Gardening | Keeping your plants happy and hydrated these holidays

Save your plants from stressing this summer. Photo: Shutterstock.
Save your plants from stressing this summer. Photo: Shutterstock.

The festive season is a time when plants will often die due to neglect in the heat of summer as gardeners go on holidays.

One way to reduce the losses is to apply substances that may assist in reducing water stress.

They are commonly known as anti-transpirants or antidesiccants and some confusion may exist as to which product does what.

Strictly speaking they both do the same thing even though by definition they have two different meanings.

Transpiration is defined as the loss of moisture through the stomata of leaves. This occurs as a natural part of the photosynthetic process in plants. So, if we wanted to prevent transpiration from occurring, we would use an anti-transpirant.

Desiccation on the other hand, means to dry or dehydrate, so if we wanted to prevent this, we would use an antidesiccant.

Whichever way you look at it they both prevent moisture loss, an anti-transpirant will also prevent desiccation and vice versa.

Whatever product you use the result is basically the same, so the terms could be used interchangeably.

The most common anti-transpirants act as a physical barrier to the loss of moisture from plants, purchased as emulsions of latex, wax or acrylic they form a film on the leaf surface thereby reducing moisture loss.

Some products act as solar reflectors that suppress moisture loss by reducing the internal temperature of the leaf.

They have even been used to increase the vase life of cut flowers and Christmas trees and for indoor plants.

Plants have evolved in almost every corner of the earth and their morphological (external) features, and their various modifications and adaptations have evolved also and are largely species specific.

Plants therefore vary significantly in their capacity to control moisture loss through their leaves, this means that in many cases the use of anti-transpirants is not necessary.

Of course, the best action to prevent water stress and plant losses is to ensure adequate soil moisture levels are maintained.

Watering plants deeply and applying a mulch to reduce evaporation will ensure plants survive summer, however when you cannot be there, anti-transpirants may just help to see them through those dry spells that most plants detest.