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Help! My plants are dying!!!

Give wilted plants time to recover
before declaring them dead!

Happy summer to all of our friends of Sonoran Gardens. This time of year is when we receive lots of phone calls from customers worried that their plants are wilting and dying under the summer heat. Fear not! Wilting signals distress but also serves as a way for plants to survive it.

Summer heat can easily stress garden and landscape plants, especially those that are not particularly adapted to the desert environment. Our winter flowers and lawns will die out. That is to be expected. The trees, shrubs and other plants that we expect to live from year to year will have to tough it out, however. To help them stay healthy we need to understand heat stress and be ready to give proper care.

What are some of the symptoms of heat stress?

Wilting of leaves is a common symptom and is usually the first indication of a problem. Temporary wilting of plants during the hottest part of the day is usually not a serious problem. However, when plants start the day off wilted, or wilt quickly in the morning hours, these are problems that should be quickly addressed.

Severe desiccation, or drying of plant parts is another result of heat stress. Desiccation is usually seen as drying of leaves. Sometimes the leaves will turn yellow and fall off the tree before they can turn brown. The yellowing leaves are usually scattered throughout the plant canopy without any pattern. If you see this, the plant is trying to balance its available tissue versus the amount of water it is receiving. While some leaf loss will not be a severe problem, the loss of many leaves could lead to sunburn or loss of energy in the plant.

Sunburned bark is also an indication of heat stress. Bark of tender plants like citrus and mulberry are often damaged by direct sun and heat. The damage usually shows up on the southwest side of the tree trunk and on exposed branches. The bark usually peels off in large pieces leaving huge wounds in the trunk. Unfortunately, it is this damaged or missing wood which contains the tubes that conduct food energy from the leaves to the roots. It also contains cells that divide for plant growth. Damage can affect the vigor and growth of the plant.

The last major symptom of heat stress are branches, usually up near the top of the tree, that are bare of leaves, or may have just one or two leaves at the tips and a long bare area just underneath. Sometimes the twigs themselves die. If you see this, or any of the above symptoms, please know that the plant is telling you that it is under severe stress.

What can you do to minimize heat stress?

In most cases, summer stress can be lessened or even prevented by proper irrigation. Slow, deep irrigations that allow water to soak water down deep into the soil to reach the lower root zones of plants are essential. Never use hot water from a hose. Let the water run until it cools off. Timing is critical also. It is best to irrigate by running the drip irrigation to regular landscape plants 3 - 4 days per week for 2 hours with the run time starting in the early morning.

Trees should run twice per week for 3 hours. Flower beds and pots should run twice per day, every day for 5-7 minutes each run. A correct irrigation will wet the entire area underneath shrubs and trees to ensure that a majority of the roots are receiving water.

If you understand the basics of summer heat stress, we can take the proper steps to minimize the stress or avoid it all together.

As always, you can call Sonoran Gardens with any questions or concerns. We're here to help!

Information for this e-newsletter was provided by the Rick Gibson, agricultural extension agent and the director of the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in Pinal County.

Other excellent information can be found at:

Notes for June

Do not expect new plant growth during June and early July, however properly watered and cared for plants can still be installed. • Watch for signs of water stress and sunburn • Increase watering, but beware of hot hose water. In addition, discourage mid-day watering, it can shock the root system. • Stop mosquitoes before the summer rains by eliminating places where water may collect • Watch for pests like cactus longhorn beetles and agave snout weevils • Garden in the early morning or late evening to beat the heat

4261 West Jeremy Lot #2, Tucson, AZ 85741|Tel: 520.579.9411|E-mail:

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