Gardening: Coping with what the weather is dishing out

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News
Some daylilies are suffering from fluctuating weather conditions.

Abiotic factors are the non-living issues in the garden environment, including temperatures, wind, water and sun, that effect the health of plants. Abnormally cold or hot temperatures, excessive rain, drought and lack of sun, put plants in stress and makes them vulnerable to diseases, pests and physiological disorders. This growing season is turning out to be a record breaker.  

I’m getting all kinds of questions on about strange things plants are doing that experienced gardeners have not seen before. 

 Geraniums are dropping green leaves and their buds are not developing into flowers. These plants don’t do well sitting in soggy, wet soil and often develop crown rot and other diseases that disrupt their normal growth habit.  If you’re growing them in pots, moving them to a protected area if extended rain is forecast is a good idea.     

 A Connecticut gardener wrote to ask what animal was attacking her daylilies. The flowering stems, called scapes, were broken off about 6 inches below the flower buds – what looked like a clean cut.  My thought was deer that love to munch on daylilies. However, the tender flower buds were left intact and Bambi would have devoured them. I found the answer on the American Daylily Society website What happened was Daylily Scape Blasting, also called bud blasting, the result of internal pressure in the daylily scape that builds up to the point the stem either bursts, splits or breaks in the middle of the flower stalk.  It’s the result of excessive rains followed by drought-like conditions.  

Extreme temperature fluctuations and excessive application of a high nitrogen fertilizer prior to heavy rains may also contribute to this plant phenomenon.   

The good news for those who grow the more common daylilies is bud blasting is most often found in certain varieties (tetraploids), which are among the fancier hybrids. 

While you may not grow daylilies, this phenomenon is similar to the cracking of tomatoes, which suggests it’s not a good idea to use a high nitrogen fertilizer on tomatoes once they begin to flower and set fruit. 

When temperatures reach into the 90s, tomatoes suffer from blossom drop and do not set fruit.  Fertilizing at this time will do no good and may actually harm the plants.  Best to keep the plants watered and be patient. When the temperatures cool down the plants will resume fruit set on their own.  

Peppers are also temperamental when it comes to hot weather and they, too, will suffer blossom drop in 90-degree weather and should be treated the same as tomatoes.  

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. E-mail her at, Ask Nancy.  You can also read her previous columns at