As the blooms of perennials start to fade, it is time to deadhead to encourage blooms to continue throughout the remainder of the summer months. Deadheading rejuvenates a plant’s appearance, delays the plant from going to seed and redirects the plant’s energy into root and vegetative growth. Most gardeners practice pruning to keep plants tidy and to extend the bloom period of certain perennials.
With perennials that produce several stalks of flowers above the foliage, such as Salvia (Meadow Sage), prune the center (oldest) stalk and leave the remaining two side stalks to produce new buds and blooms. For a visual, observe any three fingers on your hand that are next to each other. When you prune your salvia you will be cutting out the center stalk that is done blooming. On each side of the center stalk you will see two other (lateral) stalks with new buds emerging and blooms forming. If there are blooms done on the two side stalks you can cut those out as well. Only cut the spent stalks and the new flowers will form. I usually get about three blooms out of my salvia throughout the summer and into the early fall.
For Veronica (Spiked Speedwell), blooms start from the bottom of the stalk and work their way up. In the early stages of growth, the blooms will appear to be colorful on the bottom with green tips on the top of the stalk, making for very nice contrast! As the blooms mature, the entire stalk will be one color (mainly blue, purple, pink or white). Remove the spent blooms once the entire stalk has faded and the plant will produce new stalks and blooms to keep the interest coming. Deadheading will also encourage new light green foliage to emerge from the plant.
Daylily benefit from deadheading of faded blooms and removal of entire spent flower stalks. In mid-summer, when your daylilies are completing their first major bloom and producing seeds, remove faded flowers and seed stalks so that the plant’s energy goes back into producing new blooms. Clean up the appearance of the plant by removing any browned foliage, which usually can be seen around the base of the plant. While removing seed stalks will encourage more blooms, removing spent foliage will encourage new growth to rejuvenate the plant.
Other perennials that benefit from deadheading include, but are not limited to, Dianthus, Bee Balm, Lavender, False Sunflower, Coneflower, Yarrow, Blanket Flower, Butterfly Weed, Shasta Daisy and Aster.
By the second or third round of blooms, you may want to feed your plants to give them a boost and add energy for the rest of the season. (Note: Be sure not to feed in extreme heat as it can stress them, but rather wait for cooler temperatures). If your plants are brand new they may have been force bloomed, so for the first season you may only get one or two blooms, but come next year you will be able to push out three blooms on some plants if you time your pruning right. With regular maintenance of your perennials you can benefit from continuing blooms throughout the season.
As a landscape designer, I am often questioned as to when and how to prune the various types of hydrangea. The next welcome addition to your landscape could be one of the many show-stopping varieties of this plant and proper pruning is the key to successful blooms!
Generally, hydrangea either bloom on the “old wood” of the previous season, “new wood” of the current season or a combination of both. There are many types of hydrangea including the mopheads, lacecap, panicle, mountain, smooth, oakleaf and climbing. The Mopheads (Hydrangea macrophylla) have been the most widely planted hydrangea in home landscapes over the years and are usually blue or pink in color with large leaves. Hydrangea ‘Nikko Blue’ is very well known in the landscape for its large blue ball-shaped flowers that bloom towards the later part of the summer and deepen in color as they mature. ‘Nikko Blue’ Hydrangea does bloom on old wood, which means that if you are looking to prune your plant it needs to be done immediately after flowering before the fall. Hydrangea ‘Nikko Blue’ grows best in moist, well-drained soil in partial shade. It reaches 3-5 feet in height and is hardy to USDA Zone 5.
A newer alternative to the “old fashioned” variety of hydrangea is the Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer’ collection, which blooms on both old and new wood and ‘All Summer Beauty’ that blooms on the new growth of the season. Both of the later mentioned also have a much longer bloom time and repeatedly bloom throughout the summer. Each of these plants grows to approximately 3-5 feet in height, each grows best in partially shaded conditions (afternoon shade) and moist well drained soil and are hardy to USDA Zone 5. Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ in the Endless Summer Collection displays white blooms that turn pink with age. For these varieties that bloom on the “new wood” of the season, spent blooms and dead wood from the inner portion of the plant can be pruned out in either fall or early spring.
Hydrangea ‘Pia’ is a miniature French hybrid with broad pink flowers growing only to 2 to 3 feet in height, a good candidate for small spaces in zones 5-9. ‘Pia’ grows best in partial sun with afternoon shade and prefers a rich organic soil. Pia hydrangea bloom on old wood and generally need little to no pruning; however, if needed, prune immediately after flowering by cutting back flowering stems to a point of healthy buds. An alternate that blooms on the new wood of the season is the Cityline Series from Proven Winners, a dwarf hydrangea hybrid that matures to just 2-3′ tall by 3-4′ wide.
Another variety of Hydrangea ‘macrophylla’ is the Lacecap Hydrangea that displays a smaller inner circle of lace-like flowers surrounded by a ring of larger showier flowers. A favorite is Hydrangea ‘Tokyo Delight’ that displays beautiful cobalt blue flowers with an inner ring of delicate white flowers, grows to 4-6 feet and blooms late July through August, prefers afternoon shade, moist well drained soil and is hardy to USDA Zone 6. Prune Hydrangea ‘Tokyo Delight’ immediately after bloom since new buds form on the older wood from the previous season. An alternate lacecap hydrangea that blooms on both old and new wood is Hydrangea ‘Twist-n-Shout’ from the Endless Summer collection with beautiful blooms that turn to a purple-blue in a more acidic soil. Twist-n-Shout’ is hardy is USDA zones 4-9, grows 3-5 feet tall by wide and like all plants in the Endless Summer Collection, produces blooms on both old and new wood.
Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’ or the ‘Peegee’ Hydrangea is a personal favorite of mine for extremely large pyramidal white blooms in July throughout fall and abundant fragrance in the garden. Hydrangea ‘Peegee’ can be grown as a shrub or tree form and can serve as either a group planting or as a single specimen in a landscape design. Hydrangea ‘Grandiflora’ also grows 3-5 feet or higher in its tree form. This particular hydrangea can grow well in full to partial sun and blooms on new wood. Sent to the US from Japan in 1861 this beauty is a showpiece in the garden and is hardy in Zones 4-8.
Panicle hydrangea are known for being the most cold hardy and are very tolerant of pruning. They can reach a height of ten to fifteen feet or can be pruned to keep more compact. For a similar look to ‘Peegee’ with creamy-white panicle-shaped blooms and a more open look is Hydrangea ‘Tardivia’. Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ is a newer introduction with beautiful elongated lime colored panicles that bloom in late summer and last through fall. Hydrangea ‘Tardivia’ and ‘Limelight’ (6-8 feet high by wide) both do best in full to partial sun and bloom on new wood. Hydrangea ‘Little Lime’ is a more compact version of ‘Limelight’ and also blooms on the new wood of the season.
Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’, a native of the U.S., is a more shade tolerant hydrangea that produces showy ball shaped white blooms in summer, grows 3-5 feet in height and is hardy to USDA Zone 3. ‘Annabelle’ blooms on new wood and can be severely pruned in winter in order to restore shape.
The last two varieties of hydrangea are Hydrangea quercifolia or ‘Oakleaf ‘Hydrangea and Climbing Hydrangea. The Oakleaf hydrangea serves as an excellent plant for massing in a woodland setting. The name ‘Oakleaf’ comes from the oak-shaped leaves that turn a bright mahogany red in fall for a brilliant display. The upright panicles of large white flowers appear in June and the plant has a rounded habit, grows 4-6 feet in height and is hardy to USDA Zone 5. Hydrangea quercifolia does well in partial shade in a well drained most soil. This hydrangea blooms on old wood and should be pruned immediately after flowering. Climbing Hydrangea (H. anomala petiolaris) is an upcoming variety becoming more popular in the landscape. As the name implies this hydrangea once established produces vigorous vines and a profusion of lightly scented blooms. Climbing Hydrangea bloom on “old wood” from the previous season.
If the inner needles on your Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis) are suddenly turning from a healthy looking green to shades of yellow, orange and brownish-red in autumn, there is little need for concern. Needle shed is all part of a natural process. Each year evergreens will produce new foliage in spring and part of the preparation process involves shedding their older foliage in the previous fall. Shedding of needles and foliage is a process that evergreens go through as a way of preparing for new growth once the weather warms. As the days become shorter and temperatures lower, evergreens go through a slight dormant period similar to deciduous trees and shrubs. Many evergreens such as Chamaecyparis (Hinoki Cypress), Thuja (Arborvitae), fir, pine, cedar, hemlock and spruce lose some of their needles every year and may go through a major shedding every three to five years.
To examine, look at your tree carefully. Older foliage is shed first so the losses should generally be from the inside out and not at the tips. Prior to shedding the needles appear from green to yellow, orange and eventually brown, remaining on the tree until the process is complete. Often the change is unnoticeable; however, the drier the season, more drastic the temperature change, or stronger the winds, the more noticeable the needle shed, a natural cleaning process leading to new growth in the spring. If desired, lightly brushing the inner portion of the plant will help to remove the older browned foliage. If concerned about any particular branches on your plant, scrape the bark with your fingernail down to the growing layer. If the branches are brown and brittle the area tested has met its demise. If there is presence of a green growing layer underneath the surface of the bark, the branch is indeed alive.
Fall is approaching and a common garden pest, the fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) can become noticeable on trees, causing unsightly larval nests covering entire branches, resulting in stress to the tree and severe leaf damage. Fall webworm are caterpillars that weave loose webbing around the tree’s outer foliage while feeding on leaves, compared to tent caterpillars that appear in spring and build their more opaque nests within the inner crotch of the branches. The webworm caterpillar is approximately one inch in length with a light greenish-yellow body and black to reddish head. Adults emerge later on as white moths with dark spots on their wings.
The best way to eliminate fall webworm is to remove the infected branches immediately, before the larvae hatch and take over the tree. If the caterpillars have already left the nest, it is recommended to spray with an organophosphate insecticide such as Acephate (contained in Orthene or Sevin) or Malathion. Acephate is both a foliar and soil systemic which keeps on working 10–15 days after application. Malathion is a foliar insecticide which is also commonly used, but note that Malathion may leave a residue. The best proactive method of killing overwintering larvae is to apply a dormant oil in early spring while the tree is dormant. Dormant oil is a more natural solution and works by smothering and killing the overwintering eggs.
In the spring, adult moths emerge and deposit eggs, continuing the life cycle of the caterpillar. These caterpillars may go through as many as eleven growth stages before leaving the web.
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After many years of hybridizing and the production of more cold hardy varieties, Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) can be successfully grown here in the Northeast. These showy trees are a personal favorite of mine due to their beautiful long lasting blooms that start at the end of the summer and last well into Fall, a bloom period of approximately 120 days! Just as other flowering trees and shrubs are reaching the end of their bloom cycle the stately Crape Myrtle ‘Lagerstroemia indica’ starts its spectacular show. I often use these beautiful trees as an eye catching element in my designs as they serve nicely as an anchor plant in a foundation planting or as a focal point in an island bed or backyard garden.
There are many varieties of this beautiful tree ranging in size from ‘Pocomoke’ and ’Chickasaw’, which are dwarf varieties, topping off at approximately 5 feet to ‘Natchez’ (White),‘Tuscarora’ (Coral Pink),‘Muskogee’ (Lavender) and ‘Catawba’ (Purple) ranging at a height between 12-20 feet. A personal favorite of mine is Crape Myrtle ’Sioux’, a medium variety that ranges in height to approximately 12-15 feet. The medium-pink flowers of the ‘Sioux’ Crape Myrtle begin late in July and last well into October and are an elegant display not to be missed. Three other varieties of Lagerstroemia worth mentioning are ‘Tonto’ and ‘Dynamite’, both known for their vibrant red flowers and medium height of 12-15 feet and ‘Zuni’ (Purple) at a smaller 8-9 feet in stature.
HARDINESS AND GROWING CONDITIONS: Lagerstroemia are a hardy to zones 7-9 and are “deer resistant”, meaning that deer will most likely avoid them in their diet. They grow best in full sunlight in a well-drained soil with a pH of 5.0-6.5. These trees require little to no pruning but can be pruned to maintain a more compact shape or to remove any dead branches that may result from a harsh winter. If you are going to prune wait until late winter or early spring after the last frost. The plants are dormant in winter and any flowering occurs on new growth so pruning will encourage new flower producing branches. Remove any dead branches, suckers growing from the base or weak twiggy branches and allow strong leader branches to keep the framework of the tree.
TRANSPLANTING: If you are planning on transplanting your Crape Myrtle tree the best time to transplant in the northeast is in mid April or mid September through mid October. Roots need time to become established before the summer heat or winter cold set in. Dig a hole slightly wider than the root ball and make sure the tree sits at the height of the surface or slightly above. Apply a layer of mulch around the tree to protect the roots and keep well watered until established. Crape Myrtle are somewhat sensitive to cold so there may be some branch die back in the first season until the plant becomes well established.
Depending on the preference of the grower Crape Myrtle can be planted as either a multi-trunk or singular-trunk form and can be displayed as either a shrub or tree in the landscape. An important note worth mentioning is that Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) are among the last plants to push out their new growth so if they appear to be dead at the end of winter going into spring just give them some time to come into their glory. Since they are later to push out their leaves they do benefit from an early spring feeding of a high phosphorus-lower nitrogen 5-10-5 formula to promote good foliage growth and an abundance of blooms in July-August. Crape Myrtles are not susceptible to insects or disease but as in any landscape planting they should be monitored and properly maintained to keep them in good health.
If you are looking for a long blooming, deer resistant, low maintenance tree to add color to your garden then Crape Myrtle may be the tree for you. I for one would highly recommend this beautiful plant as a welcome addition to any formal or informal landscape.
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