Heat Wave Takes Toll On Southern California Gardens With Sunburned Plants

burned aeonium succulent plant

My plants are frying!

OK, so it’s been over 100 degrees here in sunny so Cal for the past few days. That’s OK, it’s called summer, we learned about this in school.

And the state of California has declared a drought, and the city of Los Angeles is asking us to reduce our water consumption. Check, my back yard is already 85% planted with natives, drought tolerant plants and succulents and cacti.

What I didn’t expect is seeing my dry garden plants fry in the heat! This, believe it or not is a photo of my aeonium plant. They usually form a dome of little green rosettes. The dome is all brown and fried on top.  The ET Fingers Jade (crassula portulacea) has crispy fingertips.

I have rigged up some shade for them, but I think the damage has been done. Normally, sunburned (or frost burned) plant parts will not regenerate, especially on succulent plants. The leaves on my butterfly bush are turning white, and the pads on my cactus are thin and curling. Some of the pads are curled into the shape of a bowl. Interesting survival habit (and tip if you’re lost in the desert). Even the white sage has brown leaves.

I gave the garden a little water the other day, but I suppose I should at least water the cactus and a few others one more time. The only succulent plant who seems to be getting on OK is the Crassula tetragona (bonsai pine), and the regular Jade (crassula ovata). The other succulents that are doing OK have partial shade during the hottest part of the day.

Other plants that seem to be surviving for now are the Hopseed Bush, the Acacia tree, cotoneaster, artemisia, the virburnum, and some perennial sage that gets pretty yellow flowers in the spring. Most of the others are shaded by other plants like the roses and a few sunder story shrubs like the Mexican sage. So my strategy of planting in groups to create a micro climate seems to have worked at least in the shade department.

Temporary Shade Suggestions

Staple shade cloth to a square wooden frame. Throw shade cloth over spare tomato cages, wire fencing, across stakes with string or just over the plants if you don’t have a frame.

Have an umbrella party in the garden with all your extra winter gear. Don’t forget to anchor them so they don’t blow away!

Instead of shade cloth use old sheets or curtains. Sheers would be perfect!

Post your own suggestions in the Comments.