By: Divine Plants Online
13 Feb 18
Survival Guide for Summer
We’ve had unseasonably hot summers for several years running, with no end in sight. With high temperatures and little rain, many of us have lost plants to the heat. Some varieties just don’t cope well with the heat, but in this article we delve into tips, tricks, and ideas you can use to salvage what remains of your garden and protect from further damage. Transform your struggling backyard into a glorious Summer paradise!
Our pick of heat-resistant survivors
Obviously we all know watering is important during the warmer months, but did you know you can water plants at the wrong time of day? If your hose and tap are outside in the hot sun and you go to water during the middle of the day or in the afternoon, you may be inadvertently burning your plants! The water will be hot when it comes out of the tap, which will make your plants wilt and die (I learned this one the hard way). Watering in the early morning up to about mid-morning is good, and if you miss that opportunity, you’re better off waiting to water until the temperature cools down a bit, probably no earlier than 5-6pm in the height of summer. If in doubt, turn on the tap, run for 20 seconds, then test the temperature, if it’s anything but cool, just wait. If you’re a hand watering kind of person and you’re not affected by hot taps and hoses, you’ll still want to hold off watering during the day. Plants can still be negatively affected by sudden temperature changes (hot sun to cool water), so you may want to stick to the aforementioned times.
Moving potted plants into the shade of bigger trees or under your veranda is great, but not always possible. For plants that are immoveable (or you simply don’t want to move them), you can help protect them from the hot sun by mulching. Get some bark chips or mulch and cover the soil around the top of your plant and over where you assume the roots would reach. This will help to keep the soil beneath the mulch cool and moist. Mulching is particularly important when you’re planting out new plants and they are just freshly establishing themselves, because your new plants may not cope well with extreme heat on top of the change of environment. Don’t over-mulch! Yes, you can mulch too much, and no, you don’t want to do this. If you over-mulch a newly establishing plant, it can die, because it will lack access to sunshine and fresh air, and may become too wet if it rains. You want your mulch completely covering everything, but not double layered. One layer is all you want and need.
Another thing you may want to consider is your fence, if you have one. This is an abstract idea, so bear with me, because this could make a real difference to your plants for several key reasons. In summer, the cool breeze we hope will sweep through our yards can often turn into hot and uncomfortable wind. This happened to me the other day; I opened my glass sliding door, hoping to catch a cool breeze on a 36° day, only to be greeted by a slap in the face of miserably hot air. Believe it or not, plants can have varying degrees of wind tolerance, and good fencing can help protect the plants in your yard by blocking them from damaging hot winds. Good fencing also has the added benefit of providing shade for the surrounding plants, so if you’re going to put up fencing, perhaps consider something taller and fuller to maximise the protection your plants will receive. The materials that your fence is made up of will also impact the level of heat in your backyard. Some building materials will retain heat, for example, a metal fence will get much hotter than a wooden fence ever will, and this should be considered when deciding which materials to use. Certain materials will also reflect the sun’s light directly onto your plants like a magnifying glass, burning your plants. Some of the best fencing materials you can use to keep your yard cool are natural materials including wood, natural fibres, bamboo and stone. We’re inspired by some of the great fencing ideas presented by Sanctuary Magazine, and you can check out their article here: http://www.sanctuarymagazine.org.au/outdoors/pushing-the-boundaries-fence-materials-and-design/
Even better, use a tall thick hedging plant as a property border, some of our favourite plants for hedges include Viburnum Odoratissimum, Radermachera Summerscent, most varieties of Syzygium, Murraya paniculata, Photinia Red Robin, Elaeocarpus eumundii, Brunfelsia latifolia, Duranta varieties, Rhaphiolepis varieties, Michelia Coco and figo, and even Camellias if you plant them close enough together. Each of these varieties is excellent for hedging, so check our product descriptions in our Hedges section for the height of each plant to find the right one for your situation. If you don’t have the space for something that big, you can put up some chicken wire fencing or place wooden posts in yard corners with wire strung between them and grow a thick climber up the chicken wire or up the wooden posts across the wiring. Some ideal plants for this include Pyrostegia venusta, most varieties of Jasminum, Trachelospermum jasminoides, Rosa banksia, Dipladenias, and Bougainvilleas.
Sparse planting might be fashionable at the moment (following the minimalist movement), but it’s not doing you any favours when it comes to heat protection. Bare soil gets hot in the sun, and any roots in that soil will heat up too. Dense planting and good coverage of foliage will provide a shady and covered canopy of protection for the stems and roots of your plants underneath. So, even if you notice the top leaves of your plants wilting and dying, if you part the leaves and look underneath, you’ll notice the leaves and stems that aren’t exposed will be in much better condition, which means your plant will have better chances of survival.
If you’ve already suffered losses and need to plant out again, don’t fret, we’ve made a list of our best heat resistant survivors to tough it out:
All of our Grevilleas, in particular Forest Rambler
Ophiopogon japonicus and japonicus Nana – Mondo Grass and Mini Mondo Grass
Russelias – equisitiformis, Lemon Falls and Tangerine Falls
Lomandras – hystrix and longifolia
Callistemon citrinus Endeavor
Carissa macrocarpa cv. Desert Star
These plants will survive the heat much better than other varieties, so they are an excellent choice for those of us who experience very hot summers. If you need to plant out an area or spot in your yard, these plants are definitely worth consideration. Best of luck with your new heat-resistant yard!