In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
July, 2005
Regional Report

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'Bengal Tiger' canna lily is a standout in the garden for its foliage alone.

Summer Flowers

It's time to give flowering plants what they need for the long, hot summer to keep them blooming and vigorous. By July many flowering plants have bloomed out, but if you cut them back, they'll bloom again and again.

Making More Blooms
Cut crape myrtle flowers off just above the first set of true leaves behind the bloom cluster. Keep the flowers cut or pinched out of coleus and caladiums, and pluck off hibiscus flowers when they shrivel. If begonias, impatiens, and petunias do not self-clean (drop their spent blooms neatly), pinch them off, plus an inch or two of stem.

Zinnias and dahlias should be picked as soon as their flowers open completely, as leaving them to age on the plant will shorten their flowering season considerably. Enjoy them in the vase, and cut frequently to encourage rebloom. Plants such as cleome and Mexican hat (Ratidia) can be cut back now with plenty of time for regrowth, new flowers, and plenty of seed to save this fall.

Cut off the entire flower heads on cannas and a few inches of stem to neaten their looks. These flowers are stars of the midsummer garden, but they weren't always in good favor. A century ago these dynamic perennials were consigned to the alleys of southern cities. Thought too tall, too big, and too gaudy, cannas were the "bad girls" in the neighborhood. You grew them only "if you had the room" (which meant far away from the more sedate azaleas and daylilies) to shield your sweet eyes from the tradesmen's trucks that passed in the alley.

Fortunately, times have changed. Like the much-beleaguered coleus of equally loud colors, cannas are popular in all parts of today's gardens, where we rejoice in their vitality and boisterous colors. If leaves do not unfurl regularly, canna leaf rollers have infested the clump. Cut each stem down and get it out of the garden, then sprinkle diatomaceous earth into each stem and around the clump. This physical barrier material can also be used to prevent slugs and snails from attacking tender young seedlings and transplants.

Something for Everybody
A top-dressing of compost, a dose of fish emulsion, or a sprinkling of slow-release fertilizer now will give summer bloomers the boost they need. This application can be done in addition to biweekly feeding with soluble formulas made for flowers.


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