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Watering When Away

It’s vacation time! You’re going to be gone for two weeks or more, your friends, neighbors and family members are all busy and the weatherman says it’s going to be “hot, hot, hot.” What about your houseplants?

Fear not! A few minutes of thoughtful planning and a quick trip to the garden center will ensure meeting your plants’ watering requirements even when you can’t be home for daily moisture checks. Popular and effective solutions include…

  • Pre-Watering: Before you leave on your trip, make sure your plants are well-watered. Many houseplants can withstand some watering neglect, and if you aren’t gone too long, they may not need any supplemental solutions if you’re watered them right before your trip. Take care not to overwater, however, or you could be compounding the problem.
  • Anti-Drought Solution: Prior to leaving, water with an anti-drought solution. It temporarily forces the plant into dormancy. This reduces the water requirement for roughly two weeks (effective control will vary by product and plant type) while the solution gradually wears off. This can affect blooming or growth periods, however, so read instructions carefully and use the solution exactly as directed.
  • Self-Watering Containers: Planting your houseplants in self-watering pots is truly looking ahead. A reservoir holds water under the pot, and this water gradually travels to the soil via a wick, always keeping the soil moist so long as the reservoir contains water. If you want to use a specific pot without a built-in reservoir, use a conversion kit. Various sizes are available and some use fill tubes. Consider adding liquid fertilizer to the reservoir water to ensure your plant gets proper nutrition while you are away.
  • Individual Pot Drippers: These generally hold water above the plant. Various sizes and styles provide water to small and large pots. From beautiful blown glass globes to simple plastic bottles, these allow water to drip down into the soil through a drip-tip inserted in the soil. One style even looks like a flask attached to the side of the pot with a tube dripping water to the soil. Because they show above the plant, many people only use them during their vacation.
  • Automatic Watering Systems: These are more elaborate but very effective options. A large water reservoir feeds to clustered houseplants through small tubing attached to drippers inserted in the soil. Larger pots use two or more drippers. These systems pump water on a regular basis using a battery and timer, making them ideal for regular watering when you may be taking a longer trip. These also allow liquid fertilizer in the reservoir so your plants are properly nourished.

Go ahead and enjoy your trip…your plants should be fine!

The N-P-K of Fertilizer

Once upon a time, Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary grew her garden with silver bells and cockleshells, but nowadays, most gardeners use some other forms of fertilizer that are better formulated than nursery rhymes. But what important components make up a fertilizer, and why are those components important for your plants?

Understanding Fertilizer

Simply put, a fertilizer has nutrients to make a plant grow better. Years ago, farmers used composted manure, ashes and urine. Today, most of us buy our fertilizer, but a trip to the store can be confusing. What do those numbers on the fertilizer bag mean? Should I buy liquid or granular? Which is better, slow or quick release? Let’s investigate…

Without getting too technical, the three numbers show the percentage of available nitrogen (N), phosphate (P) and potassium (K) in a fertilizer blend. By law, it always goes in that order. If you see a fertilizer with 20-5-10, it means the fertilizer contains 20 percent available nitrogen, 5 percent phosphate and 10 percent potassium. Other nutrients and filler make up the difference and are often chosen for specific types of plants, such as roses or flowers, vegetables, trees, etc.

What does that mean to your plants?

  • Nitrogen promotes chlorophyll, producing greener, more quickly growing plants. If your plants aren’t as green as they should be, use a fertilizer with nitrogen. Most lawn fertilizers have a relatively high nitrogen content and cause mowing to be more frequent as lawns “green up” and grass blades grow more quickly.
  • Phosphate improves root growth, flowering ability and bloom size. Use a fertilizer with a larger middle number (phosphate percentage) to encourage root growth during transplanting or to encourage blooms. This is especially important when initially planting so root systems become strongly established.
  • Potassium enables the photosynthesis process and improves plant resistance to cold spells, drought and insect attacks. Many people use a potassium fertilizer when the seasons change to help plants resist the stresses of those transitions.

Liquid or Granular? Fast or Slow?

Fertilizers come in liquid and granular forms. Generally speaking, liquids are highly concentrated and need to be mixed with water before being fed to plants, but they are absorbed more quickly and are easy to apply more evenly. Granular formulas have small beads or grains that must be spread around and watered into the soil, and it can be difficult to spread an even layer over large areas unless a spreader is used. Granular forms need time to dissolve or decompose before they can be absorbed, but they last longer in the soil and can nourish plants for weeks or months.

Similarly, fertilizers come in fast or quick release forms as well as slow release forms. Both can work well in any garden, depending on your fertilizing needs, plant nutritional requirements and condition of your soil.

Read the label carefully for specific instructions and uses. It may seem boring, but reading that label will prevent bad results, as overuse or misuse of fertilizer can kill your plants, upset the balance of your soil and even cause environmental contamination – not the results you planned. Once you know more about fertilizer and how to use it correctly, however, you’ll enjoy the results this extra treat can give to your garden.

Color Combinations

It can be tempting to create a rainbow of riotous shades in container gardens, but are they as pretty as you imagine? Too many colors can be distracting and disjointed, giving your containers a haphazard, messy look. Instead, create a unified look in your container plantings by selecting two or three colors, rather than trying to use as many colors as possible. Multiple containers using the two or three color guideline will create a more dramatic effect on your deck or patio as the color masses are more pleasing to the eye.

Choosing Colors by Area Shade

Shaded areas can appear brighter by using light-colored plants. Try light pink, light yellow, lavender, pale blue and white flowers in lower light areas. Also consider foliage and grasses with light variegations or patterns that can seem to glow in dimmer locations.

Containers in the full sun, however, can handle brightly colored flowers, whereas pastels will appear faded and washed out in bright sunlight. Use bold colors in reds, oranges, bright yellows, deep blues and purples in sunny spots, and choose foliage options with rich, deep hues.

Color Theory

Basic color theory can help you create the color effect you may be looking for in your containers. Harmonious colors are next to each other on the color wheel and have a soothing effect. These color combinations include blue and violet, orange and red, and orange and yellow. When combined in a container arrangement, they have a very well coordinated, blended look with understated elegance.

Complementary colors are opposite from each other on the color wheel. These are high in contrast and add drama and excitement to your container garden. Vibrant combinations include yellow and violet, orange and blue or green and red. These are especially good options for any area that needs a bold pop of color.

A monochromatic color scheme is composed of plants of the same color. Create extra interest in a monochromatic container by using a mix of tones or shades of the same color in addition to various textures, shapes and sizes. Take care that the different hues do coordinate, however, or you may end up with a clashing mix that doesn’t look quite right.

Working with White

White flowers are in a class by themselves. They blend well with most colors and can provide a transition between colors that do not normally work well together. White flowers or white-edged foliage can create a beautiful display in containers in the evening when combined with well-placed, soft lighting, ideal for a nighttime garden.

Don’t Forget Pot Color

When working with color combinations, don’t overlook the color of your pots and planters. Use the same color theory guidelines to coordinate between pots and plants, or choose more neutrally-colored planters to ensure the plants are the ultimate showstoppers of every container. With well chosen colors, every container can look amazing.

Sunflowers

Grow one of the oldest American cultivated plants and join the Incas and Aztecs who grew – and revered – sunflowers more than 4,600 years ago.

Types of Sunflowers

While there wasn’t much variety in the sunflowers for ancient civilizations to grow, there certainly is now. ‘Russian Giant’ quickly grows to 12′ tall with a huge medium brown “face” surrounded by bright yellow petals. On the other hand, ‘Choco Sun’ looks similar but only grows to 15″ tall and with a 5″ face.

Don’t think all sunflowers are vertically growing brown and yellow either. ‘Cherry Rose’ has the familiar brown face, however deep red petals with tips of bright yellow-gold surround it. ‘Pastiche’ glows in reds, oranges and buffs. ‘Black Magic’ is completely dark. And ‘Inca Gold’ trails downward!

Kids love planting and watching their sunflower grow, grow and grow, and there are plenty of fun science projects kids can experiment with sunflower seeds. Later, eating the seeds is a healthy snack.

The folks in Kansas chose the sunflower as their state flower. As an American native plant, its diverse uses make it one of the economic forces in the agricultural world. As a crop, its seeds are in human and bird snacks, the oil is used for cooking and the remaining pulp is a popular livestock feed. Sunflowers also make gorgeous cut flowers in summer and fall.

Growing Sunflowers

Many sunflower varieties are available as seeds. Also, many garden centers often offer a selection of well-rooted seedlings or small plants. Tall or short, yellow or red, upright or trailing, the growing requirements are the same.

Start seeds indoors six weeks before the last frost date or sow seeds directly into the garden after all danger of frost has passed. Cover seed with 1/2″ of soil. Improve growth and bloom by working compost into the outdoor bed or pot. If you are growing giant sunflowers, provide a support such as a trellis or stake. Otherwise, they may fall over as they grow when the large heads get heavy with seeds.

Chose an outdoor location in full sun. As these plants develop, the flower heads will “track” the sun daily. However, contrary to popular myth, after the face develops, it stops and puts energy into seed production. To see the plant’s face, choose a location where you will see the flower facing eastwardly. At least six hours of sunlight produces beautiful flowers and abundant seeds. Provide regular water or plant seeds in a naturally moist location. They bloom from midsummer into autumn.

Birds love sunflower seeds. Therefore, cover the heads with netting if you plan to harvest. When harvesting, cut 12″ of stem with the head, hang it upside down and allow the head to dry. The seeds will loosen and be easy to rub off once dry. Alternatively, you may leave the flower on the plant to provide bird food through the fall and winter, or give the whole cut head to hungry birds. They’ll thank you for it. Just be sure to save a few seeds for next year’s sunflower garden!

Basil: King of the Herbs

It’s edible, a member of the mint family and ornamental. Grown for over 5,000 years, it flavors foods around the world and is well-known in many household kitchens… Have you guessed yet?

Of course, it’s BASIL!

A flavorful ingredient of foods from Italy to India and Thailand and America, basil adds flavor and flair to any recipe. Add fresh or dried basil just before serving for the most intense flavor. However, the kitchen isn’t the only place it reigns as king… Give it a throne in your garden, too!

Growing Basil

Like other mints, basil is easy to grow. Choose young, bushy, compact plants that show no signs of diseases or pests. Plant in full or partial sun, in well-draining soil and provide adequate moisture. As an annual, it’s also easy to grow from seed, just follow the package instructions.

The most difficult decision about basil is deciding which basil you want to grow and eat. The basil family, Basilicum, has a natural variety of colors, growth shapes and fragrances. Plant breeders complicated the decision by creating over 30 hybrids commonly used today.

For ornamental gardening use, four “shapes” are commonly available. All are deliciously edible.

  • Sweet Green Basil: 2′ tall, with large leaves and white flower spikes. The clove/anise taste is typical of many types of basil. Others in this group include lettuce-leaf, Genovese, Thai (spicy) and the intensely fragrant and flavored Siam queen.
  • Dwarf Basil: Up to 12″ tall, small leaves, white flowers. This group includes well known Spicy Globe and Boxwood basil (perfect edging plants due to rounded growth) and Green Bouquet.
  • Purple-Leafed Basil: Favorite varieties include Dark Opal, Purple Ruffle and Red Rubin, all with “fancy” leaves, very aromatic, with pink to lavender-purple flowers.
  • Scented-Leaf Basils: This group includes varieties of stronger aromas. Lemon basil (gray green leaves, white flowers) is aptly named as are cinnamon basil (dark pink flowers), and anise basil (blue purple flowers).

Basil, especially the purple-leafed, is wonderful in containers. Design as you would with any ornamental. Don’t overlook the value of placing a container near the BBQ and kitchen for easy use while cooking. It’s said that planting basil, especially aromatic varieties, around the patio or deck will deter flies… It certainly can’t hurt!

Enjoying Basil

Used throughout the world with different regional foods, basil truly reigns in many different cultures and cuisines. Although pesto is probably one of the best-known uses here in the United States, basil is great in soups, sauces, pastas or in salads, vegetables and martinis. Remember to harvest before flowering for the best flavor. This also keeps the plant bushy and compact. Simply cut the entire stem just above a pair of leaves to promote new shoots. If you plan to use some leaves as garnish, cut with scissors to reduce bruising. Store unused basil in the refrigerator to retain its flavor and freshness.

Extra basil can easily be dried for future use. Cut the plant at ground level, hang upside down in an airy room and let dry. After it’s fully dry, remove the leaves from stems and store in airtight jars away from direct light.

Benefits of Basil

Did you know using basil is also very good for you? For many reasons basil is called the “holy herb” in other cultures. Research now shows it has strong anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial qualities. Additionally, it is rich in essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins including beta-carotene, vitamins A and K and iron. Need we say more? Add basil to your healthy, delicious diet today!

Summer Lavenders

Do you enjoy making herbal or floral bouquets and wands to scent the house? Maybe you’re into the lavender cooking trend or like to infuse playful summer drinks with a floral touch. Perhaps you recognize the aromatherapy or medicinal qualities of lavender.

In other words, do you love lavender and are frustrated because the bloom season is so short?

Whatever you do with your lavender, you may have planted one and it bloomed for a few weeks. Now you think you have to wait another year to enjoy the beauty and fragrance. That’s no fun! But here’s a secret to prolong your passion during lavender season…

About Lavenders

There are actually three groups of lavenders. Members of each group bloom around the same length of time, but each group blooms at different times. By planting at least one member of each group, you can enjoy lavender from early spring to mid-summer (and sometimes even longer with careful watering).

Members of the “Non-English Lavenders” bloom from early to late spring. “English Lavenders” follow and bloom from late spring to early summer. True summer lavenders, known as “Lavendins,” continue blooming into the hottest days of summer.

Also called “English Lavender hybrids,” the varieties in this summer group are crosses between the Portuguese and English Lavenders. They all have large gray leaves, grow into large plants, and grow best in the heat. They are all very fragrant, making them welcome additions to any lavender garden.

Abriali Lavender was one of the first hybrids. It produced cosmetic-grade oil until Grosso Lavender replaced it with superior oil production. Happily, gardeners can also enjoy Grosso in their gardens, as it’s frequently available at garden centers.

White Grosso Lavender, with the same beauty and fragrance, provides a nice background for a mixed flower border. Edelweiss Lavender, a smaller white lavender, mixes nicely in the garden, without a reduction of fragrance.

Hidcote Giant Lavender and Provence Lavender are garden center favorites. Approximately the same size, the Hidcote Giant has darker flowers than the Provence, which has a longer flower wand. Sachets usually contain Provance buds because they are exceptionally easy to remove from the stalk. Other popular varieties include Grappenhall, Dutch Mill, Seal and Fred Boutin lavenders.

Lavenders In the Garden

Growing lavenders could not be easier. All thrive in full sun in warm, well-drained, average quality soil. Dampness, either through poor drainage or humidity, will kill them. They grow well in pots with good drainage and fair soil. Prune after blooming to shape the plants and promote future blooming. While lavender is drought resistant, if the soil is dry, it is necessary to water well. Water again only when the soil is dry. Using compost as fertilizer will provide critical nutrients and improve soil drainage.

Using Lavender

Lavenders are very attractive to bees. They happily buzz from flower to flower while collecting pollen. Some honey producers site their hives in the middle of lavender fields to produce lavender-scented honey. The honey’s aroma is a great way to start the day!

Drying lavender for future use is easy. Cut bundles of wands from the plants without cutting into the older woody part of the plant. Use a rubber band to hold the bundles together and hang them upside down in a dark, dry room such as an attic or closet. The darkness helps retain the bloom color. The bundle should be dry in 7-10 days.

Although lavender’s taste isn’t the same as its fragrance, lavender dishes appear in many trendy restaurants. Lavender martinis and teas, ice cream, cookies and other desserts accompany lavender-sauced meats and vegetarian dishes. Lavender is an ingredient in the herbs de Provence mix and replaces strong tasting herbs such as rosemary, thyme or mint in many cookbooks for meats, breads and general seasonings.

Some folks even use lavender as an antibacterial antiseptic to treat wounds and insect stings.

Even if you just want to enjoy lavender for the sake of its beauty and ease of maintenance, remember… Planting one of each of the three groups lets you love your lavender for three times as long. Enjoy!

What a Knock Out!

Think you don’t have the time to take on all the upkeep, maintenance and care beautiful roses require? We have a fabulous solution and it’s a knock out, a Knock Out® rose that is. This shrub rose is the single greatest sensation to hit the plant market in years! Knock Out® roses are valued for their continued and profuse blooming with very little care. Not only are Knock Out® roses gorgeous and easy to care for but they are also drought tolerant, self-cleaning, and disease and pest resistant. Knock Out® roses are like no other rose on the market.

Site Selection

Planting your Knock Out® in the right location will help it flourish its very best.

  • Knock Out® roses grow to about 5’ tall x 5’ wide. Give them enough space to grow to full maturity without overcrowding that can dampen their brilliance.
  • Choose a planting location in full sun and with good air circulation to ensure the brightest blooms and best health.
  • Planting soil should be amended with compost and drain well. Prepping the soil before planting will ensure proper nutrition for your rose.
  • Soil pH should be slightly acidic, 6.0-6.5, but this plant will also thrive in slightly alkaline soils, with a pH as high as 7.5.

Planting

Give your Knock Out® the best advantages as it gets established by planting it properly.

  • Dig a hole twice as wide as the pot but no deeper than the containerized root ball.
  • Remove your Knock Out® rose from the container, massaging the container slightly to loosen the root ball and exerting gentle pressure on the stems, not the foliage.
  • Gently tease the root from the root ball to loosen roots so they will settle in to new soil more comfortably.
  • Place the plant in the hole, making sure that it is planted no deeper that it was in the container.
  • Backfill with amended soil and lightly press down around the plant to remove any large air spaces.
  • Mulch around your Knock Out® to keep weeds down and conserve soil moisture.
  • Water regularly until the plant is established.

Care

Knock Out® roses require much less extensive care than many other rose varieties, but some TLC will help keep your roses healthy and vibrant.

  • Once a year, apply about 2 inches of compost around the base of your Knock Out® rose. This helps replenish the soil’s nutrition for good growth and bright blooms.
  • Mulch yearly with 2-3 inches of mulch to conserve soil moisture and prevent weeds.
  • Fertilize your Knock Out® rose three times a year: early spring, early summer and fall. Fertilize with a slow-release product recommended for roses, and follow application instructions carefully.
  • At the same time that you fertilize, also broadcast one cup of Epsom salts, a source of magnesium, on the soil around the base of the plant.

Pruning

All roses require some minor pruning to help shape the bushes and encourage better blooming. To keep your Knock Out® as a true eye-catcher…

  • Correctively prune Knock Out® roses any time of the year with hand pruners. Make your cuts about 1/4 of an inch above a leaf. Use sharp, clean tools to avoid transmitting pests or diseases from other plants.
  • In early spring, each year, heavy pruning is recommended. Cut back the main stems to 1/3 of their height. Make your cuts 1/4 of an inch above an outward-facing bud for the best growth and shape.

Knock Out® Choices

Which Knock Out® is right for your yard? Any of these varieties is sure to be a hit!

  • Knock Out®: The original. Cherry red, single flowers.
  • Double Knock Out®: Twice as much fun with cherry red, double flowers.
  • Pink Knock Out®: Bright pink, single flowers.
  • Pink Double Knock Out®: Double duty with bright pink, double flowers
  • Rainbow Knock Out®: Single flowers in coral-pink with yellow centers.
  • Blushing Knock Out®: Gentle beauty with pale pink, single flowers.
  • Sunny Knock Out®: A splash of brightness with fragrant yellow, single flowers.

Sedum: A Sunny Ground Cover Solution

Is your landscape afflicted with poor, low-quality soil? Areas of scorching sun? A problematic bank or steep drop? Sedums can be the answer!

Why You Will Love Sedums

There is no reason any area of your landscape should go bare when there are so many spreading sedums that thrive under what would otherwise be adverse conditions. Easy-to-grow, sedums are available in a wide variety of leaf textures and heights to fit even awkward corners, narrow terraces or thin alleyways. Low-growing sedums not only act as a great ground cover for problem areas but also work well in unusual landscape designs such as rock gardens or on green roofs. Taller sedums look great when planted with ornamental grasses and easy perennials such as cone flowers and black-eyed-susans.

The thick, lush succulent can have any shade of green, gold, purple, red and even blue leaves, adding stunning color to your yard. Variegated foliage varieties add visual interest even when the plant is not blooming, ensuring a beautiful plant for a much longer season. Once planted, sedum varieties require very little care and do well even if neglected.

Our Favorite Sedums

Because sedums come in a variety of sizes, be sure to choose a plant with a mature size that will match your landscaping space. In addition to considering the plant’s horizontal spread, also consider its height to get the full visual impact of these great landscape additions.

The best tall sedums include…

  • Autumn Joy – 2’ tall with pink flowers
  • Autumn Fire – 2’ tall with rose flowers that mature to a deeper coppery red
  • Black Jack – 2’ tall featuring deep purple foliage with brighter pink flowers
  • Carl – 2’ tall with magenta flowers that bloom in late summer
  • Matrona – 3’ tall with pale pink blooms and gray-green foliage that shows a hint of pink
  • Purple Emperor – 1 ½’ tall featuring red flowers and dramatically deep purple foliage

For smaller spaces when a low-growing plant is needed, consider these low-growing sedums…

  • Angelina – needle-like, yellowish-peach foliage with yellow flowers
  • Blue Spruce – needle-like blue foliage with contrasting yellow flowers
  • Bronze Carpet – green foliage tinged white and pink and featuring red flowers
  • Dragon’s Blood – dramatic bronze-red foliage with deep pink flowers
  • John Creech – scalloped green foliage with pink flowers
  • Larinem Park – grey-green rounded foliage with white flowers
  • Vera Jameson – pink-tinged grey-green foliage with coordinating pink flowers

No matter what your landscaping needs and preferences – filling an awkward area, opting for an easy-care plant, adding drama and color to your garden plan – sedums can be the perfect solution.

Butterfly Bush

What could be more enjoyable than relaxing in your favorite lawn chair or hammock, your sunglasses on and a cool beverage in hand, staring at an enchanting array of colorful butterflies milling around their favorite plant? What could possibly be an easier way to accomplish this vision than by planting a simple butterfly bush?

About Butterfly Bush

Buddleia davidii, the butterfly bush, is a flowering maniac. It pushes its proliferation of perfumed blooms straight through summer and well into fall, providing nourishment to butterflies all season long. Available in a multitude of colors ranging from white to pink to red to purple, there are colorful butterfly bushes to match any garden or landscape color scheme. The fragrant, long, spiked panicles are borne in profusion on long, gracefully arching branches that add drama and elegance to the yard. And it really is a butterfly magnet!

Growing Butterfly Bush

This quick growing, deciduous, woody shrub is winter hardy in zones 5-10. In the northernmost areas of its hardiness range, Buddleia behaves like a herbaceous perennial, dying back to the ground in very cold winters. In the southernmost areas, Buddleia is grown as large shrub and can flourish all year. In either location, however, you should treat this plant as a cut back shrub. Because butterfly bush blooms on new wood, it benefits the plant to be cut back to the ground each spring. This judicious pruning will stimulate lavish new growth and an abundance of flowers. It will also keep some of the larger varieties at a manageable size, particularly in smaller yards, corners or other confined spaces.

Plant your butterfly bush in full sun in just about any type of soil and it will thrive. Don’t worry about fertilizing as over-fertilization can encourage too much leaf growth over flower formation. Deadheading will encourage additional growth and new flower buds to extend the blooming season. Buddleia has a good tolerance for drought once established, but should be carefully watered when young. A good, thick layer of mulch will help maintain soil moisture and keep weeds down to keep the shrub healthy. Just be sure not to use insecticides or pesticides on your butterfly bush or you may be harming the very fluttering fliers you hope to attract.

Not sure which butterfly bush to try? Consider these varieties to choose the perfect color and style to suit your yard.

Recommended Buddleia Varieties by Color

White Butterfly Bushes

  • ‘Nanho Alba’: 6-8’ height, blue-green leaves, mildly fragrant
  • ‘Silver Frost’: 5-6’ height, silver-gray leaves
  • ‘White Ball’: 3-4’ height, silver foliage, compact habit
  • ‘White Bouquet’: 8-10’ height, gray-green leaves, flowers have orange throat
  • ‘White Cloud’: 8-10’ height, gray-green leaves, flowers have yellow eye
  • ‘White Harlequin’: 8-10’ height, variegated leaves

Pink Butterfly Bushes

  • ‘Charming’: 6-10’ height, blue-green leaves, flowers have orange throat
  • ‘Fascination’: 8-12’ height, lilac-pink flowers with cupped petals
  • ‘Pink Delight’: 4-7’ height, gray-green leaves, true pink flowers, fragrant
  • ‘Summer Beauty’: 5-6’ height, silvery leaves, pink-rose flowers
  • ‘Summer Roae’: 8-10’ height, mauve-rose flowers, strong fragrance

Red Butterfly Bushes

  • ‘Burgundy’: 8-10’ height, magenta-red flowers, fragrant
  • ‘Dartmoor’: 8-10’ height, magenta flowers
  • ‘Harlequin’: 6-8’ height, variegated leaves, reddish-purple flowers
  • ‘Royal Red’: 10-12’ height, purple-red flowers, fragrant

Purple / Blue Butterfly Bushes

  • ‘Black Knight’: 8-10’ height, deep violet-dark purple flowers
  • ‘Bonnie’: 8-10’ height, light lavender flowers with orange eye, sweet fragrance
  • ‘Ellen’s Blue’: 5-6’ height, silver leaves, deep blue flowers, orange eye, fragrant
  • ‘Moon Shadow’: 3-4’ height, lilac purple buds open to lavender flowers
  • ‘Nanho Blue’: 6-8’ height, gray-green leaves, mauve-blue flowers, fragrant
  • ‘Orchid Beauty’: 6-8’ height, lavender-blue flowers, fragrant
  • ‘Potter’s Purple’: 6-10’ height, deep purple flowers, mild fragrance

Protecting Trees From Drought Stress

Summer can be the most stressful time of year for landscape plants with heat and drought being the main offenders. When not receiving sufficient moisture, plants are much more susceptible to insect and disease damage. Trees are the most valuable landscape plants and can be the most difficult to replace, so it is sensible that they should be given priority during periods of drought.

Identify Drought Trouble

Lack of water is not a clear indication of a drought when it comes to trees. Many trees have deep, active roots that can easily survive short periods without rain or moisture, but it is important to notice when they are starting to become drought-stressed. Wilting and curling leaves will appear on drought-stressed deciduous trees. Leaf edges will eventually turn brown and crispy and may drop prematurely. Evergreen needles will begin to turn brown at the tips. As the drought continues, the entire needle will turn brown.

Prioritize Which Trees to Help

Generally, the trees most at risk are those that are newly planted or transplanted, as well as any younger trees. The root system of these plants is underdeveloped or has been damaged by the planting. Trees that are growing in a restricted area should also be of greater concern. This includes trees planted in containers, the narrow grass strip between the street and sidewalk and trees grown adjacent to your house or driveway where they suffer more from reflected heat and have less underground space to spread their roots to collect sufficient moisture. Drought-sensitive plants like birches, beeches, dogwoods, Japanese maples and magnolias should also be given priority during drought conditions.

Watering During a Drought

It is best to begin good watering practices before the tree succumbs to drought stress. Trees need approximately one inch of water per week. If Mother Nature is not supplying it then you should.

It is best for the tree if the required water is applied all at one time to the soil, slowly and deeply. This can be accomplished by using irrigation bags on newly planted or small trees. Trees in a restricted area are best watered with a slow dripping hose placed at the base of the tree and moved frequently for even distribution. For larger trees, a soaker hose laid in a spiral pattern, radiating from the tree trunk out to the drip line, works well.

Take care that if your community has watering restrictions during drought conditions, you follow approved practices to maintain your trees without risking fines or fees from illegal watering.

Tips for Helping Drought-Stressed Trees

  • Always water the soil and not the leaves or needles of the tree.
  • 2-4 inches of mulch placed over the soil, under the tree, from the trunk to just beyond the drip line, will help conserve soil moisture. Do not mound mulch against the tree trunk, which can encourage insects.
  • Water on overcast days, early in the morning or in the evening. Evaporation is slower during these times and more water will soak down to the roots.
  • Fertilizer can injure tree roots during times of limited soil moisture. Avoid using fertilizer during drought conditions. If amendments are necessary, choose compost or other gentle options instead of harsher fertilizers.

You can help your trees resist drought conditions with a little thoughtful care, and they will continue to thrive to help provide shade and beauty in your landscape.