Managing Your Plants
When is the best time to plant?
For us here in the sub-tropics, with temperatures above freezing all year long, the best time to plant is right away. There is no bad time, nothing to wait for. You can get the plants established much faster by planting them TODAY, as soon as possible!
No matter what time of year you plant, you will need to pay attention to your new plants until they are established. Even several months after planting they will need watering if the weather is hot and dry.
Many people feel that it is best to plant at the beginning of the rainy season (May-Jun), in order to have the help of the rain in watering the plants. While this is a good concept, even though it's the rainy season, it does not always rain everywhere all the time, and it may be weeks between good soakings. In fact, when it is not raining, it often becomes intensely hot, which can burn tender plants grown in a protected nursery environment. All plants at this time of year don't mind being watered in the morning and hand-misted in the afternoon. Misting doesn't use much water and puts tiny drops onto the surface of the leaf, to help reduce temperature stress.
The most tropical time of the year (Sept-Oct) is at the height of the rainy season with high temperatures and humidity. All plants go into high-growth mode during these ideal conditions. Fast-growing plants, such as bamboo, can grow as much as six feet in a single day, right before your eyes.
At the end of the rainy season (Oct-Nov), the amount of sunlight per day decreases, along with the temperature. Plants transpire less, and need less water through the cooler months. Most plants are semi-dormant at this time, and might not grow much above ground, but are working on developing their root systems, which means that when the warmer weather comes, they will be ready to jump in size. It's good to plant anytime in the cooler months (Nov-Mar), to completely take advantage of the upcoming growing season.
It's great to be outside planting in April. Even though it's the driest time of the year, plants respond well when planted at this time and kept watered. The plants that you put in several months ago or even last year might not have gotten their root systems going yet, and will appreciate extra water, if the skies are clear blue with intense sunlight. Just water them in the morning and hand-mist them in the evening.
Don't delay...plant today!
Maybe the problem is heat stress.
People's bodies adjust to new locations, stressful events or toxins by either vomiting, or getting traveler's diarrhea. Plants get rid of wastes by shedding their older leaves. The older fronds in the photo above are browning, due to the heat stress induced by the lack of cloud cover that typically occurs during late June.
Look again at your plants with the yellowing leaves, and decide whether it is possible that the problem is due to heat stress. If it has been hot lately, or your plants are in a location exposed to late-day reflected heat, then you have identified the problem. What is the solution? If it is due to a one-time event, then it is too late already. If you know it is going to be hot and dry, then you should plan to mist (tiny drops are better absorbed by the plants) your plants in the late afternoon, to minimize the stress.
If, however, you have tropical understory plants in a chronically exposed location (this is a very common phenomenon, due to a lack of knowledge about the plants themselves), you should consider replacing them with other plants that can better stand the heat.
Proper watering technique is essential!
The most common problems are typically water-related.
In the photo at left below, Spanish stopper is receiving overhead irrigation. This causes the leaves to develop unsightly gross stuff. At right, nice clean leaves on a different Spanish stopper, which gets watered at the base of the trunk.
If you are having trouble with some of your plants, check to see whether they are receiving too much water in some spots and not enough in others. Water does not necessarily equal love.
Before you install your plants, you should have already made arrangements for providing them water. Think of your bed of mulch as a sponge that you keep uniformly moist. The plants will send out their roots under the mulch in search of water. If the conditions are too wet, they become lazy. You can hand-water them with your garden hose (be careful not to blast 'em; try to copy falling rain), but don't over-water the foliage, just keep your mulch bed moist.
Do you brush your teeth with a fire hose?
Last updated: 12/20/2011