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Plant Stress and Drought
July 12, 2012

Welcome to the Flying Butterfly!

Whew -It's been hot! Unfortunately so hot across the country that complete metamorphosis has been a challenge for many butterflies. But they're beginning to show.

With this heat, nature takes it's course with the butterflies but you're probably wondering what to do about flower and plant stress...

Most plants grow well with temperatures up to 90 degrees. When temperatures rise higher, especially for long periods, it becomes a
struggle for plants. The gardener will need to step in with very needed relief.

Leaves on drought stressed plants, shrubs or trees begin to wilt. As
heat stress continues leaves usually turn brown, but red or orange isn't unusual. By touch leaves can feel leathery or crisp.

Plants with shallow roots then begin to feel heat as the soil on the
surface absorbs the heat. Plants with roots that reach farther into the
soil will remain cooler longer.

So where do you begin? Vegetation is more vulnerable in this order:

  • Container or Potted plants are going to dry out first.

  • Any new annuals, perennials and vegetables that are newly
    planted along with plants with shallow rooting systems (like tomato's) .

  • The oldest trees, young trees and shrubs with shallow roots and prize trees (like Japanese Maple's) need to be watched. Mature trees and shrubs will probably be OK.

Water is key.
Before watering plants during drought periods, be aware of any watering restrictions in your community along with other ways to conserve water.

1) Water vegetation in the mornings.

  • This reduces the risk of diseases with already vulnerable plants.

  • This is more cost-effective because watering in mid-afternoon can result in over half the water being evaporated before it enters the soil.

2) Water the roots.

  • It's best to do so where water percolates slowly into soil.

  • If watering fast there is likely to be run-off.

3) Placing mulch on soil helps.

  • Not only helps with weed control but retains moisture. A mulch layer of 2 - 4" is good.

  • Applying a thick layer of mulch beyond 4" can deprive roots beneath the surface of oxygen.

4) Trim and clean up plants and trees.

    It's rare that they don't bounce back.

5) Other suggestions:

  • Use an umbrella. Stick the handle in the ground where plants are shaded.

  • Make shade covers by using 4 sticks or stakes. Grab an old sheet and cover plants by making a tent.

  • Avoid spraying anything on plants unless absolutely necessary. Leaves can burn.

Happy Butterfly Gardening!

Elizabeth @ Easy Butterfly Garden

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