Protect New Shrubs From the Sun With Shade Cloth

greenhouse structured with shade cloth

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Growing a new plant or transplanting a bush one can cause stress on the plant. The level of stress on the plant depends on several factors. For example, planting in the summertime or a hot climate can exacerbate stress. As much as some mature plants thrive in the sunlight, if they are young or not yet established, the sun can be their worst enemy. If the plant has some shading (from a tree, for example) at any point in the day, it could reduce the stress. Otherwise, the plant may suffer from an onslaught of sun rays from morning to evening. A simple solution for this is to protect your new or shade-loving plants with shade cloth.

Benefits of Shade Cloth

Using shade cloth is a great idea for protecting new plants (such as shrubs and bushes) that you've just planted in your landscaping. Not only will it keep the pounding sun off of your plants' leaves, but it will also help the surrounding soil retain moisture. Moreover, if you surround your new transplant with shade cloth, the fabric will serve as a windbreak (wind works in tandem with sunlight to dry out transplants). As a bonus, if you have problems with birds or rabbits, shade cloth can be set up to protect plants from pests.

Buying Shade Cloth

Shade cloth comes in different densities, ranging from about 20 percent blockage to about 90 percent to let you control how much sunlight to exclude. The lower the density number, the more light you allow in. Since the fabric is permeable, it won't stop the rain from reaching your plants.

You can buy shade cloth at local garden centers and home centers and through online gardening and greenhouse suppliers. It is commonly sold in precut pieces and in bulk rolls that are priced by the foot. Precut pieces with added trim and grommets (metal eyes) are the most convenient, but for large installations bulk material usually makes more sense. You can also buy inexpensive grommet kits that include grommets and simple punch tools for installing them.

Trim along the edges of the fabric adds strength and prevents unraveling of the woven plastic material. If you start with bulk fabric, you can fold up the edges and sew a hem, if desired, for the same effects. Grommets make it easy to secure the shade cloth and prevent it from tearing out at the edges and corners.

Installing and Using Shade Cloth

You can build a simple structure around your plants and cover it with shade cloth, or you can suspend the cloth from ropes tied to nearby trees, fences, or other structures. For a really simple shade structure, all you need to do is to pound four poles into the ground around your shrub or other plant and attach the shade cloth to this temporary structure, using twine, long twist-ties, or zip ties.

A somewhat more substantial structure might look more like an arbor, with four (or more) posts and a slatted roof made of lumber or branches. In any case, the shade cloth can go on when you need shade and come off when you don't, while the structure can stay in place.

Depending on the severity of the heat you're dealing with (and on the density of the shade cloth), you may decide either to leave the shade cloth on for a considerable period of time or alternate between covering and not covering. For example, if you have a newly transplanted shrub that already has wilted leaves, you'll probably just want to leave the fabric on to provide shelter for a while, until the shrub recovers.