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The Best Ways to Protect Your Plants From Heat and Sun

How to Protect Plants from Heat and Sun

Summer is fast approaching and you know what that means – the sun’s out! While many of us count down the days, your plants may be less keen on getting heat-stressed.

You can shield your plants from the heat by installing shade cloths and row covers, building structures that provide shade, companion planting, creating windbreaks, avoiding fertilizer on dry soil, mulching, weeding and pruning regularly, and watering deeply.

Keep reading as we give you a comprehensive rundown on all the things you’ll need, how quick each method is, and other important info on how to do it yourself.

What are the effects of extreme heat on plants?

Image: Oregon Live

Extreme heat has detrimental cellular effects such as:

  • Cellular damage
  • Root damage
  • Disrupted water and nutrient uptake
  • Reduced reproduction
  • Vulnerability to pests and diseases
  • Oxidative stress
  • Stomatal closure

Too much sun can also cause physiological damage in the form of:

  • Wilted leaves and stem
  • Sunscald 

How do I protect my plants from the heat and sun?

How do I protect my plants from the heat and sun
Image: Angi

1. Installing shade cloths or row covers

Installing shade cloths or row covers
Image: Commercial Netmakers
DifficultyModerate to Hard | ●●●○○ to ●●●●○
Things You NeedShade cloth or row cover
The frame of the structure (can be made from PVC pipes, metal poles, wooden stakes, etc.)
Clips, clothespins, or zip ties
Stakes or heavy rocks

Shade cloths and row covers are pretty much the same – they’re both lightweight fabrics designed to provide anywhere from 30% to 70% shade depending on how much protection your plant needs.

The only difference is that shade cloths are typically larger, encompassing a huge space. Row covers, as its name suggests, are long fabrics meant for singular rows.

Here’s how you can install both in your garden!

What To Do:
1. Gather your materials
Pick out the right type of shade cloth or row cover based on the amount of protection your plants need. 
2. Gather the tools you’ll need for your setup.
Depending on what setup you’re going for, some tools you may need could include:
• Ladder
• Pliers
• Scissors
3. Set up the support structures.
Prepare the frame of your shade cloth or row cover based on the instructions provided in your kit. 
Alternatively, you can simply freehand it and set up a frame depending on how big you want it to be.
4. Drape the shade cloth or row cover over the frame.
Put the shade cloth or row cover over the structure like a canopy. Then, secure tightly using clips, clothespins, or zip ties.
Ensure that the fabric isn’t overly stretched as you risk it coming off.
5. Secure the edges of your shade cloth or row covers.
Attach any loose ends to the ground with a stake or bury them in the soil and put a heavy rock on top. Alternatively, you can simply cut off any excess fabric.
6. Make any necessary adjustments.
Go around and adjust any spots as needed. Observe how well your plants are adjusting to the shade, especially as weather conditions change.
To increase ventilation and pollination during the day, you can partially roll up the sides to allow air and insects in. 

2. Building pergolas, awnings, and trellises

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For a studier option, building pergolas, awnings, or trellises is the way to go. They’re typically made from more durable material, which makes them great for long-term use.

Aside from enhancing the visual appeal of your garden, they provide partial shade for nearby plants.


Image: Country Living Magazine
DifficultyModerate to Hard | ●●●○○ to ●●●●○
SpeedModerate to Long
Things You NeedTools such as a saw, drill, level, measuring tape, ladder, shovel, and post-hole digger 
Hardware like screws, anchors, and lumber
Cleaning materials such as a broom and trash bag
Shade elements like a shade cloth
Decorative elements such as paint and stains

For those who enjoy spending time outdoors, building a pergola is a great excuse to create a comfortable getaway spot in the summertime. 

Depending on the kind of roof your pergola has, it can provide dappled to complete shade for nearby plants.

It can also act as climbing support, which can create a natural plant wall to block off sunlight. Here’s how you can build a pergola in your garden!

What To Do: 
1. Check your local zoning or building regulations.
Certain districts have construction regulations, which means you can’t build willy-nilly. Thus, you’ll need to get in touch with your local government authorities to check if there are certain building rules you need to comply with.
2. Identify the best place to set up your structure.
Certain factors you’ll want to take into consideration are:
• Sun exposure
• Wind direction
• Proximity to existing structures
3. Gather the tools you’ll need for your setup.
Depending on what setup you’re going for, some tools you may need could include:
• Saw
• Drill
• Level
• Ladder
• Post hole digger
• Screws
• Anchors
4. Prepare the site.
Clean up the area where you’ll be installing. Ensure that there’s enough space to allow you to build freely.
Apart from that, make sure that the ground is level and can support the weight of your new structure.
5. Dig holes for the posts.
Using a shovel, dig holes that are one-third the height of your poles and at least 12 inches in diameter.
6. Once the posts are in, secure them in place with concrete.
7. Install your cross beams and rafters depending on the frame of your pergola’s design plan.
For this step, use a level for each beam and rafter to ensure everything lines up correctly. 
8. Add in a shade cloth for additional sun protection.
While you can leave your pergola as is, adding a shade cloth can effectively decrease the amount of direct sunlight your plants get, especially during peak hours.
9. Perform any finishing touches.
Finish up by painting, staining, and adding any decorative elements to your pergola.


Image: Craft Bilt
DifficultyModerate | ●●●○○ 
Things You NeedTools such as a saw, drill, level, measuring tape, and ladder
Hardware like screws, anchors, and brackets
Decorative elements such as paint and stains

What’s great about installing awnings is their flexibility because they’re retractable. So during overcast days, you can roll up your awnings to give your plants a little more sun exposure.

It’s worth highlighting that awnings are typically installed above windows and doors so they may not be renter-friendly. Nevertheless, they’re great at regulating indoor temperatures, which is great for any plants you have by your windowsill.

Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to install awnings yourself. Read on for step-by-step instructions!

What To Do:
1. Choose the right awning system for your space.
Take all the necessary measurements to ensure you’ve got the appropriate size and style for your space.
2. Mark where you’re going to be installing the brackets.
Since the brackets carry most of the weight, ensure they’re installed in an area that’s structurally strong and secure.
3. Install the brackets or anchors into the structure.
Before attaching your awnings, double-check your brackets or anchors to ensure they’re properly attached to the structure.
4. Attach your awnings.
Install your awnings onto the brackets as per their instructions.
5. Test out the mechanism.
Operate your awnings ensuring that it extends and retracts fluidly. See to it that there aren’t any issues with the system.


Image: The Architecture Design
DifficultyEasy to Moderate | ●●○○○ to ●●●○○ 
Things You NeedTrellis
Zip ties, string, or thread
Anchors or brackets

Trellises are the traditional ways to create natural shade in the garden by creating a tall structure and letting all of the sun-loving plants take one for the team. 

Since they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, you can get creative with where you put them. You can create archways, teepees, or even walls with them. 

Thanks to this, you can play around with how much shade they provide nearby plants. Read on for our instructional guide on installing these bad boys!

What To Do:
1. Choose the best area to set up your trellis.
Trellises are often installed against a wall, fence, or inside a garden bed. Alternatively, some can be turned into archways.
2. Prepare the site.
Clean up the area where you’ll be installing. Ensure that there’s enough space to allow you to build freely.
Apart from that, make sure that the ground is level and can support the weight of your new structure.
3. If you’ll be installing your trellis on a wall, mark where you’ll be installing your brackets or anchors.
4. Install the brackets or anchors into the structure.
Before attaching your awnings, double-check your brackets or anchors to ensure they’re properly attached to the structure.
5. Attach your trellis.
Install your trellis onto the brackets securely.
6. Plant climbing plants.
7. Secure climbing plants with zip ties, string, or thread.
Loosely tie the stem of your plant onto the trellis to help it cover the entire structure.

3. Companion planting

Companion planting
Image: HGTV
DifficultyEasy | ●●○○○
Things You NeedTrellis
Zip ties, string, or thread
Anchors or brackets

Companion planting, also known as intercropping, is a strategic gardening technique that involves planting beneficial plants together.

In this case, planting tall plants alongside short ones helps provide shade as the tall plants naturally reduce direct sun exposure, especially during hotter parts of the day.

If your tall plants aren’t bushy, they can still help out by diffusing the light, softening the effects, and minimizing the risk of sunburn.

What To Do:
1. Identify the path of the sun throughout the day.
Determining which direction receives the most sunlight throughout the day will help you plan where to place your tall plants.
2. Choose suitable tall and short plants.
To avoid conflict, it’s important to choose plants that complement each other. Factors to look into include:
• Growth habit
• Resource requirements
3. Pick out fitting tall plants that have a bushy and dense growth habit.
This way, they’ll grow thick enough to provide a ton of shade.
4. Plant your taller plants in rows on the side where the sun is most intense.
Ensure that there’s at least 10 inches between each plant so they aren’t competing for resources.
5. Monitor the growth of your taller plants and prune regularly.
Regular maintenance is essential to ensure that your taller plants aren’t growing too rapidly as they could block out too much sunlight.

4. Creating windbreaks

Creating windbreaks
Image: Agrikrit
DifficultyEasy | ●●○○○
SpeedFast to Slow
Things You NeedTall plants

Creating windbreaks using tall plants such as trees or hedges can provide protection from the sun by creating a barrier to help reduce the amount of direct sunlight.

Depending on the kind of tall plant that you have, you can adjust the amount of shade it’ll give. Say, a full hedge will give a fuller coverage than vining flowers.

The speed of this method also depends if you’ll simply be relocating tall plants or growing them from seeds. 

What To Do:
1. Choose the right kind of plant species to grow together.
As mentioned earlier, companion planting is a great way to get the most benefits from both plants. Thus, it’s important to do your research to find out whether your tall and short plants are compatible.
Some considerations you may want to look into include:
• Soil type
• Climate preferences
• Fertilizer requirements
• Watering needs
2. Plan the layout.
To make an effective barrier against the sun, ensure that your tall plant is perpendicular to the direction where the sun is at its peak. 
It should be able to cast a shadow the majority of the day over the shorter plants that you want to protect.
3. Plant your tall plants.
4. Mix in a few inches of mulch onto the topsoil.
5. Water your plant deeply.
Giving your plant a deep watering right after transplanting or moving helps to encourage root growth.
6. Add stakes for additional support.
While completely optional, consider adding stakes for support, especially if you’ve just planted.
7. Regularly prune both your tall and short plants.
Because they’re planted so closely together, you risk decreasing the ventilation between them. Without proper air circulation, pests and diseases are easily transmissible.

5. Avoiding fertilizer on dry soil

Avoiding fertilizer on dry soil
Image: Garden Design
DifficultyEasy | ●●○○○
Things You NeedFertilizer

Fertilizers are meant to be good for your plants, so what’s the problem when applying on dry soil? Without water in the soil to help dilute your fertilizer, it remains concentrated causing root burn.

Aside from that, plants cannot absorb the nutrients from your fertilizer without adequate moisture. So applying fertilizer on dry soil isn’t just useless, it’s also damaging.

What To Do:
1. Identify the condition of your soil.
To determine whether your soil is dry, you’ll need to test it first. If your soil appears light in color and cracked then it’s likely that it’s dry.
Alternatively, you can puncture a stick through the soil and wiggle it around a bit. If the soil is difficult to pierce through, then it’s dry.
2. Water the dry soil.
If your soil is dry, give it a deep watering to ensure that it’s well-moistened.
3. After a few minutes, administer your fertilizer onto the soil.

6. Mulching

Image: The New York Times
DifficultyEasy | ●●○○○
Things You NeedMulch

Mulch is an easy, nutritional way to protect your plants from the harsh sun because it acts as an insulating barrier, preventing extreme temperatures from greatly affecting your soil.

Thanks to this layer, temperatures are regulated which help increase moisture retention. This gives your soil more access to water, especially in the drier months, lessening its chances of developing heat-induced stress.

Also known as a gardener’s best friend, mulch is easy to apply on your plant. In fact, you can probably do it blindfolded! 

What To Do:
1. Get the planting area ready.
Before you add the mulch, you’ll need to clean up your planting area first by getting rid of any weeds, debris, and unnecessary things. You’ll want a clean surface to allow the mulch to easily decompose.
2. Give your plants a deep watering.
Watering your plants before applying mulch boosts the moisture content in the soil, helping the mulch to blend in the soil better.
3. Measure out your planting area to determine how much mulch you’ll need.
To get the most out of your mulch, it’s recommended that you put a 2 to 4-inch layer all over the planting area. Identifying how much you need will help you plan out how much mulch to get.
4. Mix in some mulch into the first few inches of your soil.
Put an even layer of mulch onto the soil starting from the area closest to the base of your plant, working your way outwards.
Avoid putting your mulch too close to your stem as this could promote pests and diseases or inhibit ventilation. Instead, start your mulch about 5 inches away.
5. Add in more mulch as needed.
Over time you’ll notice your layer of mulch decreasing as it decomposes and integrates itself with the soil, gets washed away, or simply compresses. 
Thus, you’ll need to add a fresh batch of mulch onto your later, maintaining a height of about 2 to 4 inches.

7. Watering deeply

Watering deeply
Image: David Domoney
DifficultyEasy | ●●○○○
Things You NeedWater

Watering your plants deeply is a sure-fire way to protect it from the sun because it creates a reservoir of moisture deep in the soil, which is essential for your plant given that the heat can dry out the first couple of layers.

Giving your plant a consistent water supply encourages it to grow deeper roots, which are more capable of withstanding drought because they can tap into moisture at considerable depths.

What To Do
1. Choose the right time of day to water.
The best time to water your plants is early in the morning or late in the afternoon a few hours before nightfall.
This is because temperatures aren’t hot enough to cause the water to evaporate quicker than your plant can absorb it.
2. Check the moisture level of the soil.
Using your finger or a chopstick, penetrate 1 to 2 inches deep into the soil near the roots. If the soil is dry and cracked, then it means that it needs deep watering.
3. Water at the base slowly.
Using a slow and gentle stream of water, directly water at the base of your plant where the roots are located. Be careful not to get the roots wet as this could cause diseases. 
4. Observe how the soil is absorbing the water.
If you begin to see water pooling on top of the soil, this means that it hasn’t absorbed this yet. Stop watering and allow the soil to take in the water before watering again.
5. Keep a close eye on how your plant has responded.
If your plant appears to have more vigor, then you’ve successfully watered deeply. Otherwise, you may need to rewater again.
6. Adjust your watering schedule based on the needs of your plant.
Depending on the weather conditions, type of plant, and soil you have, you can adjust the frequency of your waterings to cater to the needs of your plant. 


Why do plants need protection from the sun?

Extreme heat and sun exposure can cause sunburn, dehydration, and heat stress on plants. Without adequate protection, this could result in improper development and death.

What are signs that my plant is experiencing heat stress?

Indicators that your plant is suffering from heat stress is when foliage begins to turn yellow or brown. You’ll also notice the leaves and stem wilting along with stunted growth. 

Is morning or afternoon sun better for plants?

Morning sun is better for plants because it’s less harsh, which allows the plants to absorb sunlight and do photosynthesis without suffering from sunburn or heat-stress.

What are some sun-loving plants that don’t require shade?

Heat-tolerant plants include:

• Chaenomeles
• English Ivy
• Foxglove
• Begonias
• Monstera Deliciosa
• Bee Balm

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