The days are getting hotter, many parts of the country are experiencing record high temperatures that are unrelenting. Unlike us, our flowering plants cannot just walk off into the shade or an air-conditioned house. With a little extra care, you can keep both your perennials and annuals looking their best all season long.
I love perennials because they are like old friends that come back every year to visit. Usually they get bigger and stronger with each season. For the most part, they are hardy and resilient.
I remember a couple of years ago planting what I thought was a dead bleeding-heart root. I really thought it was a goner, and even told the store where I got it that it was dead. They told me to dig it up and bring it back, and they would give me another. When I went to dig it up, I could not find it and chalked it up to a loss.
Imagine my surprise the next spring when an amazing bleeding-heart plant emerged from that spot. Every year it gets bigger and better, and I think about how lucky I was along with the plant to not have found it that day.
People like annuals because they flower all season long. I like to put annuals in containers and pots to use as accents and add color among the perennials. Whatever you like to plant, with these tips you can keep them looking their best.
You want to keep your plants hydrated without over watering them. It is easy to check if potted or container plants need more water. Stick your finger in to the middle joint. If the soil feels moist or wet, they do not need to be watered. You can also tell by their weight, pick up a dry plant, then water and lift it. You will feel a significant difference in weight, and soon you will be able to use that knowledge to let you know if they need to be watered.
In full sun, some potted plants may require water two times a day. If you find that is a schedule that is just too demanding, move them to an area that offers more protection, one with trees and shrubs to shield them from too much sun.
With your flower beds, it is best to water them as early in the morning as possible. If you water them too late in the evening, the wet leaves are more prone to mold and mildew. If you absolutely must water in the evening, be careful to water the soil and try to keep the leaves and stems dry.
Soaker hoses are special hoses that lay on the soil and gently water at the soil level. You can set them up on a timer and that way your plants will be watered at the optimal time, each day easily. You can find these hoses in the garden department of stores like Target.
You may be able to encourage perennials to bloom again if you deadhead the flowers. Since flowers work to make seeds, deadheading the blooms can make the plant produce a second set of flowers. Annuals usually do this on their own but you can help them along if need be. If you have some annuals that start looking rough, cutting them back to about 6” can help bring about new fresh, green growth.
Potted plants can lose nutrients quickly, especially with increased watering in summer. This is a good reason to fertilize them daily if possible, and if not, at least once a week. In order not to over fertilize if doing it daily, just decrease the recommended amount on the specific fertilizer by 50%. If you compost, add that to your soil. You can find a variety of plant fertilizers at garden centers like the Home Depot.
If weeds are driving you bonkers, try adding mulch to help reduce weeds. The mulch will conserve water and help keep weeds away, Weeds are detrimental to your plants, they crowd them out and steal water and nutrients from the soil. You can mix mulch with compost for added value.
I do not use chemicals around or in my home so I will not use toxic pesticides on my plants. There are many ways to eliminate pests that are non-toxic to your family. Good bugs such as ladybugs, praying mantises, spiders and bees can be helpful in eliminating bad bugs like aphids or Japanese beetles. If you place birdfeeders, birdbaths and bee houses around your yard, you will attract birds that will help control the bad insects and encourage pollinators.
For a safer pest control spray, you can make a mixture using an ample squirt of dish soap with 1 tablespoon of cooking oil in a spray bottle. Fill the remainder of the bottle with water. Test on each plant in a small area before spraying all the leaves front and back.