Summer holidays. They’re almost here, we feel it. Long hot days, sandy feet, tennis on the TV, cicadas chirping away at night. Quintessentially Australian and we wouldn’t have it any other way. But what about our plant gang? How are they going to fare in the summer heat – and how on earth are we going to keep them alive if we go away?! Fear not. There are a few simple tips and tricks that can help your plants this time of year. Let’s break them down…
1. Keep the temperature consistent
Plants don’t like extreme changes in temperature, for example, during the hot summer months when we blast air-conditioners or turn fans on – going from one temperature to another too quickly spells disaster. You can still keep cool – the key here is to make sure our plants aren’t directly in the firing line of the cool air; move them somewhere else during the summer months or position the fan or AC airflow so the cool air isn’t blowing directly on them.
2. Increase watering
This period, with all its exciting new growth (and heat!) can mean a plant’s water needs increase as the water evaporates from the soil much faster than usual. Signs your plant is getting too little water can include; consistently very dry soil, shrivelled/ limp leaves, yellowing or browning leaves (though this can also occur in some plants with too much water so look for another sign to confirm it). As a general rule, only water your plant when the top inch or so of soil has completely dried out.
3. Watch that hot sun
Summer sun can be unforgiving, (especially in Australia) so try to keep your plants away from the hottest spots in your home and out of the scorching direct sun. Plants can (and do) get a sunburn! Pay due diligence as some plants that can handle a little gentle winter sun (e.g. peace lily or fiddle leaf fig) can burn when it comes to summer sun.
4. If a heat-wave hits…
Prep your plants the day before with a good watering; we’re talking lots of water poured slowly, so your plant has time to soak it up. Even leave it sitting in a saucer of water for a few minutes afterward for some extra moisture. Don’t forget to keep an eye on its watering needs – just like us in a heatwave, plants need more water than usual. Move your plants from any spots in your home where they may really fry; e.g. into cooler positions further away from windows. Also, keep the humidity high by misting your plants or sit them on a pebble tray. A heat-wave will generally stress plants out a little so this is not a good time to change things up – don’t fertilise, re-pot or prune your plant; keep things simple and steady so your plant can focus its energy on getting through the heat.
5. Jetting off somewhere?
If you’re heading away for more than a few days, move your plastic-potted plants to the bath and place them on a moist capillary mat or on saucers of damp pebbles. Ensure the plants aren’t sitting directly in water, but can draw up moisture as they need it. For plants in ceramic pots, give them a good watering, let them drain and then immediately cover them with plastic bags, securing the bag to the rim of the pot. Use stakes inserted into the soil to keep the bag from touching the plant. Voila! You’ve essentially created a terrarium-like system for your plant. The moisture will remain in the bag for up to three weeks, keeping your green friend hydrated while you’re gone. And for bigger plants? Call in that favour and get a friend to pop in to water them!
6. The Golden Rule; Be Attentive!
Don’t forget the one key thing we’re always banging on about; pay attention to your plants! It’s honestly the key to keeping them alive and thriving – it’s even more so needed during the summer months when the sun can have a potentially catastrophic effect on your plants. Check in on them every few days and see what’s happening with them. Are there signs of new growth? Do they look distressed or burnt anywhere? How damp or dry is the soil? Are there any bugs? These regular checks allow you to identify any potential issues and act quickly before your plant is damaged beyond repair.