This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

June 6, 2013

An easy way to give temporary shade to a plant

I have a cycad that has been doing poorly for a couple of months now. It threw up a stunted flush last month, which is usually indicative of a problem with the root system. I gave it a good tug, but it's still rooted in well, so all it needs is a little bit more time. And since the heat has come on so very strong lately, I thought it would be nice if it got a little shade, too.

Doing this is easy - all you need to do is get a tomato cage and some shade cloth from your local Home Depot. They come in different sizes and I got the smallest one. There is no need to be fancy here, this is just temporary. The shade cloth is just draped over and is pushed through the slight bumps on the top of the cage. There is no need to tie it down, nor is there any need for it to go all the way to the ground. You do want to keep good air circulation.

An impaired root system in combination with severe heat can be fatal to a cycad, so watch for any signs of stunted growth. If the root system is badly compromised, the plant will lift out out the soil easily, and it should be moved away to an area where there is a lot of shade. I have a little out-of-the-way area that I call the "plant nursery", sometimes "intensive care". Whatever you do, don't water it a lot, that will just make it worse. Spray the leaves a bit, but give the roots a chance to grow back. Chances are it was overwatering that caused the root problem to begin with.

If you think the plant is dead, tug gently at the leaves come out of the center of the plant. If they come out, the plant is dead, rotted from the heart. It will not recover, you have overwatered it, "killing it with kindness". Throw it away, it probably smells bad, anyway.

This cycad will be OK in the long run. For now, it just needs a little bit of time, and a little bit of shade.
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