Monday, March 30, 2015

Transpiration Wilting

Today one of the community garden people wanted to water the spinach bed because it was wilted. She assumed that the wilting meant that the ground was dry. Fair enough assumption, but a wrong one in this case. The soil under the mulch around the spinach was quite moist. What the gardener was seeing was a wilting effect due to transpiration on a hot, sunny day. 

Transpiration is the process where plants move moisture from the ground, up through the plant, then out the leaves. Most of the time the process balances out quite well and everything looks just fine. But on a hot sunny day, sometimes the plant loses moisture out the leaves faster than it can replace it from the soil, even if the soil is wet. Plants with big leaves seem to have the most problem with wilting due to too rapid lose of moisture. 

Above is Chinese cabbage. These plants were getting large and growing rapidly. So they had large leaves. While those pictured above were not mulched to help protect the soil, others that had a deep mulch were also wilting. But once the sun started to set, the plants immediately perked up and looked marvelous again.

Other plants that I routinely see wilting due to rapid transpiration is yacon (above) and sunflowers. They both seem quite susceptible to this effect. The above planted are heavily mulched and kept watered, but they still wilt on sunny afternoons. It doesn't seem to bother them much, though. 

Grabbing a hose and watering the plants doesn't make a difference. They will still be wilted until the sun declines. 


  1. Fibeartgourds commented via email,"The gourds are prone to this effect, also."

    How true! I bet anything in the general gourd family does too. Like pumpkins, squashes, cucumbers.

  2. Very interesting; I just learned something! Do you know if shade netting would help?