Using proper planting techniques followed by regular watering will increase the likelihood that your plants will survive, and thrive! It is equally important to match the plants needs to the growing conditions it will receive following your initial care. A properly selected, planted, and established plant will: be less likely to develop insect or disease problems; be able to adjust to seasonal rainfall variations; and grow more robustly and uniformly with minimal or no care.
Plants are living things. Every plants needs are a bit different but generally plants need sunlight, carbon dioxide (in air), heat, water and the proper nutrients to survive. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants use the sunlight, carbon dioxide, water, and essential nutrients to grow (build new cells). Without one of these essential ingredients in the proper range a plant will eventually wither and die.
Fortunately, the environment provides most (if not all) of a plants needs. However, during periods of unusual weather (i.e.- extreme cold, drought, abnormally high rainfall) it may be necessary to “help” your landscape plants to minimize the effects of the weather.
As NC licensed irrigation contractors we do not advocate the irresponsible use of water to sustain landscape plants. In fact, overwatering your landscape plants will stress them and increase the likelihood of disease, pest and drought mortality. Excessive soil moisture levels inhibit gas exchange in plants roots. Without proper aeration of the rooting zone, deeper roots will die and new roots will be formed at a much shallower level in the soil (or mulch) profile. It is much harder to keep a shallowly rooted plant adequately watered during periods of drought.
Soil moisture levels are important during hot and cold months, especially for broadleaf evergreen plants. Without adequate moisture in hot periods a plant will reduce foliage area (drop leaves) to protect itself from drying out. Leaf surfaces account for most of a plants water loss. Similarly, in periods of extreme cold, a plant without adequate moisture will “dry out” through the effects of cold winds pulling moisture from the leaves (of a broadleaf evergreen plant). That is why most northern climate plants are deciduous (drop their leaves in the fall), have needles rather than leaves, or have other mechanisms (such as leaf curl in Rododendron) to prevent winter desiccation. A sign of both winter and summer desiccation on broadleaf evergreens is the browning (dead) margins on a leaf, prior to leaf drop.
In summation, maintaining the proper soil moisture level is the most important input you can have in a plants survival. Using proper plant selection and planting techniques will ease your watering responsibility but extremes in weather conditions will undoubtedly arise that dictate you “help” you plants survive.
Proper watering techniques will ensure that your plants get your help! It is essential to thoroughly drench the soil when watering your plants. Too often good intentions fall short because only the mulch level has received moisture from your hose (or irrigation). Water deeply and infrequently to promote a deep, healthy root system.