Archive for Monday, September 26, 2011


Fix-It Chick: Resurrect your drought- and heat-stressed foliage

September 26, 2011


If your evergreens are more “ever-brown” or the leaves of your deciduous trees and shrubs have curled and dried around the edges, chances are the excessive heat of the summer, coupled with a lack of moisture, has taken its toll on your landscaping. Don’t assume these plants are dead just yet. Follow a few simple steps to see whether they can be resurrected.

Step 1: Once the weather has cooled, it is important to make up for the long summer’s lack of moisture. Thoroughly water each shrub or tree, at least once a week, for the next several weeks. Soak the roots completely each time you water and then move on to the next plant. Ross Root Feeders are a great way to water trees. For best results, use the root feeder without fertilizer and set it in several locations around the tree perimeter. Entering the root area from multiple spots assures the tree’s entire root system gets an ample supply of moisture with each watering.

Step 2: Avoid fertilizers. Fertilizers encourage plants to grow and add unwanted stress to the already heat-stressed trees and shrubs.

Step 3: Spread a thick layer of mulch around the base of trees and shrubs. Keep the mulch a few inches from the tree trunk. The mulch will hold in moisture and protect the roots from the inevitable winter cold. If placed too close to the trunk, mulch can cause damage and encourage insect infestation.

Step 4: Wait until spring to prune any heat- or drought-stressed foliage. Pruning encourages growth, and it is best to allow the plants to recover from the summer’s damage first.

Step 5: Dead-looking shrubs and trees may just be dormant. Wait until spring before removing any distressed flora. A mild winter and a wet spring can often work miracles and bring a seemingly dismal landscape back to life.

Step 6: Yews with rust-colored branch tips can be pruned before spring for aesthetic purposes. Cut the dead foliage back just below the point where the green stops and the brown starts. Cutting into the green of the branch will assure the stems can generate new growth when the time comes.

Step 7: When replacing any drought- or heat-stricken plant, consider choosing native trees and shrubs. Indigenous plants are much more likely to survive climatic extremes than their non-native counterparts.

— Linda Cottin can be reached at


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