usually exposed to the excessive amounts of summer heat as your outdoor plants, so heat is often not a large concern. Of course, depending on where they are placed in your home, they may suffer from heat damage. Keeping an eye on them and adjusting their care is a must for thriving indoor plants.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when growing plants indoors.
All plants need light, but placing a low-light plant right next to an uncovered window can be far too hot for their delicate leaves and stems. Be sure to check the light requirements for all your plants, placing them where they’ll get the right amount of light at all times. Filtering the light using curtains or other window coverings also protects your plants, especially during summer afternoons when the sun is at its hottest.
Warm Grow Lights
While this won’t be an issue for most, some types of grow lights can give off a lot of heat. All grow lights will produce a little heat, but older, incandescent bulbs give off the most and can burn your plants.
The solution here is simple, either use heat-efficient lights or move your plants back from them. LED lights are great options as they give off little heat and are unlikely to cause any damage to your plants.
The sun isn’t the only thing that creates heat. Though you likely won’t use a furnace often during the warmer months of the year, plants can be damaged when placed too close to the vents when they do come on.
To prevent this, it’s best to place your plants at least a few feet away from your furnace vents, as well as any heaters in your home. The warm air shouldn’t be blowing directly on your plant at any time. Some plants don’t like overly warm temperatures either, so you may want to keep them as far from the vents as possible to ensure they aren’t dealing with constant temperature fluctuations.
Protecting Your Plants From Summer Heat
Summer is the peak of the gardening season, but doesn’t come without its own challenges. Excessive heat has been the bane of many a gardener in the past, and is something we should all be on the lookout for. Thankfully, it’s easy to deal with; as long as you keep an eye on your plants and react quickly. The above tips should hopefully help you keep your plants thriving regardless of the temperature.