By Susan Martin for Proven Winners
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners
Wow, it’s hot out there! If you’re struggling to cope with the high summer temperatures, your flowers probably are, too. There are some simple but effective actions you can take now to help them beat the heat and last longer through the season. Check out these five helpful tips.
1. Water, Water, Water!
It might seem obvious, but just like people get thirstier when they are outside in the summer heat, plants need more water too. Moisture evaporates faster when it is hot out, especially if your garden doesn’t have a thick layer of mulch or if you are using porous pots like unglazed terra cotta. Hanging baskets also dry out more quickly in the heat. If your time is limited, consider installing WaterWise® drip irrigation or switching to self-watering AquaPots®.
If your hanging basket becomes very dehydrated and the soil starts to pull away from the sides of the pot, take it down and soak it in a bucket of water until the soil is fully saturated. The pot will feel quite heavy once it is ready to hang again and your plants should perk back up within a few hours.
2. Feed Your Flowers More Often
Once midsummer arrives, your annuals will be in full swing, growing by leaps and bounds. It takes a lot of energy to produce all those flowers and foliage. Feeding the annuals you’re growing in containers every third time you water with water soluble plant food is the best way to sustain their growth and blooms and help them cope with the summer heat.
The continuous release plant food you mixed into the soil when you planted in spring is likely starting to diminish by midseason. Sprinkle a bit more on top of the soil now and work it into the top layer with your fingers. Then, follow up with a quick burst of energy from the water soluble fertilizer. You will see a remarkable difference in the quality of your plants if you feed them consistently.
Watch a video about maintaining your hanging baskets here.
3. Give Your Plants A Haircut
You know how getting a haircut puts a little pep in your step? It’s the same for some flowering plants like Supertunia® petunias, Superbells® calibrachoa, Superbena® vebena and wishbone flower (Torenia). By midsummer, they are ready to have their longer, more scraggly branches trimmed up to the bottom of the hanging basket or container. Doing so will reward you with fuller plants that bloom even more prolifically. Soon after trimming, give them a dose of water soluble plant food to jumpstart their growth spurt. Learn more about cutting back and deadheading your plants here.
Moving your patio pots into afternoon shade helps protect them from the day’s intense rays. Pictured: Adeline container recipe.
4. Protect Your Plants From Afternoon Sun If They Are Suffering
Even sun loving plants need a little break from the intense rays and heat sometimes. If you’re in a part of the country experiencing record heat waves this summer, it’s a good idea to take a few simple measures to protect your plants. If signs of sunscald (bleaching or browning of leaves and flowers) appear on your container plants, move them temporarily to a place that gets more shade in the afternoon. Heavier pots can be draped with a light cotton sheet in the heat of day or you could pop up a patio umbrella to cast some shade.
While you are observing your plants, take note of which ones best withstand the strong summer sun and heat. Those are the ones you’ll want to grow again next year. Keep in mind that some types of flowers that prefer cooler weather like pansies, lobelia, nemesia and African daisies will naturally go out of bloom in hot weather and make their reappearance once temperatures moderate in the fall.
Using larger, glazed ceramic containers like this self-watering 23” Techno Matte Black AquaPot will help your plants beat the summer heat. Pictured: Impressionism container recipe.
5. Bump Plants Up To A Larger-Sized Pot
The small pot you used this spring when your plants were new might have seemed plenty big enough, but by midsummer, it may be necessary to transplant them into a larger container. It is very hard to keep most plant combinations happy in an 8” pot. An 18-24” container that holds a far greater soil volume and more moisture is often a better fit if you want the plants to last into the fall. This is especially true if you are growing very vigorous plants like ornamental grasses, Supertunia Vista® petunias, Luscious® lantana or sweet potato vine.
When transplanting, pick a cooler day and do the work in the morning. Water the plants in their original container before you transplant them. Then, gently tease the entire rootball out of the pot, keeping as much of it as intact as possible. Have the soil in your new, larger container ready to go with continuous release plant food already mixed in and set the plants inside. Water them in thoroughly, adding more soil if needed.
Alternatively, next year you could start the season off by planting right into that larger 18-24” pot. It will take a little more time for the plants to fill in, but you’ll avoid the need for bumping them up into a larger container later. Just be sure to watch that you don’t overwater your plants in the spring. The larger soil volume will hold more moisture, so you won’t need to water as often while your small plants are busy establishing roots in the large container.