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August 01, 2011   Email to Friend 

Flowers May Rebloom This Month With A Little Extra Care
Lois Chaplin

Cleome, a flowering annual.
This time of year, gardens may include a host of dead blooms, half-filled seed heads, rose hips and brown leaves and stems. A little trimming, watering and feeding of many flowers and re-blooming roses this month will pay big dividends in a few weeks with many more blooms and nice new foliage. Even some perennials and summer flowering trees and shrubs respond to "deadheading" if the time is taken to do it.

Deadheading is a gardener's term for cutting off old, dying blooms and seed heads. The trick is doing it early enough so plants have time to recover and bloom while the weather is still warm. In the case of small trees such as crape myrtle, vitex and butterfly bush, skip a visit to the gym for an upper body workout in lieu of using the pole pruner to reach the faded blooms and seed heads at the tips of each little branch. Gardeners may be surprised that after a little fertilizer and some water, these woody plants often put on a second flush of blooms in a few weeks. The same is true for the newer small, shrub-like and basket-type crape myrtles.

Annual and perennial flowers are easily cut back with hand pruners. Just trim the old, faded blooms and seed heads of big flowered annuals such as cleome, zinnia, petunia, cosmos, zinnia, gaillardia, marigolds, scarlet sage (annual red salvia), tithonia and branching sunflowers. As annuals, these plants are programmed to set seed before the end of their growing season. After they do, the plants decline because their purpose in life is accomplished. But they can be fooled into continuing to bloom by pinching off the faded blooms. That way, the plants will have to keep blooming to reach their life's goal, and gardeners are the recipient of a lot more color for a longer period of time, usually until frost kills the summer annuals.

Some perennials also respond to deadheading, especially the long-blooming salvias and veronicas, as well as phlox and catmint (Nepeta species). With perennials, it is important to clip them back continuously as the blooms fade. They don't come back as vigorously as annuals, but will keep throwing out new blooms on new growth that sprouts from just below where they were cut.

Some plants grown for foliage also like a little trim at this time of year. Coleus often sets flowers, so keep them clipped.

In sub-tropical Baton Rouge, La., a nursery owner once shared with me how they advise customers to trim back ratty looking hostas to the ground in mid summer. With water and fertilizer, they put on a second flush of new growth. I've never witnessed this first hand, but readers in south Alabama whose hostas look battered might want to try it.

Annual herbs may last longer by deadheading, too. ____________________________________ Lois Chaplin is an accomplished gardener and author. Her work appears here courtesy of Alabama Farmers Cooperative.



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