For The Answer
By Calvin Finch, Ph. D., Director of Conservation, SAWS, and Horticulturist
Provided to Primetime Newspapers, July 9, 2001
Some of the hot weather bloomers have been slow to start, but they are going strong now. It is not pleasant to work in the garden in 90 plus temperatures but if you give them some attention the blooming will get better.
Esperanza or Texas Bells are blooming machines if the seedpods are removed. Once per week visit your bush and remove any seedpods that are forming. The plants are driven to reproduce and if you keep pulling the seeds they will form more flowers
The process of removing spent flowers is called deadheading. As was described above it is important to keep esperanzas blooming. Many flowers benefit by such attention; zinnias, roses and even crepe myrtles will bloom more if you remove faded flowers or seedpods, we deadhead trailing lantana a little differently. Every 4 or 5 weeks when the flowers are still in good shape, a shallow run of the string mower into the blooms will serve as deadheading. Within a few days the trim is not even noticeable and bloom is less cyclical.
For VIP or Laura Bush petunias the trim should be even deeper, as much as half the plant. Use the opportunity to get the aggressive petunias back under control.
All of the plants discussed in the article will survive without supplemental water but if you want them to bloom in a droughty summer, they do best with one good watering per month. Whether it is through a rain event or your hose, either will work.
Old-fashioned roses qualify as xeriscape plants. They can survive without pesticides and supplemental water in native soil. Mulch them well and give them one watering per month and the summer bloomers will bloom better. Some modern roses are almost as tough as old-fashioned roses; Belindas Dream is a pink rose with a great fragrance that has the bloom capability of a modern rose.
Most modern roses are not xeriscape plants; they require raised beds, weekly pesticide sprays, regular irrigation, generous fertilization and yearly pruning to survive well. Despite their need for attention, modern roses can be part of water efficient landscape. Xeriscape does not eliminate anything; it just requires that most of the landscape be low water use groundcovers, perennials, mulch and hardscape. If you have modern roses, late in July or early in August it is time to prepare them for the autumn bloom period. Remove dead stems, open the middle of the plant to allow air and light penetration, and renew your cultural attention. Fertilize with rose food or slow release lawn fertilizer, water with drip irrigation, top off the mulch and begin weekly sprays with a fungicide and insecticide. The traditional sprays are Funginex and Orthene. Organic growers can try Rose Defense (neem oil), sulfur, and organic insecticides.
Fruit trees are not summer bloomers but it is time to cut the suckers from container and in-ground trees. Suckers are stems that arise from the rootstock. Most fruit trees are actually 2 parts; a scion (desirable fruiting top) and a rootstock (tough adapted rootstock). The two parts are grafted together to form a tree tough enough to survive in whatever soil is available and produce good fruit. If stems originate from the rootstock, they take over the tree and the result is a tough tree without good fruit. Recognize the rootstock on citrus as a thorny stem originating below the graft. On plums, peaches and other fruit cut off anything that comes directly from the ground.