Garden Girl Nicole Hackett

Prune your flowers now to ­extend blooming season

Prune your flowers now to ­extend blooming season
To coax your roses into a late summer bloom, deadhead expired and faded roses and prune just above a five-leaflet section, where your rose naturally wants to grow.

Garden Girl Nicole HackettDuring August, there is an opportunity to get one more blast of flowers out of your summer perennials and annuals.

Those penstemon, yarrows, roses, butterfly bushes, salvia, million bells and verbena that bloomed for you all spring and into summer can be swayed into another flower surge to be enjoyed well through October.

The first step to manipulating a plant into blooming is in the pruning. Cut back a third to half of the overall growth on salvia and butterfly bushes. That means pruning around the sides and down from the top. It’s important to cut the entire plant evenly so the new growth looks constant. Often, you will see plants pruned around the sides, with the top growing taller. This makes a woody plant, which becomes unsightly. Flowers appear only at the top, while the wood looks dry through the middle.

Roses are always very giving of flowers throughout spring, summer and fall. This month, visit your rose garden and deadhead expired and nearly faded roses. Remove the bloom and scoot down a few leaf sections along the stem. Make your cut just above a leaf section with five leaflets facing outward. This is where the rose naturally wants to grow. Your rose bush may be showing fresh, red growth from these sections already, which makes choosing a place to prune amazingly easy.

Yarrow is that perennial group whose flat clusters of flowers are landing pads for bees and butterflies. They thrive in a hot, Clayton Valley landscape. It takes guts to prune yarrow, since you must cut all the stems down to the ground. This will leave only the fern-like bottom foliage. But cuts this deep encourage the perennial to send up new, blooming arms, rather than tiny side blooms from existing arms.
Be tough when pruning your penstemon, too. Remove faded flowering stems clear down to the bottom of the plants, just like you pruned the yarrow.

Million bells and verbena are heavy bloomers, but controlling their growth allows for healthier plants. Don’t allow million bells to stretch past 24 inches, or their centers become thin. Verbena should be kept at 30 inches wide. Remove a quarter of this season’s growth, or half if your plant has already begun to thin in the center. This type of pruning will initiate new stems from the base and fresh growth.

After pruning, fertilize your flowering plants with water-soluble multipurpose fertilizer or a fertilizer designed for growth. Multipurpose fertilizers have a balance number sequence listed on the label like 16-16-16. A fertilizer designed for growth will list a larger first number than the others, such as 15-6-3 or 4-1-1. Feeding this way will encourage your recently pruned plants to grow new stems and leaves. We use water-soluble fertilizer this time of year, since it is easier for plants to digest during the dry months.

Always fertilize a plant that has been recently hydrated. Feed toward the roots and apply in the early morning or evening hours. Three weeks after fertilizing for growth, it is time to feed for bloom. This time, look for a water-soluble fertilizer with a number sequence like 2-10-10 or 3-20-20. Less nitrogen and more phosphorous creates more flowers.

Nicole is the Garden Girl at R&M Pool, Patio, Gifts and Garden. You can contact her with ­questions or comments by email at