Always match flowers to the growing conditions and the care you
are willing to provide. Low maintenance plants need minimal or no
deadheading and staking. This means you’ll be growing good-looking
plants with little effort on your part. And if the plants are suited
to the growing conditions and resistant to common pests you’ll be
doing less work managing insect and disease problems.
Further reduce your workload by selecting self cleaning or free
flowering annuals and perennials and those bred for long bloom and
compact growth. You’ll enjoy more colorful flowers with less pruning
Ageratum, angelonia, calibrochoa and many of the newer petunia
cultivars are just a few of the annuals that do not need regular
deadheading for continual bloom. Include perennials like willow
amsonia, bugbane, Solomon seal, turtlehead and sedum autumn joy for
lower maintenance and big results.
Prepare the soil and provide proper fertilization before planting.
Work several inches of compost or other organic matter into the top
8 to 12 inches of soil to improve drainage and water holding
ability. Incorporate a low nitrogen organic fertilizer like
Milorganite (milorganite.com) at the same time. The slow release
formulation provides needed nutrients throughout most if not all of
the season. Plus, it promotes slow steady growth that won’t
interfere with flowering, is less susceptible to pests and is more
Properly space the plants, making sure they have sufficient room to
reach their full size. Overcrowding means you will be thinning or
dividing plants more often or battling disease problems instead of
enjoying the full beauty the plants provide.
Consider removing flowers on annuals at planting. This allows plants
to focus energy on establishing roots instead of flowers. Can’t bear
to do this? Then remove the flowers on every other plant or every
other row. Then a week or two later remove the flowers on the
remaining plants. You will soon be rewarded with full compact plants
that will produce more flowers throughout the season.
Pinch back long and leggy transplants. Use a hard pinch to remove
the tip and several inches of stem. Use your pruners or fingers to
remove stems just above a set of leaves. The remaining plant will
still look good while you wait for new leaves and stems to grow and
produce new blooms.
Encourage branching on single stemmed plants with a soft pinch.
Remove just the uppermost portion of the stem where the leaves and
tip are starting to develop. Soon you will have a well branched
plant and more blossoms.
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Improve plant posture and reduce the need for staking with early season pruning.
Keep mums and asters compact by pinching them back to six inches throughout June
to encourage compact growth. Eliminate floppy growth and the need for staking on
late bloomers like Boltonia, Autumn Joy sedum, Russian sage and Heliopsis
Revive catmint and perennial salvia that flop open in the center with pruning.
Cut flopping plants back halfway once or twice a season as needed.
And don’t forget to mulch. Covering the soil surface with an inch or two of
shredded leaves, evergreen needles/pine straw or other organic material will
conserve moisture, suppress weeds and improve the soil as they decompose.
Always water new plantings often enough to keep the top few inches of soil
moist. Once established water thoroughly and only as needed. This encourages
drought tolerant roots, so you’ll need to do less watering in the future.
With proper planning, plant selection and soil preparation you can keep your
ongoing care to a minimum. That means more time to relax and enjoy your
Gardening expert Melinda Myers has more
than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20
gardening books, including Small Space Gardening and the Midwest
Gardener’s Handbook. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow
Anything: Food Gardening For Everyone” DVD set and the nationally
syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio segments. Myers is a
columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and
spokesperson for Milorganite. Myers’ website is