Here in Iowa, we love our annual flowers! However, as the summer days get hotter and hotter, you might be wondering how you can keep your prized annuals going for the long haul. If you've got an annual summer flower garden in Bettendorf this year, here are some of our experts' top tips for keeping those petunias perky and your other annuals dazzling for weeks to come.
How Can I Keep My Iowa Annuals Blooming All Summer?
Unlike perennials, which re-emerge bigger and bolder every spring, annuals are one of life's shorter-lived pleasures that gardeners savor for their vibrant colors, pollinator magnetism, and months of continuous bloom time. Keep reading for all the tips you'll need to get the most out of all the annuals in your garden this summer!
It can be hard to say goodbye to those glorious, bright blooms, but trust us when we say "off with their heads!" The truth with most flowering plants is that removing spent flower heads is the best way to keep them rejuvenated all summer long, since doing so helps them re-focus their energy on creating new blooms instead of supporting old ones. Deadheading also keeps your plants from wasting their energy on creating seeds, which can speed up the arrival of new summer blooms by weeks or even months! When removing dead or dying flower heads, snip down to the next set of leaves for best results. Many premium varieties of petunias like Waves and Colorush are considered self-cleaning and will drop their dead flowers on their own.
Most flowers benefit from a good feeding in the springtime to kick-start their growing season, and annuals are no exception. Hopefully you started them off right by planting with a good container mix like Wallace’s Container Mix and you added in a little slow release fertilizer like Osmocote. For mid-summer, we recommend a feeding every 7-10 days with a water soluble fertilizer like Jack’s Blossom Booster.
Have you ever seen a neighbor's hanging basket filled with dead petunias and wondered what went wrong? The answer's probably a lack of water! Many people underestimate how much water annual flowers need during the summer, not realizing they have much shorter root systems than perennials. Annuals—especially those growing in containers and hanging baskets—dry out very quickly, and if the weather is especially hot and dry, expect to be watering them at least once a day over the summer. If their soil is dry to the touch, give your annuals a good drink by soaking them until water pours from the bottom of the pot.
Annuals are a joy to behold for the short time we have them, so to get the most out of them, it's a good idea to keep a close eye out for signs of common ailments. Pests are a regular annoyance in the hot, dry summer weather, and can eat their way through the leaves, stems, and roots of annuals in no time. We recommend keeping a journal of your summer gardening endeavors (with pictures) so you can keep track of your progress, growth, feeding, and watering. Journaling also comes in handy when you replant your summer garden next year, as it helps you remember what plants did really well, what part of the garden they thrived in, and how much sun and water you gave them. Keep an eye on recurring pests, too, as they can spread quickly to other plants and shrubs.
You may not think it necessary to prune back your annuals in the middle of summer, especially when they're thrilling, spilling, and filling your containers and planter boxes so well. However, some annuals—like petunias—can get a bit leggy if you leave them unattended, so regularly cutting back flowers and any overly-long stems will help them bloom more often and compactly.
Keeping your annual summer garden bustling with activity is one of the warm season's greatest pleasures. If you're still in doubt about what's going on with your garden this summer, come see us today for friendly advice, quality soil and fertilizer, and—of course—more annuals to plant!