It is now officially summer and the extended forecast shows daily temperatures climbing into the mid-90s or even higher. We all know that we need to take care of ourselves and our pets during extreme heat, but do we stop to think about what we should do to care for our plants? If it is way too hot for us, chances are it’s way too hot for them. Fortunately there are a multitude of ways we can help our plants remain healthy and beautiful all summer long.
“The biggest thing to remember is that in Oklahoma, ‘full sun’ plants will typically need shade in the height of summer. Even if it’s just for a little bit in the afternoon,” Aimee Hughes said.
Hughes is a native of Pauls Valley and moved to Ardmore five years ago after spending 25 years in Northern Virginia. She currently works for Maria’s Garden, but spent several years working with plants.
“A lot of times plants will say they are full sun, but come June, July, and August and the 95 degree weather for days on end, it becomes too much. So we talk about morning sun and afternoon shade, and that will really extend the life of the plant. It might slow down the flowering, but it will keep them alive so that when it cools back down you can move them back to where they were originally.”
This refers to potted or hanging plants that can be easily moved, but for those planted in the ground, Hughes has a few suggestions.
“You can mulch, you can rock, you can also use peat moss, Spanish moss or anything to cover the soil to help maintain the moisture,” she said. She also suggests using an umbrella to shade plants if all else fails.
“That’s a big joke we have, literally just get an umbrella. Give that little plant a break. I’ve joked about the umbrella, but I’ve done that myself at home, usually during the most extreme sun, between 2 and 6 in the afternoon.”
The extreme hours of afternoon heat are also terrible times to water plants. The best times of day for watering are in the mornings and later in the evenings after the sun has almost set or has gone down entirely.
“It’s a battle. It escalates the temperature. All those little droplets of water heat up, too,” Hughes said in reference to afternoon watering. She also took this opportunity to mention the importance of letting your hose run for a bit before watering plants. The hot water is just as bad for them as it is for children or animals.
One tip she suggested for watering is allowing your plants to “soak.” Just take plants in containers or hanging baskets and let them float in a bucket or tub of water. Only the most delicate of plants cannot handle this, and she even gives a novel suggestion to give these kinds of plants some extra water.
“We do like birdbaths. We find that those can really help. The birds come up and slosh some of that residual water around. It always makes me laugh, like, thanks birds,” Hughes said.
If all else fails, and you need plants that are actually full sun and require low maintenance, the best solution is succulents such as cacti or aloe. These plants thrive in the hot, dry weather that makes up the majority of our Southern Oklahoma summers.