plants wilt too if they're hot

Friends often ask me to look at their gardens to see if I can help. I have noticed that sometimes their worries are the result of unrealistic expectations.

T: What’s with this banksia rose, it’s dying!

Catmint: It’s not dying, it’s quite happy. It’s only been in for a year - you can’t expect it to cover the wall straight away.

G: I can’t grow anything here! Everything dies.

Catmint: Some things have died because they are not suited to our hot dry climate. But look at the things that are thriving – for example a grapevine, roses and plecthranthus. There are lots of plants that can be happy here.

In the case of T, he is way too impatient. In the case of G she needs to choose from the range of plants that are suited to the microclimate in her garden.

In hot dry weather plants can suffer from being in the direct sun. They may get burnt foliage but that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily die. They just won't look great for a while. The foliage usually grows back in the autumn. This happened to a camellia last summer. Of course for hot spots it is preferable to get plants that are happy sunbakers, like for example, cistus or catmint or santolina.

Another response to hot dry conditions is that the upper leaves shrivel. This is a good survival strategy for a plant. You can tell it will be OK if it has healthy looking buds further down the stem. These plants are not going to get watered in my garden but they may obtain relief by being cut back. This relieves pressure on the plant because the roots have less foliage to support. But if you do this you have to be careful because if you cut back too much the plant will die.

Sometimes it seems as if the plants have died. There was no erigeron left after last summer, but under the soil the buds were waiting for the cooler weather and it grew back.

What is the aim of maintaining a garden in a hot summer?

Maybe you can maintain the illusion of a cool English climate by using copious amounts of water. Or maybe you can just grow cacti or succulents and they will be happy in the dry heat. Except when it rains hard of course - then they won't look so great.

In my experience a real living evolving garden cannot look lovely all the year round. You can't get perfection all the time. If you could eliminate risk and unpredictability and have continual beauty, then I think gardening would become very boring.


  1. HI there thanks for the comments on my garden blog. Had a look at a property today, check out the plant photo!! Kaz

  2. I do agree, every climate must have its bad times though there are a lot we can do to make the best of them. It seems strange that your hardest time in the garden is now - summer and also ours - winter! I planted a small bank that I though was shady last year then realised that the high mid-summer sun made it sunny! I thought I had lost some plants but you give me hope that they will recover.

    Best wishes Sylvia (England)

  3. Catmint, I see that you are the go-to person, when your friends are having problems with their garden. Most people are so impatient, they want instant results. One thing that gardening has tought me is patience!!!
    Hope you are enjoying your summer.

  4. Dear Catmint, I think you are so right. No, we cannot have perfection in our gardens all the time [realistically, probably not at any time], and if we could, then it would, I agree, be a little tedious.

    It is all about the journey rather than the arrival, or that is what I keep telling myself.

  5. Good post. Wilting is a bit rare here, especially in our winter. I did loose some house plants with the cold though.

  6. Good post. I would assume, given the hot, dry summers you've experienced, your mulch will be an invaluable addition to your gardens! I have an area that is as perfectly suited to a particular moisture loving plant as it can be (it also doesn't like wet roots), that wilts dramatically. It used to worry me, but I'm on to its tricks! ha. :-) Have a great day, Catmint!

  7. GREAT POST! I love your information and hope people learn from your tips. I hear many of the same complaints, especially nothing grows here. Well, like you said, use plants that are adapted to our hot climates. There are so many beautiful ones that do not need much water. Love this post! Did I already mention that?

  8. Gardening is good practice for learning patience and limitations.

  9. Excellent post. We all have to grow where we are planted. The first step in successful growing is to know what thrives in our climate. Your friends are fortunate to have someone knowledgeable to ask.

  10. Your wilted plants looked very familiar to me - we must have similar hot summers. I'll chime in my agreement with your philosophy of not expecting a garden to be at its best every time of the year. Nothing in nature is. Why do we strive so hard for it? Product of the Industrial Age and Hollywood?

  11. Hi Catmint,
    Just catching up on your posts - I agree completely about the mulch, no matter how fast I shovel the pile doesn't seem to decrease for ages.
    Wilting plants - I've had a few in this heat, but since the lovely rain this week, they're all looking happy. The Lilly Pillies are even having a second burst of gorgeous flowers. Hope you've had the rain too.

  12. Thank you for all your interesting and validating comments. This post seems to have struck a chord. I guess we have all experienced unrealistic expectations of others and ourselves. And also unexpected wiltings and plant deaths. From too much heat or, as Hermes says, from too much cold.


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