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How to Refresh Summer Annuals

red and white petunia Greenstreet Gardens

Midsummer is definitely here in Des Moines. If you’re a heat-lover, this might be your favorite time of year. If you don’t love the hottest days of the year, you might be feeling a little rundown, like some of the annuals in your containers and hanging baskets.

Those beautiful blooming flowers that you bought in the spring are quite likely starting to look a little rough around the edges, blooming less and maybe looking a little tall and spindly. They’re getting a little tired and worse for the wear.

Where is the magic potion that keeps things looking as bright and beautiful as they were when you bought them? 

Well, unfortunately, there’s not a magic potion, though there are some helpful potions, and a few tips you can follow to bring those bright blooms back. 

yellow begonia Ted Lare

To understand how your annuals got to be so beautiful and full of blooms in the spring, it’s helpful to know how annuals are grown and cared for in the nursery. 

In the greenhouse, annuals are grown in their ideal conditions, with the perfect temperature, the right humidity, consistent watering, and regular fertilizer. They also get pruned and deadheaded regularly to encourage full and bushy growth. 

These ideal conditions give plants a great start towards a healthy season. Once annuals are ready to go home with eager gardeners, they’re strong enough to be hardened off and spend the rest of their season outdoors. Obviously, you can’t recreate those perfect conditions outdoors, since you can’t control the weather.

While it’s true that annuals are fairly tough, and don’t need to be babied to survive our summer weather, they still require a bit of care to look their best all summer long. Here are a couple of tips to freshen up your annuals and get things looking lush and vibrant again.

red impatiens Ted Lare

One of the most common differences between greenhouse care and home care of annuals is the application of fertilizer. In the nursery, plants are given fertilizer on a regular basis to keep them healthy, strong, and full of blooms. 

Sometimes annuals get home and don’t get fertilizer ever again. Or they get it once or twice over the summer. Annuals in pots at home need fertilizer just as consistently as baby plants in a nursery. At home, annuals are usually packed into pots quite tightly with other plants to give that overflowing look. 

Packed pots create two challenges for plants:

  1. There is not very much soil for all those plants to share, so they use up what nutrients are in the soil very quickly.
  2. Every time we water plants in containers, some nutrients get washed away, so within a few weeks, the soil in your planters may be completely depleted. 

This doesn’t mean you should put fewer plants in your planters, or change how you water them. It just means you need to regularly feed your plants with fertilizer to give them those missing nutrients. 

Lack of feeding is the #1 reason that most annuals stop blooming and start to look leggy come August. To fix the feeding problem, make sure to fertilize your pots and planters at least once per month, with your favorite water-soluble organic or synthetic fertilizer.

pink hanging basket Greenstreet Gardens

Hanging baskets and small pots should be fertilized every other week due to their pot bound nature. 

You can also give them some more consistent nutrient supply throughout the season with slow-release granular fertilizer. Mix it into the soil when you plant all your annuals in the spring and add some more in August. 

The second tip for refreshing your annuals is to do a bit of pruning and trimming. Annuals benefit from a midsummer trim. It might seem harsh to cut them back, but it helps to promote new bushier growth and encourage more blooms. 

You can safely trim up to an inch or two all-around your annuals, clearing out any dead blossoms along the way. Trimming is a task you can start early in the season, soon after you bring your plants home. A little trimming every week or every other week will keep your annuals thriving and blooming abundantly.

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With these two tips, you can take your pots from leggy and tired to full and b
eautiful in just a few weeks. 



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