Wow, what a change in the weather. It went from the 70s and 80s to the 30s in a day.
Texans have a saying: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a day.” That can be very true. But, I have found a pretty consistent phenomenon in this area — wind. So I thought I would share some important facts about how consistent windy days can negatively affect our plants.
The most obvious form of damage is breakage. Strong gusts can snap limbs, break branches, and even uproot and blow over trees with thick canopies.
Newly planted trees whose root systems aren’t established can easily be pushed over or caused to lean, so staking helps.
Applicable to us right now, drought-stressed trees also are more susceptible to damage from high winds. A more serious situation can occur if trees or branches fall onto power lines.
Loss of water is another perilous effect of wind on plants. The functions of leaves can be impaired by constant windy conditions.
Without getting too technical, leaves release water through small openings into the air. Depending on a wind’s speed and temperature, plant leaves may wither and close their stomata openings to reduce the loss of water. This can diminish the ability to perform photosynthesis which, in turn, weakens the entire plant, can stunt its growth, and render it susceptible to other maladies such as disease and pest infestation.
Another damaging effect of wind on plants has to do with the soil. If soils are bare of grasses or mulch, wind with a high enough velocity can both dry the surface soil and blow it into the air.
This not only removes needed soil and moisture from the base of trees and plants, but it can “sandblast” the surfaces of the leaves and stems.
This can damage the smooth surfaces and even penetrate the stomata, leaving them open.
Both situations may cause the plant to lose water and dehydrate, again leaving it susceptible to life-threatening outside elements.
There really isn’t a lot we can do about damaging winds, but protecting plants with mulch and spraying water over shriveling leaves may give temporary relief. Tender plants might benefit from a windbreak, such as a thicker-foliaged shrub, a lattice or other manmade structures.
Darla Horner Menking is a Texas Master Gardener and Master Naturalist. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org