Here are a few tips to help revive your garden from summer blahs
Summer doldrums can zap your garden of vitality and eye appeal. Whether you have a large landscape or potted plants on a deck or patio, your garden is probably looking a bit ragged. Instead of waiting for cooler fall days, you can beautify your garden now, even in high summer heat, with a few simple steps.
By cutting off dead flowers and giving some tender loving care with mild fertilizer and deep watering, ragged-looking plants can bounce back in time for a late-summer bonus of flowers and pretty foliage. For non-reblooming plants, like spring annuals, replacing them with plants that thrive in heat spruces up garden beds and containers.
Here’s how to revive your summer garden:
Deadhead (cut off
the spent blooms)
If it hasn’t rained for a week or so, give plants a slow, deep watering to revive them. Continue to deep water at least once a week. Plants in pots or containers may need water several times a week, or even daily, depending on container size and temperatures.
Fertilize with an organic material like fish emulsion or worm castings. Don’t use chemical fertilizers, which can encourage too much rapid plant growth at this time of year, when plants don’t need to be pushed too hard.
If you haven’t yet mulched your landscape, do it now or replenish existing mulch to retain water and keep plant roots cool.
Replace worn out spring annuals with colorful heat lovers like zinnias, lantana and echinacea.
Summer plants that beat the heat
Choose plants in four-inch containers or larger for almost instant show. Their root systems are developed so they can take up water to protect top growth from heat and sun.
• Angelonia — Popularly called summer snapdragon, this upright flowering plant resembles a miniature delphinium. Showy flower spikes, up to 8-inches high, have blue, purple, pink or white blossoms throughout summer.
Dress up borders and containers with these very heat tolerant, pest-free plants.
• Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritime) — Used for edging, in rock gardens or perennial borders and cascading from planters. Flower colors range from white to pink and purple. Some have sweet honey fragrance attractive to bees and butterflies. Established plants can be cut back to encourage new growth.
• Coreopsis — Annual and perennial members of the sunflower family: flower colors include yellow, orange, maroon and bicolors. Plants form large clumps, best as borders or in containers. Cut back for renewed vigor and flowering. Flowers attract butterflies; seeds attract birds.
• Cosmos — Showy, medium to tall plants grow well as background or in mixed borders. Easy to grow from seed for fall color or use transplants now for speedy effect. Flowers available in a wide variety of forms and colors, and plant sizes range from dwarf to tall.
• Mandevillea — Showy evergreen or deciduous vines or vining shrubs. This genus includes shrubbier plants formerly called Dipladenia. After flowering, pinch growing tips back to encouraging branching and more flowering. Strikingly colorful cascading from containers, trained on trellises or pruned as showy shrubs in summer gardens.
• Lantana — Evergreen shrubs available in a wide variety of sizes, some small enough for pots, others large enough to cover banks or sprawl over walls. Flower clusters attract butterflies and colors include cream, yellow, orange, pink, oranges and blends. Prune hard in late fall for repeat following year.
• Pentas — Popularly called star clusters for its profuse clusters of small, star-shaped flowers. Colors include white, pink, lilac or red. A woody perennial, it can over-winter if we have a mild winter. Cut plant back heavily in late fall to keep compact shade and encourage flowering the following year.
• Salvia leucantha — Mexican sage grows in a spreading mound with lance-shaped leaves and white/purple flowers that bloom in late summer/early fall. Attracts hummingbirds.
• Zinnia — From tall plants for backgrounds to small border versions, like Profusion series, zinnias are colorful additions to summer landscapes. Ensure repeat blooms by frequent cutting and use for bouquets indoors. Butterflies love these plants that thrive in summer. But powdery mildew, a white fungus that infects susceptible plants when days are warm and humid, usually shows up in late summer. If possible, choose strains naturally mildew-resistant. If you can’t find them, enjoy plants for a month or longer, until mildew turns leaves so brown that it’s time to replace them in fall.
Shade plants for summer
Shady nooks can have a summer lift, too. Coleus hybrids have flamboyant foliage in hues of red, maroon, yellow, chartreuse, purple and brown.
Some varieties have multiple colors on each leaf. Use in borders, containers or baskets as focal points or in mixed plantings.
Tired out tomatoes with more brown leaves than green can be replaced with late summer varieties that will quickly produce luscious tomatoes in September.
Also, pop in some new basil, parsley or rosemary plants for savory summer meals.
After all, summer means outdoor grilling and picnics.
With just a little effort, your summer landscape can be as enjoyable as your summer meals.
For this month’s garden calendar, see page 3C.
Karen Dardick is a Master Gardener and garden writer who lives and gardens in Natchez.