Don’t take it personally!

     My Vitex (Agnus castus)https://www.rcwnurseries.com/rcw/trees-detail.aspx?id=2189  goes through a “thing” every year.  In August, it starts looking dreadful. The leaves start to turn brown at the edges, no matter how wet or dry it has been. Lots of the leaves get brown spots. The seed head have all turned a dreary gray-brown.  Around the beginning of September, many of the leaves start falling off. For a long time, I panicked and started watering it more, thinking, that was the problem. Year after year, the same pattern occurred. Finally, I decided that I was not the problem. It was the tree. Now, I look at it like its having a tantrum and screams “I am too hot!” then the tree throws it’s cloths on the floor. It’s been doing this for a couple of decades, so I don’t worry about it any more.  In another week or 2, it will start to leaf back out and even bloom a little more.

 It’s not you!   

     Vitex are not alone in showing their displeasure with the heat. Desert Willow can do the same thing. https://www.rcwnurseries.com/rcw/trees-detail.aspx?id=2154  It’s pretty weird to see a tree flowering in the summer with almost no leaves on it. We expect that in early spring with Tulip Magnolias, Redbuds and flowering fruit trees. Right now, figs  start to drop big yellow leaves. Soon enough, they will push out a crop of new leaves. Esparanza, Hibiscus and Mexican Heather can also start to defoliate in the heat. It’s a defense mechanism. Fewer leaves mean less transpiration https://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/watercycletranspiration.html (an example of our tax dollars at work) . Basically, the plant doesn’t have to work as hard or use as much water, if it has fewer leaves on it.

 I think I’ll go to sleep now.   

     Some plants will go dormant in the heat of the summer. Grecian Pattern Plant or Bears Breech (Acanthus mollis) is an example of a summer dormant plant. https://www.rcwnurseries.com/rcw/shrubs-detail.aspx?id=2216 As lovely as it is, this shade loving plant, hates the heat. It looks like it’s on death’s door now. In another month, it will start to look better and by Christmas, be in its glory. Peacock Moss is in the same watering can. https://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/search.php?query=selaginella&x=13&y=8  Right now, they look like a pile of dead moss, similar to the kind you use to line a wire basket. Peak under that straw-colored top and you will see new little sprouts.

     Just because it’s looking shabby or like it might die, doesn’t mean that you should yank it out. Knowing what the plant is and what it will do, can save you time, money and aggravation. On the other hand, we see many people trying to over compensate for the lack of rain and the heat. In fact, we see more over watering problems in the heat of the summer, than any other time of the year. If your leaves have brown, crunchy tips, usually, it’s from your soil staying too wet. The best thing you can do at that point, is to pull the mulch away from the plant. This will help the soil dry faster. Try to cut your watering time or even try skipping an extra day. If the problem continues, you may need to apply a fungicide. When in doubt, cut off a piece and bring it in or send pictures to rcwanswers@gmail.com.