Late-Summer Container Refresh

Expert tips for sprucing up your containers when summer heat begins to take its toll.
A Long-Season Container Garden

A Long-Season Container Garden

Yucca, lantana and scaevola are all workhorses when it comes to long-season container gardens.

Photo by: Image courtesy of the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Image courtesy of the Atlanta Botanical Garden

Yucca, lantana and scaevola are all workhorses when it comes to long-season container gardens.

Depending on where you live, oppressive heat, persistent drought—or in our case here in the Southeast—relentless rainfall may be taking its toll on container gardens as summer winds to a close. By late August, pots seem to either look their lushest or their most bedraggled.

In the case of the latter, as tempting as it is to yank up all those tired, spent annuals and replace them with new fall plantings, it’s way too early for a cool-season change-out. Yet, there are few simple things you can do and plants you can add that will give your containers that second wind for getting them through until autumn.

First, continue daily deadheading for extending the bloom period of annuals. Remember that some annuals, such as petunias and calibrachoa, can be cut back by half for stimulating new growth and flowering. Also, continue feeding plants a water-soluble fertilizer for boosting their blooms—especially if persistent rains have depleted the soil of necessary nutrients.

If you live in a mild climate, it’s not too late to replace annuals—that is, if you can still find them. By mid-July, most nurseries have stopped restocking shelves with plants to avoid being stuck with a lot of un-sold inventory, so you may have to shop around. Look for celosia, salvias, coreopsis, rudbeckia and coneflower. For sun containers, popular options are succulents including agave, yucca and kalanchoe.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to shop indoors—in the houseplant section. Many tropicals that we commonly think of as simply “houseplants” make great companion plants for outdoor containers. Consider multi-colored crotons (which with their warm hues seem to hint at fall), ferns and dracaena. Just be sure to check light requirements before plugging them into pots in full sun.

And, if you just can’t wait for fall, there’s always the instant-gratification of big bold colorful chrysanthemums arriving daily by the truckloads now. While short-timers when it comes to bloom periods, mums are tough to resist when the garden craves that big splash of color!

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