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How to keep your houseplants alive during record heat

A humidifier adds moisture to the air at the Leaf & Spine shop in Highland Park.
A humidifier adds moisture to the air at Leaf & Spine in Highland Park.
(Gabriella Angotti-Jones / Los Angeles Times)

So your Pilea peperomioides burned, your Monstera deliciosa wilted and the leaves of your fiddle leaf fig turned brown and dropped to the floor.

Even in a city that is accustomed to searing hot Labor Day weekend weather, Sunday’s record heat (121 in Woodland Hills), was overwhelming for plants and humans alike.

Should you water your houseplants more during a record heatwave, mist them or simply move them to the center of your balmy home?

It’s hard to know what to do given climate change and last weekend’s unprecedented triple-digit temperatures.

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So I reached out to plant expert Danae Horst, author of the new book “Houseplants for All: How to Fill Any Home With Happy Plants,” for some tips on how to keep houseplants healthy in the unfortunate scenario that the heatwave continues.

Cactus, succulents, herbs, dwarf citrus and other houseplants that can handle the summer heat.

1. Protect plants from the sun

Move plants a few extra inches away from windows or even walls if your walls typically heat up when it’s very hot outdoors. Windows that receive direct sun can be significantly hotter than usual, especially in the afternoon, so make sure no plants are touching the glass directly to avoid scorching leaves.

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2. Water daily

Ensure plants are deeply watered before a heatwave, if possible, and as always, make sure soil is evenly saturated. Evaporation will be accelerated, so you may even need to water daily or every other day depending on the plant and the duration of the heatwave.

Water in the early morning if possible, but if you notice plants wilting or in need of water at any point during the day, water them right away.

Don’t forget to check cuttings, aquatic plants like Marimo moss balls, pebble trays and humidifiers — the water in those will all evaporate much faster as well.

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3. Add moisture to the air

In dry heat, as we have in Los Angeles, running your humidifier more will help plants combat rapid evaporation.

4. Beware air conditioners

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Keep plants out of the direct airflow of AC units — cold air can damage plant tissue.

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5. Keep plants inside

Do not take indoor plants outside to water, no matter how briefly. Just a few minutes outside on 100-degree days can damage plants that are acclimated to indoor conditions.

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6. Avoid purchasing plants

Try to avoid buying plants on very hot days. If you do, plan to take them home immediately, and provide protection from the sun while in the car. Even a quick stop on the way home may be enough to seriously damage a plant left in a hot car.


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