I don't think we could have had a prettier ending to May than we did — mild temperatures and clear blue skies. Now, if that could just continue for another few months. That would be ideal.
◼️ There is still time to plant a vegetable garden or summer color. We seemed to have a lot of rain in May, and so many gardeners got behind.
◼️ We are having a great harvest of cool-season vegetables. As you harvest them, replant that space with summer vegetables. From tomatoes, peppers and eggplants to southern peas, okra, melons and more, there are many choices.
◼️ Speaking of summer color, nurseries and garden centers receive new shipments of plants weekly, and there are a lot of color choices. Heat-loving annuals include lantana, penta, zinnias, impatiens, vinca and cuphea. Colorful foliage options include elephant ears, coleus, alternanthera (Joseph's coat), iresine and caladiums. Caladium bulbs can be planted now and will be up and growing in less than a week in warm soil.
◼️ And to add to the annual color, don't overlook flowering tropicals. They thrive in heat and humidity and are just now coming into their own. There are many choices, from tropical hibiscus to orange ixora and purple tibouchina to the many new varieties of mandevilla in shades of red, pink, white and this year even a yellow. No garden should be lacking in color now, with all our options.
◼️ Many of our spring-blooming shrubs bloomed later than normal, but since we have had some heat already, try to get any necessary pruning chores done as soon as possible, and no later than mid-June. Once it begins to get hot and dry, plants start growing more slowly. We want them to rebound so they can set plenty of flower buds for next year.
◼️ Big leaf hydrangeas, oak leaf hydrangeas and gardenias are blooming great this year. These are three plants that bloom in the summer but set flower buds in the fall. If you grow any of them and your plants need pruning, as soon as the flowers fade, prune -- but have a reason to prune.
◼️ The single-flowered gardenias (Daisy and Kleim's Hardy) tend to bloom all at once and are done quickly. They can be pruned as needed once all the flowers are gone. Many of the newer gardenias do re-bloom later in the season, so depending on how much pruning you do, their later blooms may be delayed or nonexistent.
◼️ For big leaf hydrangeas and oak leaf hydrangeas that need to be pruned, remove older, thicker canes at the soil line after the blooms have faded. This will rejuvenate your plants but still leave branches and old blooms.
◼️ Summer blooming perennial plants are blooming or about to bloom. They include long-flowering coneflower, daylilies, gaillardia, hardy hibiscus and lilies. One that continues to gain in popularity is milkweed. The showiest of the milkweeds is the bright orange butterfly weed, but all members of the Asclepias genus are great host plants for the monarch butterfly.
◼️ As flowers end on many perennials, they begin to form a seed pod. Allowing them to set seeds delays more flowers. Deadheading, or removing the spent flowers, will direct energy back into flower production much more quickly.
◼️ Know the fertilizer needs of your perennials. Hosta plants thrive on good fertility, while others require very little, such as Artemisia and lambs ear.
◼️ Watering needs can vary by species as well. Watering is beginning to be a daily chore -- especially with container plants. The smaller the pot size, the more watering will be required. Frequent watering can also leach out nutrients, so apply frequent -- but light -- applications of fertilizer to flowering annuals, tropicals and vegetables.
◼️ As temperatures increase, so do insect and disease problems. Scout your gardens regularly to spot an issue before it takes over. Proper identification of the problem can help tremendously.
Read Janet Carson's blog at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet.