Temps are rising—learn how to keep plants perky when it’s hot out.

Raised Bed Garden
Thomas J. Story

Summer might be the peak production season in your garden, but above-average temps and heat domes don’t quite make for happy horticulture. Even if you’re growing in a mild climate, plant protection throughout the summer is an important practice and can even be helpful when prepping for an out-of-town getaway that might disrupt your usual routine. From keeping an eye on the forecast so you can plot your next move, to knowing which plants need watering and those that definitely do not, we’re sharing all the tips to avoid any summer stress and keep you growing gracefully. Here’s to a resilient garden and not forgetting to protect and hydrate appropriately, yourself included.

Watering Garden

Tatiana Maksimova/Getty Images

1. Have a Watering Strategy

Become your own personal weather forecaster and download an app such as HeatAlert that will keep you notified of detailed weather events in your specific location. When a heat spike is on the way, water early and water deep a day or two before the weather event. Contrary to instinct, you want to hold off watering during the actual heat event; instead get ahead of the temperature spike and deeply water garden beds and containers before it hits. Whether you hand water or use drip, the rules are the same: Dousing your plants during the peak heat or in the afternoon full sun can cause water to evaporate before it reaches the plant’s roots and also make stressed leaves more susceptible to scorch damage.

By watering deeply and less frequently in the early morning, you will encourage deep root growth and more resilient plants that can handle the forecast shifts. For additional protection, lay down a thick layer of mulch around plants to help retain soil moisture and keep roots cool after a deep watering session. Remember that not all plants need a summer drink. Many natives go dormant during the hotter months and a splash could be the end of them. Hold back on watering plants such as wooly blue curls (Trichostema lanatum), California lilac (Ceanothus sps.), flannel bush (Fremontadendron californcum), or native dudleyas to avoid leaf burn and root rot.

Working on Yard

Thomas J. Story

2. Add Shade and Be Strategic About Planting

More Videos From Sunset

Shade cloths are a fantastic way to protect more sensitive or newly transplanted plants. You can easily create a temporary structure using bamboo poles and shade cloth or even pull over backyard umbrellas or canopies to provide mid-day and late afternoon relief to garden beds and containers.

Gardener's Supply Company Shade Net

Courtesy of Amazon

Gardener's Supply Company Shade Net, $25

Strategic planting is also a great way to create a resilient garden. By planting taller, sun-tolerant plants such as edible and native salvias around your vegetables, you’ll not only provide shade but also bring in beneficial bugs throughout the season. Similarly, purposely planting heat-tolerant, high-climbing vegetables such as tomato, peppers, and okra can create a shade screen and allow for more delicate greens and blooms to be planted below. Hardy woody herbs, such as oregano and thyme, and beneficial heat-tolerant blooms, such as marigold and zinnias, also create a living ground cover that will help retain soil moisture between waterings. Treat your beds and containers as a companion zone where every plant and placement is a helpful choice for the next. Just be sure to set yourself up for success and hold off on transplanting temptations until cooler weather arrives.

Pine House Edible Gardens Container Plant

Thomas J. Story

3. Take Care of Your Containers

Heat and containers can be a bad combo, especially for those of us who love terracotta. Porous ceramic pots dry out quickly and can heat up soil to uncomfortable temps, so put those deep watering practices into place and move into the shade if possible. We like to keep larger statement plants on a set of wheels, which provide some flexibility throughout the season, as reflective light and radiant heat from surrounding walls can add extra stress to your patio pots. For additional protection, try grouping pots together to provide shade and add a layer of mulch to help insulate soil from evaporation—and most importantly, when you water, make sure you don’t stop until it’s running out from the bottom of the pot! 

4. Check for Pests and Diseases

Moody weather swings and humidity are breeding grounds for bad bugs, so keep an eye out for pests taking advantage of your heat-stressed plants. By spotting damage and disease early, you have a better chance of stepping in and nipping further damage in the bud. While removing damaged leaves and providing good air circulation are key, be mindful of pruning ahead of any heat events which can expose more tender greens. Stay away from spray solutions such as neem oil, which should not be used during heat events and can further damage your plant. Being proactive and consistent with your watering and health checks is the most important step, so make it your early-morning routine to enjoy your garden before taking cover indoors.

Hanging Plant at Yuko Kitchen

Thomas J. Story

5. Give Your Houseplants TLC, Too

It’s not just the outdoor greenery that suffers in the summer heat, indoor plants can take a beating too. Sunlight shifts and power rays can burn leaves while drafty AC registers can make leaves go limp. Reevaluate all your houseplants’ positioning and rearrange as needed. Weekly watering schedules might need to be updated as well, so keep a water meter on hand to keep plants perky.

Jungle Club Moisture Meter

Courtesy of ban.do

Jungle Club 3-in-1 Moisture Meter, $15

With just a little planning and a watchful eye, you’ll see how resilient all your indoor and outdoor plants can be! Here’s to beating the heat.

We only recommend things we love. If you buy something through our site, we might earn a commission.