1. The colorful foliage of coleus is a perpetually welcome sight to see, a mini-Caladium experience. Coleus thrives throughout the growing season and may even persist into winter. The plant is somewhat tricky to grow since it burns in too much sun and flounders in too much shade, so filtered sun is best. Since its roots are shallow, you will also want to keep it away from trees and shrubs whose surface roots could interfere with its own. You may see some blue flowers beginning to appear this time of year. It is advisable to remove them since, underwhelming in appearance, they will nevertheless halt the growth of the colorful foliage for which you planted coleus in the first place. Keep coleus happy with fish emulsion, which contains only 4-5% nitrogen, or another low analysis fertilizer. An incalculable bonus of growing coleus is its ease of propagation. Cut a shoot, remove its bottom leaves, place it in a glass with a little water, and it will begin to grow roots this time of year within a week or two at most.
2. Annual vinca (Catharanthus roseus) thrives in hot weather. It has a proclivity to die young when planted in poorly drained soil and care should be taken never to overwater it. Yet it blooms vividly in pink, red, apricot, mauve, and white, and is worth the risk. Although widely considered to be an annual, I have seen it live for many years where soil drainage is good and it is watered barely more than if it were a cactus. Where this plant is long-lived it also self-sows so that new plants are always coming along. Ideally, you will water it by drip irrigation or carefully from a hose to make sure its stems and leaves stay dry. It will fare well in flower boxes when planted in a cactus soil mix, although you will have to water more frequently than if it were growing in the ground. Vinca minor is an excellent perennial ground cover for partial sun to shady exposures with blueish-purple flowers. It forms a tight mat that eliminates evaporation of water from the soil surface and thus it is drought tolerant once established.
3. Prime your roses for fall bloom. Now is the time to remove all dead stems and faded flowers, as well as any hips (fruit) that have begun to form. You can also lightly cut back the entire plant to encourage new growth and flower bud formation. Cut suckers that have sprouted up from below the bud union on your bushes, to be distinguished from new canes above the bud union that are to be nurtured and encouraged to develop; however, if you buried the bud union below the soil surface when planting, growth you see coming out of the ground will be new canes. Apply an organic fertilizer (4-5% nitrogen), ideally one that is formulated specifically for roses, around ½ cup per plant.
4. Protect your containerized specimens from drying out by placing them in larger pots. Let’s say you bring home a plant in a plastic nursery container and want to put it on your patio. Procure a terra cotta or ceramic pot of a slightly larger size and place the plastic container inside it. The sun will strike the sides of the larger pot and the roots of your specimen in the plastic container will stay cool. If you are going away for the weekend and are concerned your plant could still suffer from the heat, soak some peat moss in water and stuff it into the space between your container and the pot around it. The moist peat moss will serve as a buffer, keeping the roots of your potted specimens cool. Of course, providing drip tubing, whose watering is controlled via automatic sprinkler controller, will allow you to have peace of mind if you are away for an extended period.
5. If your plant has outgrown its container, now is the time to move it to a larger size. While it is still actively growing, you want to make the move. As days get shorter in the approach to fall and the rate of growth slows down, a plant in a new container runs the risk of being watered to no effect and the danger of roots rotting from excess moisture is a possibility. The surest way to tell if a plant needs to be repotted is if roots are seen growing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of its container. It is a good practice to cut away any dead or circling roots before repotting while surrounding the root ball in its new container with fresh potting soil is recommended. You can remove as much as 1/3 of the root mass of a plant when repotting.
If you have had success growing a plant with elephant ear foliage, you are invited to write me about your experience.
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