GV Gardeners: Summer tips for protecting new plants

This native Yellowbell Bush (Tecoma stans) which has long been on a careful watering routine, flourishes on the La Posada campus despite weeks of hot, dry weather conditions.

Keeping new plants alive and relatively stress-free during the summer can be difficult. Transporting them from the nursery to home can be less of a shock by following just a few tips which follow.

First, don’t cram plants that are too large into your vehicle. Foliage pushing out of car windows or trunk lids can suffer wind-burn, which will dry them out. Paying for delivery of large plants, such as trees, from a nursery with proper equipment and handling skills can be a good investment.

If using an open back pickup truck, put smaller plants near the passenger cab to reduce wind exposure. Trees and large shrubs can be placed on their sides with tops facing the rear. Use tie-down straps to secure positions and prevent any rolling around of plants on the ride home. Then cover all plants with a tarp to shield from the sun and wind.

Plan your nursery-shopping stop last before heading home. Especially small plants left in the car during triple-digit temperatures can wilt and succumb in a short while. Even those that survive can suffer stress that will weaken their future growth.

To provide needed maximum hydration during extreme heat, plants should be watered immediately upon arriving home even if appearing moist. Plant as soon as possible. If plants are in small, typical 3- to 4-inch pots, plan to water three or four times daily.

If you are unable to plant right away, locate new plants where they are shaded from mid-day and afternoon sun. Continue to water them in their pots one to two times daily until ready to plant.

After planted, water foliage plants daily for the first two to three weeks to keep hydrated and help establish new roots. However, give cactus and succulents an initial soaking, but after that water only once weekly throughout the balance of summer.

Be aware that daily watering can eventually deplete nitrogen levels. Therefore, adding a diluted nitrogen fertilizer such as Miracle-Gro, Peters, or Schultz is often recommended every 14 days during the rest of summer. Discontinue in autumn.

With careful planning, monsoon season can actually be a good time to plant due to the increased humidity, cloud cover, and occasional rain … all of which assist new plants in becoming well established.

Mary Kidnocker is a University of Arizona Master Gardener who lives in the Green Valley area. Her articles are featured weekly.