Midsummer Flower Maintenance

It’s that time in the season when many of your flowering plants are past their prime.

As plants mature, they typically begin the process of generating fruit and seed. As a result, they have little energy for keeping up appearances. Foliage can start to yellow, flower production slows down, insects and diseases move in, and some plants simply die after producing seed.

But don’t despair! With a few simple tricks, you can perk your flower garden right up…

Deadheading

Many types of perennial flowers will rebloom if the spent blooms are removed or “deadheaded.”

Deadheading not only refreshes a plant’s appearance and controls seed dispersal, it also redirects a plant’s energy from seed production to generating the roots and foliage. This prolongs the bloom period or encourages a second flush of blooms on some perennials, such as perennial geraniums, bellflowers, larkspur and dianthus.

But even if your perennials don’t rebloom, pruning often stimulates a flush of new foliage, providing an early-summer freshness and making the plants look neater.

The best time to deadhead a flower is when its appearance begins to decline. How often you’ll have to deadhead a particular plant depends on the life span of its blooms.

Where to Prune?

Choosing the exact point to make a deadheading cut can seem confusing, since perennials have different flower forms. For most plants, however, all you need to remember is to prune spent flowers and stems back to a point where there’s a new lateral flower or bud.

Illustration by Bob LaPointe

If no new flower is apparent, prune the stem back to a lateral leaf. If the flowers have finished blooming, but the stems are still green, start by removing only the flowers. Once the stalk has yellowed, you can cut that off as well.

Don’t Forget the Annuals!

Pixabay Image

Annual flowers should be deadheaded often. This includes zinnias, snapdragons, and bachelor buttons. All will usually bloom until frost if you remove the spent flowers. Like the perennials, once your annual flowers begin to produce seed, they’ll slow down and usually stop producing any new blooms.

Some annuals, such as impatiens and newer petunia varieties (like the Wave and Fantasy series) don’t need deadheading. They’ll bloom until frost. But if they become leggy with fewer flowers, cut them back to half their height.

Pests and Diseases

Japanese beetles, earwigs, slugs, black spot, mildew and blight are just a few of the garden scourges of mid to late summer. Picking the beetles off by hand is often best way to deal with them, as they’re very slow. You can also try nontoxic pest control.

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But at this point, your plants have already matured, and the damage will probably not affect their performance next season. They may look a bit ravaged, but they’ll come back. Try to look past the foliage and enjoy the flowers.

Also, bear in mind that some perennials drop their foliage as way of coping with excess heat and drought; the leaves may be dried out but the roots are alive and ready for next season’s growth. The same applies to plants eaten by pests, such as hosta foliage decimated by slugs.

To test if your plant is alive, give it a gentle tug; if the roots hold fast, it should be fine.

Weeds

If you’ve been away on vacation, it can be pretty discouraging to return home to knee-high weeds in your flower beds. The best way to tackle them is to just grit your teeth and have at it. You’ll feel a whole lot better once the weeding is done. You’ll also reduce your weed problems next year by removing them before they can produce seed.

Replacing Plants

Many early-season flowers give up the ghost by August. Cool-weather pansies and violas have withered in the heat. Many window box plants become leggy and weak.

You may notice empty spaces in your flower beds, where plants have gone dormant or died. Which can be downright depressing! Why not make a  trip to your local nursery? For a minimal investment you can usually pick up a few annuals to tuck in here and there, as well as a few perennials still in their prime.

A Little Sprucing

Be sure to grab a bag of mulch or two, also. Then set aside an hour or so to edge your beds. The following video shows how:

Then apply a fresh one-inch layer of mulch. You’ll be amazed how it spruces things up!


Sources:

Gardener’s Supply Company

Fine Gardening

Flower Gardening Made Easy

Home Repair Tutor

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