5 Ideas To Preserve Annuals Trying Contemporary All Summer time Lengthy

Springtime is a flurry for gardeners everywhere. Colorful, happy annuals abound at every plant nursery. If you’re anything like me, you may even tend to get a little overexcited at all of the springtime colors, especially after a dreary winter! 

But come mid-to-late summer, these beautiful annuals start to look tired. Leggy, brown plants don’t represent the joys of summer very well at all. A plant’s goal is to survive, not necessarily to adhere to our beauty standards. As annuals compete for resources and experience heat or drought stress, they may grow leggy and have yellowing or crunchy leaves. Even for the most attentive gardener, a heatwave, vacation, or overplanted container can quickly send annuals into fight-or-flight. 

The good news is that mid-to-late summer is a great time for a check-in with your annuals. With a little bit of TLC, you can rehabilitate your annuals to their former springtime glory.  

Remove and Relocate Overcrowded Plants

Multiple starter trays of annual and perennial seedlings, including coleus, basil, cucumbers, begonia, calendula, and others, are available in mulched soil.
Avoid overcrowding plants to ensure they grow strong and healthy.

In spring, I think the urge to fill every possible space with plants may be part of the gardener’s DNA! Pinterest boards and YouTube tutorials abound with gorgeous-looking planters crammed edge-to-edge with a dizzying array of annuals. Pre-planted containers at the nurseries also tend to be jam-packed with annual foliage and flowers of every color. 

These arrangements are perfect for gifting or creating temporary curb appeal, but the problem arises as soon as they grow. As they compete for water, nutrients, and soil space, they grow unsightly and scraggly as competition with neighboring plants grows fiercer by the day. These arrangements tend to dry out exceptionally quickly by midsummer!

My first tip is to prevent this from happening in the first place by providing ample space to give them room to grow. But if you find yourself in this situation, don’t be afraid to do some rearranging. Remove and compost any dead plant material, and dig up and transplant any overcrowded plants to a new location with more space.

In early spring, I like to use annual trays to start new annual seeds. This way, I’ll always have a backup of plants to replace any that don’t survive or fill blank spaces. My favorite is marigolds – they’re tough, smell wonderful, and will always have a home in my veggie garden.

Deadhead Flowers 

Close-up of a gardener in a plaid shirt, brown apron and blue gloves trimming faded zinnia flowers in the garden with red pruning shears.Enhance bloom production and keep gardens tidy with careful pruning.

Deadheading is a pruning technique of removing spent flowers and seedpods from a plant (not attending a Dead & Company concert – sorry to disappoint). By removing fading or spent flowers, the plant can exert more energy towards producing new blooms or foliage. Deadheading isn’t just for annual flowers, either. Most herbs, like basil, should also be deadheaded before they flower to preserve their flavor.  

For annuals, deadheading is generally pretty simple. Once your flowers turn brown and dull, cut them back to the nearest leaf node under the flower. Deadheading has a lot of benefits – more blooms and a tidier garden. You’ll want to be careful if you apply this logic to perennials, though. Some perennials need to go to seed to bloom the next season. 

Annuals like begonia, petunia, impatiens, and vinca are self-cleaning, meaning deadheading isn’t necessary. For these, a step above deadheading is a technique called pinching. To pinch a plant, you’ll use shears or your fingers to remove young growth from the tip of the plant, encouraging a bushier, fuller habit. 

Prune, Shape, and Mulch  

Close-up of blooming petunias featuring vibrant, trumpet-shaped flowers in rich pink and soft yellow hues, with velvety green leaves, growing in mulched soil in a garden.Refresh mulch for tidy beds and improved moisture retention in summer.

Deadheading is great for small jobs, but some unruly annuals need a heavier hand. Mid-summer, annuals tend to get dull, leggy, and overgrown with barren patches in their canopies. Not a good look!

It’s a good idea to give your annuals a big chop in mid-summer. As with other plants, prune up to a third of the plant, aiming to cut at the node. Because you’ll be pruning off most of the flowers, time your chop carefully if you have any major events in the following few weeks. You’ll encourage your annuals to push out new, bushier growth and blooms by pruning them. 

As you’re cleaning up annuals, this is also a great time to re-mulch if needed. In addition to a tidier appearance, mulch helps retain moisture during hot summer days. Sometimes, after periods of rain and watering, mulch migrates and leaves empty patches. Part of my garden clean-up routine includes raking mulch into its original place and filling in any blank spaces. 


Close-up of a gardener's hands in pink and white gloves applying pink granular fertilizer with a trowel to potted Ageratum plants, which have fluffy, pom-pom-like flower clusters in shades of lavender, and geraniums with clusters of bright pink flowers.Fertilize annuals strategically to promote healthy growth and abundant blooms.

Depending on the fertilizer, annuals should be fertilized monthly, bimonthly, or weekly. You can tell if your plants are under-fertilized by stunted growth, yellowing leaves, or minimal blooms. Fertilize to stimulate new growth a few hours after thoroughly watering and pruning them, and remember to never fertilize a thirsty plant! 

For blooming annuals, use a fertilizer higher in phosphorus for more blooms, such as a 3-9-4. There are lots of options to choose from, including organic, slow-release, and water-soluble fertilizers. Water again after fertilizing to help it soak into the soil.

Assess your Challenges

Close-up of drip irrigation tube with dripping water on a bed with growing lettuce plants.
Consider drip irrigation for hassle-free plant watering in busy seasons.

Are you facing the same challenges over and over again? You might be too tired after work to think of watering or have lots of weekend trips! You may often find wilting leaves and stems, which can lead to long-term issues if it happens too often. Mid-summer is a great time to assess how your lifestyle and climate impact your plants. 

The most common issue I struggle with is watering, which is why I’m such a huge fan of drip irrigation. Whether you use drip tape, emitters, or a soaker hose, installing drip irrigation is a great way to keep plants healthy during the busy summer months. Some even have a timer to automatically turn on and off at set intervals! For a low-tech option, try burying an oya near thirsty plants! This clever clay tool slowly releases water into the surrounding soil, allowing plants to draw exactly the moisture they need. 

Whether your challenges include poor drainage, self-imposed drought, pests, or disease, now is the time to be honest with yourself! Once you’ve found your challenges, finding the right plants for your space is much easier. Now may be a good time to consider planting low-maintenance or pest-resistant species. Plus, many garden centers have end-of-season sales towards the end of summer, perfect for grabbing perennials!    

Final Thoughts

Amid summer fun, remember to give your annuals a little TLC! Midsummer is a great time to try new plants that may better suit your needs. A few hours of care will go a long way in helping annuals look their best well into the dog days of summer.

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