Water Conservation Tip No. 7
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Walk through landscapes or nurseries with plant care professionals and watch their eyes. They’ll be scanning their plants like a reader scans the pages of a newspaper. They have learned to "read" their plants to determine their needs, and the foremost thing they’ll be watching will be for signs of dry plants. Here are some guidelines.
Wilting. This is the most obvious. When plant cells aren’t completely filled with water the plant tissues become limp and the plant wilts.
So, every plant that wilts is dry? Right? Not necessarily. Wilting merely means the leaves and tender stems don’t have enough water to hold themselves erect. It may be that the soil is waterlogged and that roots have died. Sometimes plants wilt if intense sun and high temperatures follow several days of cooler, cloudy weather.
The main rule here is, never water a plant if its soil is already moist.
Look for a subtle change in color. Dry leaves often lose their crisp, bright green color. St. Augustine and bermuda turn a dull olive drab. So will Asian jasmine. Most hollies and ligustrums don’t wilt at all. Their leaves are too stiff. However, those leaves will take on a very recognizable change in colors. When that happens you have only hours to get some water to the plant without its suffering severe damage.
In the case of turfgrass, if you walk across your lawn and you see footprints where you have walked, those blades don’t have the resilience to bounce back. They are dry. Again, you need to get water to it fairly soon.
Nurserymen will lift their plants to feel their weight. It’s amazing how much lighter they are when they’re dry. You can also look at the side walls of the potting soil. If it has separated from the pot walls the soil is probably dry.
Water deeply when you do water. Wait for the soil to become relatively dry before you water again. That process will encourage deeper root growth and that’s better for the plant in the long run.