Darrell Blackwelder: Helping the plants survive the summer heat

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 6, 2024

Rowan County experienced near record high temperatures earlier this week. Irrigation is critical for survival of plant materials, especially those that have just been planted. Below are a few tips that may help plant materials survive the extreme heat.

• Irrigate plants early in the morning. Applying water in the heat of the day may cool off plants, but it also involves wastes water through rapid evaporation. Irrigating late in the evening also encourages fungal diseases. Irrigation with drip systems is excellent for newly planted trees and shrubs and vegetable gardens. This type of system meters water near the plant’s root system without waste.

• Do the shrubs really need water or are they just hot? Some plants such as hydrangea, rhododendron, impatiens or ornamental sweet potato wilt in the heat of the day, but have adequate moisture to survive. Wilted plants should be checked the next morning; if they are still wilted, irrigate them thoroughly. Overwatering kills plants much quicker than lack of water.

• Add mulch to plants. Mulching holds moisture and cools the soil. Three to four inches of bark, pine needles, compost or other types of organic mulch reduces water consumption.

• Some plants need to be irrigated often. Plants in pots, especially clay pots or hanging baskets loose moisture quickly. These containers may need water every day and more often twice a day during periods of extreme heat and drought.

• Keep a constant check on plants. Those that go on weekend vacations often come home to face dead or heavily damaged plants during excessively hot dry weather. Plan for a neighbor or friend to water plants, especially newly planted trees or shrubs if you’re out of town for a few days.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu.