You’re strolling through the garden in mid-summer admiring the fruits of your labor. Upon closer inspection, you realize your perennials may need a little tending to. While perennials are valued for the ability to return to the garden for several years they do require regular maintenance. Caring for, and tending to perennial plants is part of gardening. If you aren’t sure where to start we have a few mid-summer perennial care tips that will help keep everything looking fresh.
Summer Perennial Care Tips
Summer Watering Tips
First, depending on the rainfall in your area, be sure your perennials are receiving adequate moisture. Even established perennial plantings will benefit from additional water during hot, dry spells in mid-summer. Not sure what the best time to water your garden is, read up on watering tips for the summer garden here.
Summer Deadheading Tips
Removing spent and withered flowers also known as deadheading will help in multiple ways. First, for certain perennials like salvia, and veronica by removing the old flowers you will encourage new blooms to form. Second, removing spent flowers helps to keep the garden looking neat and tidy. Often old flower petals will stick to leaves and give a messy appearance.
To remove flowers that appear on a long stem that forms from the base of the plant you can remove the entire flower stem all the way to the base. If the flowers form from side branches off a main stem, remove the side stem and flowers cutting near where the side stem comes out from the main stem. Some perennials like black-eyed Susan and coneflower gardeners will leave the flowers as they provide food for birds in the fall and winter.
Increasing Airflow for Perennials
In addition to removing spent flowers to keep your garden looking tidy, providing airflow is also important. If perennials are too crowded by other plants or their own leaves it makes them susceptible to fungal diseases like powdery mildew. Tall Phlox is a popular perennial that is susceptible to powdery mildew. Once the plants are actively growing and getting big in mid-summer thin the plants by removing a few stems at the base here and there. This will help to increase airflow. In addition to increasing airflow be sure to water at the base as this also helps to prevent fungal leaf problems.
Dividing Perennials in Summer
People often wonder when they can divide perennials. Summer is an acceptable time to divide perennials. This should be done preferably before mid-August if the divisions are to be re-planted. By dividing and re-planting by mid-August you will give enough time for the roots to form before winter. Perennials that benefit from dividing every few years are daylilies, hosta, Siberian iris, bearded iris, ornamental grasses, tall phlox, turtlehead, and bleeding hearts. There are more than what is listed, however, these perennials almost always require division after 3-5 years. If your perennial has stopped blooming that is a good sign it should be dug up and divided.
Fertilizing Perennials in Summer
To encourage healthy blooms, roots, and leaves fertilize perennials a couple times a year. Use a slow-release fertilizer at the base of perennials in spring as they emerge. Apply again 2 months later, and then apply one more time in mid-to-late summer. Avoid fertilizing after mid-August, as this will encourage growth right before they are starting to get ready for dormancy.
A little work goes a long way
I am often reminded of this every time I start pulling weeds in my garden beds. Removing a little section of weeds every day doesn’t make the task seem so daunting. It also helps to make my desirable plants stand out. Weeding is part of garden maintenance and can help your perennials to thrive as they won’t be competing for nutrients.
Follow the perennial care tips listed above to have a healthy perennial garden. Removing a few spent flowers every day will help to encourage blooms. Pick the best weather day of the week to divide perennials in summer, and be sure to water the transplants well. By spending time in the garden caring for it and putting in the work the rewards are continuous.