When a plant is struggling, often times gardeners mistakenly believe that it is because the plant is not receiving enough water. This is not always the case, as plants can also suffer due to excessive water, sudden weather changes or soil problems. Read on to learn how to identify the signs of plant stress...
A plant's leaves provide the first and most obvious signs that something might be wrong. Here are some tips to help you interpret what your plants are trying to tell you:
Wilted foliage usually means the plant is short of water, but that is not always the case. Roots growing in soil that is too wet can also cause wilting. Adjust your sprinkler system so that the plants receive adequate but not excessive water. Throughout the spring and summer months, make sure to keep a close eye on plants that have exhibited symptoms of over watering. Warning signs include excessively moist soil surrounding the root zone, mushrooms growing in turf or flower beds and excessive moss growth. Also, remember that plants of different ages require different levels of water. Young plants may require daily watering in the soil immediately surrounding the base of the plant. Conversely, mature trees and shrubs should not be watered near the trunk, as this may lead to root and crown disease. Mature plants should be watered as needed and moderately beneath the plants' canopy, with the sprinklers spraying water away from the tree's trunk.
Drying and falling leaves on the inside of evergreens indicate they are aging and giving up nitrogen to the younger leaves. You'll see this on olives, oleanders, pines and most evergreen bushes. It may also indicate the leaves are not getting enough sunlight, or the plant suffered through a dry spell or shock after transplanting. As trees age, leaves do drop more. To address this issue, you may want to add supplements to your soil - consult your local nursery as to which fertilizers would work best for your soil type and plant material.
Leaves with brown and dead edges may suggest excess salts in the soil due to poor drainage or compacted soil, which is very common in the Western part of the U.S. Aerating and adding appropriate amounts of soil supplements may help your turf and plants recover from an imbalance in your soil - but consult a gardener before attempting to solve any potential soil problems. Dead leaves suggest that the plant may have been stressed for water on a hot, dry, windy day. Dead spots on top of leaf centers, especially the exposed leaves, may also suggest sun burning. This can happen when the plant is hot and stressed for moisture, even if just for a few minutes. A little extra spot watering with a water wand in the stressed areas can help plants and grasses recover without over watering the other regions in the zone.
Small leaves that are dull or bluish usually tell you that plants are struggling for water. This is especially true in lawns. This condition could be due to a long stretch of hot weather, or simply that your landscape is not receiving sufficient water for its needs. Adjust your irrigation timer to provide more water to zones that appear stressed, but exercise caution to prevent over watering and possible runoff. Remember to adjust your timer back to lower levels after the hot weather has passed.