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Caring For Summer Flower Planters

Summer officially arrived Monday, June 20. Do you know how to properly care for your summer flower planters?  Even though we’re only four days into summer, I’ve already seen plenty of summer stress on flowers. They are predicting a hot, dry, summer in Michigan so extra care must be taken to make sure your summer flower planters are happy (and beautiful) all summer long! It doesn’t take much, a little goes a long way!

Here’s what I recommend for caring for your summer flower planters during a hot, dry summer.

Water

The question I’m asked the most is how much water should I give my summer flower planters.  I wish I had the magic answer, but I don’t! There is no one size fits all answer to this question. Flower planters vary in size, shape, placement (sun/shade), and summer temperatures can vary, all of these items will effect how much water is needed. Only you will know how much water to give your planters by watching the surface of the soil. If the surface is dry give them a thorough watering. When I say thorough, I mean sprinkling is not going to cut it, the plants need a good soaking. I have to teach people how to water, no joke, it seems simple but there is an art to it.

Can you tell which dahlia got sprinkled and which dahlia got soaked?

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I hope that was easy for you! The dahlia on the left got sprinkled, see how light-colored the soil is, hardly any water got to the roots, this dahlia is sad. The dahlia on the right got a nice soak, see how dark the soil is, the roots received the drink they’ve been waiting for, this dahlia is happy!  Soak don’t sprinkle, please remember that!

It’s important to let the surface dry before watering because over watering can be as bad as under watering. Watering too often will cause the roots to rot.

Here are two dahlias, one is perfectly watered the other is over watered.

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Easy to tell the difference. Don’t you feel sorry for the dahlia in the bottom picture, it literally drowned!

 

Fertilizer

Fertilize your summer flower planters once a week if possible! Designate a day and stick to it! My fertilizing day is Wednesdays, don’t ask me why it’s just what I chose and it’s easy for me to remember. Flowers love hump day too! A great all-purpose fertilizer is Miracle-Gro, it’s quick and easy to use! Follow the directions on the label for best results.

Here’s what a flower that needs fertilizer can look like.

This millon bells hanging basket doesn’t look bad, but it doesn’t look great, see the yellowing on the leaves. The plant is surviving but it’s not thriving! Fertilizing will make a huge difference!

 

Deadhead/Trim

Spending a few extra minutes every few weeks will pay off big if you follow the next two steps.

Deadheading is not always necessary especially with the new varieties of annuals. Most new varieties are self-cleaning, meaning the old flowers will simply fall away on their own. However, I find deadheading extremely therapeutic, simply pinch or shake away old flowers, that’s it! Try it, you might like it too!

Trim your flowers, don’t let them get leggy. Leggy plants are my biggest pet peeve! Leggy plants are ugly.  Use a pair of scissors/pruners or your fingers to pinch back growth, this will allow the plants to get full and bushy, not long and leggy. Trimming will also keep your summer flower planters blooming all summer long.

This is necessary for trailing plants (like petunias) and plants that give you height (like a coleus).

Trust me on this, just do it, you’ll be happy you did, especially when August rolls around and your flowers are still looking fresh and great!

Pest Control

Pest control can be tricky, there are many types of garden pests, each can cause different types of damage to flowers. A great all-purpose pest control that I always carry with me is insecticidal soap.

This doesn’t work on all bugs but it’s a great start. Always read the label and follow the instructions.

The most common pests that I see when I’m taking care of summer flower planters are slugs, aphids, japanese beetles and deer.

Slug damage looks like this, they especially love the lime potato vine that so many people have in their summer flower planters.

 

You can treat slugs with slug bait, like this one, which is safe to use around pets.

Garden Safe 2 lb. Ready-to-Use Slug and Snail Bait

If you prefer a do-it-yourself method, I highly recommend beer. Yep, it’s the drink of choice for slugs! Fill a small container with beer (any kind will do, slugs aren’t picky), bury the container so just the opening is exposed, in they go and the party is so much fun they never come back out!

Aphids are common too. This is a plant covered in aphids.

Most people never see aphids on their plants because they normally are on the underside of the leaves, hiding out, sucking the life out of your plant. If your plant starts to look yellow and seems sticky, turn over the leaf and you will probably see aphids hard at work. There are many types of spray you can use such as the one mentioned above. A quick and easy do-it-yourself method to get rid of aphids is to add a couple drops of dish soap to a spray bottle and mix with water.  Spray your plants with this soapy mixture, making sure to lift up the leaves and spray the underside. It’s that easy to say goodbye to aphids!

Japanese beetles can chomp away at the leaves of plants, leaving your plants looking like this.

Japanese beetles can be trapped or sprayed. I prefer the method that my boys have adopted, pick them off the plant and squash them. They love to see who can catch and squash the most. We haven’t had many japanese beetles in the past two years, I think this year will be different, I’ve already seen a few in action.

Now for the worst pest of all, deer! I just want to scream when I think of those creatures that wreak so much havoc on summer flowers planters! It’s just plain ridiculous. This flower planter was eaten down to nothing, yes nothing I said! It was beautiful until the deer feasted on it.
IMG_0740I’ve tried it all, human hair, soap, chili powder, garlic clips, liquid fence, milorganite, mothballs, the list goes on and on. Most of these have worked, but only for a short period. The deer are smart, it doesn’t take them long to realize it’s just a ploy. This year I’m trying something new.

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It’s a small pill that you drop into flower planters, the pill is activated by water. Brilliant! Why in the heck didn’t I think of that? Will they work? I don’t know yet, it’s still to early in the season to tell, I’ll keep you posted!

I hope these tips help you care for your summer flower planters. If you have any problems with your flowers that you’re not sure about, leave me a comment and I will be happy to help out!

Wishing you a beautiful flower-filled summer,

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