Published on 06/08/06

Sizzling summer heat scorching landscapes

By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

Water restrictions aren't the only threat to green Georgia lawns. The searing summer heat is scorching landscapes across the state.

If your landscape plants are taking a beating from the heat, they'll send out signals. University of Georgia horticulturists say the hydrangeas and impatiens in your flower beds are the poster plants for heat and drought stress. If they look droopy, take this as a sign that all your plants need water.

Cut back and help roots

If your annuals and perennials continue to be heat stressed, UGA experts say cut them back about halfway. If they are wilting badly, cutting them back will help them survive.

Reducing the plant's top will place less demand on its roots. The plant will come back in a few weeks and bloom again in the fall.

The same strategy works for woody ornamentals like gardenias or hydrangeas. Cut them back to one-half or one-third of their normal size.

When summer weather brings dry weather and heat for more than 20 days, homeowners have to make lifesaving, or life-losing, landscape decisions. UGA horticulturists suggest basing your decisions on replacement value. Select your most valuable trees or shrubs, and water them. Herbaceous plants can be easily replaced.

Water fescue first

Flowers aren't the only plants that suffer from heat stress. Your home lawn suffers, too.

If your lawn is fescue, you must keep it watered if you want it to survive. Bermuda and many other grasses go semidormant and turn a little yellow when heat- and drought-stressed. But, unlike fescue, they will recover pretty well with the first rainfall.

UGA experts recommend giving your lawn about an inch of water per week. And they suggest watering early in the morning for the best use of water.

Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.