Helping Plants Cope With Wind

Tender, new foliage is always most vulnerable to wind damage. Buy plants that are acclimated to it – that have been growing in the same conditions in the nursery. Wrap plants’ foliage as you carry them home from the nursery. Large-leafed plants that shred easily should be planted where wind will not hit them.

• “Frost cloth” also helps greatly in lessening the impact of strong winds on plants, especially tender annuals and new woody plantings. It also lessens the intensity of sunlight. Use it in appropriate situations.

• Wind breaks get a lot of mentions, but there are some air-flow dynamics that may lessen their impact in urban areas. (More distance is required for maximum benefit.) Still, dense 10- 15-ft. shrubs like Nellie R. Stevens hollies, yaupon hollies and ligustrums can make a big difference. Plant them 2/3 as far apart as their desired heights.

• Taller plants to slow the flow of wind would include eastern redcedar (the juniper that’s native to much of Texas), leyland cypress, eldarica pine, southern magnolia and live oak. Eastern redcedar is easiest, but you must know the mature height of the type of plant you’re choosing. Most people overcrowd their windbreaks.

• If you’re planting shrubs or trees as wind breaks, and if you’re careful to space them two-thirds as far apart as you’ll allow them to grow tall, the plants are going to look sparse. Instead of planting them in a straight row, consider using a sweep of plants, staggered within the clusters, so that you’ll get a fuller look when viewed from a distance.

• Salt spray near the coast, or high-sodium water can also burn plants’ leaves. Don’t let these plants get too dry, or the salts will concentrate. Soak them deeply when you do water, to leach out as much as you can. Apply gypsum to replace the sodium in the soil with less damaging calcium. (Note: gypsum, best I can tell, does NOT loosen soil.)

Posted by Neil Sperry
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