In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
July, 2013
Regional Report

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Nerium oleander blooms all summer in full sun with little care.

Summer Shrub Care

Tis the season for shrub stress. Heat, drought, heavy rain, wind, relentless sun -- all the normal weather conditions of summer can bring it on. You've taken good care of these landscape backbones all year, so don't stop now.

What to Prune
When gardenias (large or small) take a break from blooming, use your hand shears to clip off the old blooms. Then prune an inch or two off each branch, more if needed, to keep a pleasing shape.

French hydrangeas can be taken as cut flowers on long stems to maintain compact growth, or you can encourage their mounding growth by leaving the flowers to dry on the bush. Early July also is the time to shear the evergreens once again if you're trying to encourage new growth in the lower branches of hedges. But leave azaleas and camellias alone for now%%. Their flower buds for next year have already formed, so if you prune now, you lose them.

Fertility Needs
Both shrubs in bloom and those not flowering this season will benefit from a shrub formula fertilizer or compost application this month. Where rain hasn't been plentiful, be sure to water before and after fertilizing during the summer months. If shrubs look especially sad, for whatever reason, use a half-inch dressing of compost this month to give them a boost.

Bug Patrol
Stressed plants are in greatest jeopardy, but even the best cared for bushes can suffer from insect attacks in summer. Keep a close eye for small caterpillars and pinhead size aphids. Remove the first with your fingers or tweezers and the second with a strong stream of water. If the problem persists, use Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) for chewing caterpillar infestations and insecticidal soap for aphids. Treat only the infected plants. These controls, though organic, are still toxic to all similar insects. Some of those bugs are good guys to be encouraged.

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