Royal Horticultural Society give tips on watering plants
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The Met Office has issued a warning for extreme heat covering much of southwest England and Walers, running right through until Thursday at midnight before things cool down on Friday. The agency said: “Adverse health effects are likely to be experienced by those vulnerable to extreme heat” – surely this includes your plants? Here’s how to keep them safe.
How often should you water your plants during a heatwave?
You might be tempted to water your plants regularly throughout a hot day, but this isn’t really necessary.
Your best bet is to water them in the cool of the morning and then again in the evening.
In the heat of the day, water will evaporate too quickly from the plant’s leaves and soil, so won’t have much benefit.
According to Stuart Thompson, senior lecturer in plant biochemistry at the University of Westminster, plants go through their own weight in water on a sunny day.
He explains that plants that are not in pots will benefit most from being watered morning or evening when droplets have time to soak down into the soil.
Plants also absorb water more readily when they’re not under heat stress – a condition that’s more likely to occur when the sun is at its peak.
You should think about moving your potted plants into the shade to help them through the heat.
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Also, take note of the type of plant, and what climate it might be used to.
Mr Thompson said: “Plants have systems to reduce their water loss, which are very effective in species from arid environments where light is intense, such as succulents and yuccas, and so these will need less care.”
He also pointed out that the common belief that water drops act like magnifying glasses and scorch leaves if they are wet is incorrect.
Sunburn, which often appears as bleached areas on the foliage of young transplants, heat-sensitive plants, and distressed, underwatered plants, is caused by simple overexposure to the sun, not by water droplets that supposedly magnify the sun and scorch the leaves.
So you can go ahead and water your plants at midday if you want – it’s certainly better than nothing – but it’s not the most efficient way to do it.
When the time does come for you to water your plants, don’t hold back.
Just like you need more water in a heatwave, your plants are no different.
This is especially true of outdoor container plants, as well as new plantings that haven’t yet established their roots.
Container plants are more susceptible to drying out than their in-ground counterparts.
In the height of summer, these potted plants need special attention and may require watering every day or even up to three times a day.
A good rule of thumb is to water when the first two inches of potting soil feels dry.
The smaller or more porous your container, the more you’ll have to water it.
Both annual and perennial plants in the ground benefit from a good deep soaking up to three times a week.
Allowing the water to penetrate slowly and fully into the soil (to a depth of at least six inches) encourages roots to grow deeper and stronger and protects them from the parched soil surface.
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