Summer Plant Care 101
The heat of summer is finally here! We know its officially (by the calendar) spring but with global warming going kaboom every passing day it feels more like summer. The dread of what the summer might bring is real.
Summers can be a tough time for plants too if they do not get proper care. Though some plants like succulents and cacti are well-adapted to the heat, summer flowers like sunflowers and pansies love the sun but do need the care. The plants that are kept indoors are not acclimatised to the extremes of a summer heat wave. This includes succulents and cacti that stay and leafy tropical are particularly susceptible to damage from heat.
Don’t worry, for every problem under the sun, nature has a solution and there is plenty that you can do to keep your garden thriving during the summer. Here are some of the most important summer plant care tips to get you started.
- Promote high humidity: Plants that like high humidity (tropical plants such as fittonia, monsteras, calathea, and most ferns) need to be frequently misted through periods of heat. You can also fill your planters base plate with pebbles, fill it with water, and set your pot on top or group your plants together and put a bucket of water in the middle to create a little humid microclimate for your plant that will provide humidity and help them through the summer.
- Water well, and water deeply. We can’t say this enough, proper watering is the key to indoor plant care. Though over-watering is the most efficient way to kill your houseplant, the summer heat causes water to evaporate form the soil at a much faster rate. So make sure water your plants deep and slow. If you pour a lot of water in a rush the soil does not get time to absorb the water and it just drains through the drainage holes at the bottom and if you water too little only the topsoil gets wet while the lower roots get dehydrated. Make sure the water is actually absorbed by watering slowly.
PS: There is a simple hack, start with the first plant and say your plants need two glasses of water to get through the day, start by giving them one glass of water one after the other and then do the circuit again once you have watered the last plant. This gives the plants enough time to absorb the water.
- In the summers, check your plants for a second round of watering in the evening. Check for drooping leaves and dried out soil with the trusty “finger test” – water when soil feels dry at 1-2″ down for most tropical plants. Another key indicator of fast-drying, compacted soil is when the soil pulls away from the sides of the pot. If there’s a gap between the soil and the side of the pot, it’s time to rehydrate! Just make sure that you water in the evenings when the heat is on a decline. If the sun is just setting or set already, then misting the dry leaves is also a good option.
PS: If you happen to have your A/C on in the summers, remember that dry air can dry pots out just as quickly as the sun.
- Shade sensitive plants from too much sun. If your plants are in a south or west facing balcony are especially susceptible to leaf burn. Move them to corners that do not get a full day of direct sun and water them deeply every morning. Try grouping plants together and shade more delicate varieties like ferns behind hardier and larger varieties.
- Don’t fertilize your plant if it seems to be struggling. The first response is to fertilise a plant when we see them struggling, but if the struggle is due to heat damage fertilising is not such a good idea. Though fertilizer is your friend, especially during summer, a stressed plant is not looking for extra nutrients and isn’t fit enough to use them and doing so might stress your plant further.
- Don’t re-pot during peak summer. Always do your repotting before the summer truly sets in. Proper repotting requires trimming some of the root mass (attempt only if you know how) and leaves also get damaged. All this sets the plants at a risk of shock and stress if its done in peak summer. So, keep your repotting for cooler weather when your plants don’t have survival at the forefront.
- While pruning is essential for good plant growth, pruning plants in the peak of summer puts them at the risk of stress and shock. Also, in the summer some leaves wilt and brown solely due to the heat and taking them to a be an indication of dying plants and trimming them is not exactly a good idea. Wait for the summer to pass for a hard prune or prune them before summer (March and early April is a good time).
- Learn to read your plants and recognise the signs of stress. Reading the signs is essential to arresting the damage before it takes over the whole plant. The signs of stress in summer are mostly either relating to too much heat or too little water. They are:
- The tropical plants (especially the trailing ones) will wilt due to too much heat. They need to be sheltered more.
- Pale foliage is a sign of stress
- Rough brown and burnt leaves, yellow patches or brown spots are all a sign of sunburn.
- Flower and leaf drop are also a sign of plant stress.
- Along with watering the plants, composting helps keep your plants hydrated and healthy. Carefully remove the top inch of your potting soil and replace it with a layer of compost for a more hydrated soil.
PS: Covering the topsoil with good mulch or moss also helps retain moisture by lessening surface evaporation.
- If you have no corner where you can move your plants away from direct afternoon sun, then consider making a makeshift shade with the green sunshade available in any nursery or local hardware store in summers.
Summers are a great time for plants to grow if they get enough moisture. Just remember the golden rule, more light means more photosynthesis that requires more water. Also, there is rapid loss of water in from the leaf surface, stems, and soil surface due to heat. So, balance out the increased heat and light with the frequency and quantity of watering for a thriving summer garden.