Summer plant care and keeping up with the heat

Written by Nicholas Serrano. Posted in Home & Garden

Published on July 27, 2011 with No Comments

by Charlotte Harris

Azaleas & Camellias

Azaleas and camellias are forming buds now for next year’s display, so keep well watered so they don’t drop their buds.

Keep mulched to conserve moisture and discourage weeds.


When dahlia blooms fade, cut the plant back about half way to the ground, and fertilize with 5-10-10, or similar fertilizer, to encourage a second crop of blooms.

Cannas — Remove each flower stalk as soon as blossoms are spent.

Divide and transplant daylilies and iris now. Replant immediately.

Work compost and a handful bonemeal into the soil.

You can make final planting of gladiolus, early in the month to extend the blooming season.

If your Spring-flowering bulbs have become crowded, you can dig them now that the foliage is brown and dry. Dig up the clumps and put in a shady spot to dry. Fill the hole with good soil. When the bulbs and soil dry out, they will be easier to separate, without tearing the roots. Keep in a cool dry area until time to replant.


Figs should be getting ripe now. They taste best when just ripe, evidenced by the fig drooping on the branch. If you’re going to preserve them, pick them a few days before they are fully ripe, so they will hold their shape better.

For best production, figs need plenty of water during the growing season. If shoots continue to grow from the base and the leaf size is 6 to 8 inches across, they are getting enough water.

Figs don’t usually need much fertilizer, but if they aren’t growing well apply about ½ cup 8-8-8 per foot of height, each year, divided into 3 feedings (one in late May, one in late July and one in late winter).


Keep deadheading, pulling off spent blossoms, to keep the plants neat and blooming.

Keep new plants well-watered.

Fertilize potted plants — all that watering washes out the nutrients in the soil.


Cut scraggly zinnias, marigolds, scarlet sage, and petunias back to about 6 inches high to promote new growth and blooms.

Remove weeds, add mulch and fertilizer and water.

Sow seeds now for calendulas, cosmos, marigolds, zinnias, impatiens, and nasturtiums for fall color. Keep seed bed moist and free of weeds.

Save seeds and you’ll have free plants! Collect seeds from dried blossoms. Spread out on a paper towel on a sunny window sill for a few days to dry, then store in ordinary envelopes. Be sure to label them.

When cleome is overgrown and has a small bloom on a seed laden stem, cut it back to just above the beginning of a new side shoot. In a week or two, it will look better.


Start seeds this month, to be ready to set out in August and September. Easiest to grow from seed include: Gloriosa daisy, alyssum, columbine, aster, candytuff and Shasta daisy.

Other seeds to try include gaillardia, blackberry lily, butterfly weed, coneflower, goldenrod, campanula, coreopsis, blazing star and Lenten roses.

Sow seeds of pansies, English daisies and thrift, now, for blooms next Spring.


Some biennials you can sow now are foxglove, hollyhocks, honesty, wallflower and Canterbury bells.


Most herbs can be rooted from cuttings of new growth. Make a cutting about 4 inches long and strip the leaves off the bottom half. Insert in your growing medium and keep moist until roots emerge in 2 to 4 weeks. Keep in a shady spot, in your garden, out of the reach of children and pets until ready to transplant.

Keep flower stalks pinched out, to encourage a bushier plant and more leaf production.

Keep your herbs mulched, to keep dirt from splashing up on them during rains and to conserve moisture.

If you harvest herbs, such as basil, oregano, marjoram, savory and tarragon now, they will have time to grow back by fall. Cut the stems back to just above a pair of leaves. Wash the cuttings gently and hang, in bunches, upside down, in a well-ventilated area to dry.


If you moved potted plants outside for the summer, remove the saucers, or rain will collect in them, resulting in the plants sitting in water. This can cause root rot, which can kill the plant. It also provides a place for mosquitoes to multiply.

Fertilize every 2 to 4 weeks, with a liquid concentrate, such as 20-20-20. Keep well watered and protect from direct sun.

Spray off with the water hose, occasionally, to help keep insects off.

This is a good month to take and root cuttings of houseplants such as coleus, fuchsia, geranium, gynura, poinsettia, shrimp plant, Swedish ivy, wandering jew, wax plant and other plants with succulent, (non-woody) stems. Cuttings taken now should form roots in 2 or 3 weeks.

Hummingbirds and Butterflies

Plants, blooming now, that attract hummingbirds and butterflies, include cardinal flower, firebush, coral honeysuckle, pineapple sage, bee balm, petunias and butterfly bush.


Warm-season grasses need their last nitrogen application.

Don’t cut your lawn too short, during hot dry weather. Frequent mowing that takes a smaller proportion of the blades is less stressful to the grass.

If you haven’t sharpened you lawn mower blade, since the beginning of the season, it probably needs it, now.


In late July or early August get an analysis of leaf samples to determine need for zinc. Mailing kits and instruction for taking samples are available from your county extension office.


Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of Epsom Salts around each rose bush.

Continue to spray for black spot, rust, and powdery mildew.

Shrubs and Trees

Acid-loving plants, such as azaleas, camellias, gardenias, and blueberries, may need fertilizer, especially if they are showing signs of iron deficiency, such as yellow new leaves.

Check young fruit trees for insects, and be sure to keep them watered during dry spells.

Fertilize this month with 5-10-10, or similar fertilizer and water in.

Crepe Myrtles are heat tolerant, but they will bloom more if they are well watered while they are blooming. To prolong blooming, feed with superphosphate, about ½ cup per foot of plant, early this month, and keep the seedpods removed as they form.

Hydrangeas-You can prune French Hydrangeas after they finish blooming. Cut out weak or dead canes all the way to the ground. Canes that flowered this season need to be cut back to a healthy lateral bud, to encourage branching.


In this intense heat, many vegetables will stop producing. Remove the dead plants, but keep the rest watered and they may start up again when the weather cools.

Harvest watermelons.

Tomatoes slow down in the midsummer heat, but if you keep them watered, fertilized, and protected from afternoon sun, they should keep going till frost.

Plant fall tomatoes now.

Make late plantings of beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, and cantaloupes early in the month. Near the end of the month, you can plant cool season vegetables, such as cabbage, onions, broccoli, mustard, turnips, carrots, and beets. Keep the seed bed moist until the plants come up. Then, water as needed to prevent wilting.

You can still plant squash, but watch for vine borers and powdery mildew on late plants.

Japanese Beetles appear in some areas this month. They can wipe out a vegetable or flower garden if you don’t control them early. Cabbage loopers and white flies are also a problem now.

Plant pumpkins now, for Halloween. Keep in mind that they need plenty of room. Sow in hills, about 8 feet apart.

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