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Keeping it green in summer – An interview with Garden Street Garden owner Karl Mandekic

18 January 2021

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Making sure your plants survive the heat.

Each summer we experience the harshness of Australia’s sun, and often it makes it hard to maintain a lush, thriving garden, inside and outside.

To make sure we have the best possible chance to keep our plants alive this time of year, we have asked the advice of Karl Mandekic, owner of Garden Street Garden, a plant shop in South Yarra, Melbourne.

What plants do you suggest buying for or during summer?

"Indoor plants love the summer months, this tends to be their growing season. Plants such as Ficus, Monsteras and Palms love the added heat and humidity. Additional watering is required and protect the plant from direct sun exposure, particularly in the afternoon as direct sun can burn the foliage. Whilst indoor plants love the warmth, the intense Melbourne sun can damage these tropical beauties. 

In terms of outdoors, focus on tough durable plants particularly if they are going to be in the afternoon sun. Succulents and Cacti are great for the summer months. They are tough sun loving plants that require little water and maintenance.

If planting other plants, including natives, make sure you water heavily. Lavenders and Daisies are a great colour addition this time of year.  Focus the watering in the mornings or afternoon rather than during the day.

Remember plants will take a minimum of 6 months in the ground to establish so will need a little love initially. Plants in pots will require additional watering to this as pots will dry out much quicker, particularly terracotta pots which are porous."

What can you do for plants that don’t like the heat? 

"For indoor plants that don’t like the heat the best course of action is to keep them out of direct sun. As a general guide, water your indoor plants every 5 - 7 days over summer. Make sure you give the plant a deep soaking rather than a light watering. Watering heavily will train the root system to go down into the pot, keeping the roots cooler and will take longer to dry out.

Remember that direct sun coming through the windows can be more intense than direct sun outside. It’s important to keep your indoor plants out of the direct path of air conditioning as this will dry out the foliage leaving the plant very unhappy.

For sensitive outdoor plants it’s generally best to plant in spring and autumn. This will give the plant time to establish before the summer heat warms up. If planting in summer, consider position. Does the plant like a full sun position or shade? For example, Birds of Paradise love a full sun position whilst Camellias enjoy the shade. Remember to water heavily, 2 - 3 times a week as a general guide until the plants are established. More watering may be required if plants are in pots."

What are the signs that your plant isn’t doing too great in the heat?

"Plants can stress out in the intense Melbourne summer. Signs include:

  • Tip burn - Where the tips of the leaves start to dry out and slowly break down (Palms are a great example of doing this).
  • Sunburn - Where the plant will develop large burnt patches on the leaves. This is very typical for broad foliage plants such as Monstera and Ficus’s and can often indicate that the plant is not growing in the correct position.
  • Wilting – This is the other classic symptom, where the foliage goes limp and starts to droop. Watering correctly will generally fix the wilting, but don’t leave it too long as the plants will go past the point of permanent wilting and unfortunately won’t recover.

These are 3 major signs and correspond with both indoor and outdoor plants."

Any tips on how to resurrect dying plants?

"Plants can die for many reasons but the two most common ones are under or overwatering, and the wrong location.

Whenever you water indoor or outdoor plants make sure you give them a deep watering. Many people will water lightly every couple of days. This is like wiping water on our skin rather than drinking it.

Location, location, location. If the plants are showing signs of stress move them into a location which receives more sun or shade depending on the plant. Whenever you buy a plant, ask questions to ensure you know the watering requirements and ideal location for your new plant friend.

The best way to fix a dying plant is to seek the advice of a horticulturist. We are here to help educate you on what your plant needs. At the first sign of stress consult an expert, if you let the plant go too long without getting help it will take the plant much longer to recover and sometimes it won’t at all." 

What are some house plants that are easy to manage all year round? 

"There are quite a few classic indoor plants that are easy to manage all year round. Mother in Law Tongues and Zanzibar Gems are two amazing plants. Water these guys once a month and once every 6 weeks over winter. They will take very low light levels and still grow beautifully, they have even been sent into space.

Peace Lily’s or Spathiphyllum’s are another easily managed indoor plant. Tolerant of low light levels these guys are great communicators and will tell you when they are thirsty.

Monstera's are a personal favourite. These large leaved plants are bold and stylish. Tough and durable, they make a great addition in every indoor area. As a general guide water once a week in summer and every 10 - 14 days over winter.

Ficus varieties are brilliant as well. Cultivars include, Burgundy, Ruby and Tineke. These beautiful variegated foliage plants grow beautifully inside right through the year.   

Indoors love plenty of water over summer, they are however mainly tropical plants so therefore not lovers of the cold. Water requirements will vary depending on the plant species but as a general guide water every 5 - 10 days in the warmer months and every 10 - 14 days over the cooler months. Of course seek the advice of a horticulturist if your plant is not looking happy."

You can visit Karl at his shop at 21 Garden Street, South Yarra VIC 3141. Alternatively, you can check out his website for a fabulous variety of plants, pots and accessories.