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Prepare garden flowers for summer
Alicia Boor.tif

The flower gardens have been in full bloom and are looking spectacular this year. You can tell that there is a lot of pride and hard work that has been done by homeowners to make sure that their landscape looks its best! As the first flowers are dying off, and new ones begin to shine, a few chores may help your flower garden looks its best. I’m sharing a few tips for the K-State Research and Extension’s Horticulture department this week that I thought would be helpful for flower care that can be done at this time.

Deadheading flowers
Some plants will bloom more profusely if the old, spent flowers are removed, a process called deadheading. Annuals especially, focus their energy on seed production to insure that the species survives. If you remove old flowers, the energy normally used to produce seed is now available to produce more flowers. Perennials can also benefit by lengthening the blooming season.
However, some gardeners enjoy the look of spent flowers of perennials such as sedum or purple coneflower. Also, the seed produced can be a good food source for birds. Not all plants need to be deadheaded, including sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, melampodium, impatiens, most flowering vines, Lythrum, periwinkle (Catharanthus), and wishbone flower (Torenia).
Those that do increase bloom in response to deadheading include hardy geraniums, coreopsis, petunias, marigolds, snapdragons, begonias, roses, campanulas, blanket flowers, delphiniums, zinnias, sweet peas, salvia, scabiosa, annual heliotrope, geraniums (Pelargonium), and yarrow. Deadheading is easily accomplished by removing spent flowers. With some plants, pinching between a thumb and finger can do this, but tough, wiry stems will require a scissors or pruning shears.

Sidedressing annual flowers
Modern annual flowers have been bred to flower early and over a long period of time. They are not as easily thrown off flowering by high nitrogen levels as vegetables are. As a matter of fact, providing nitrogen through the growing season (sidedressing) can help maintain an effective flower display for warm-season flowers.
Apply a high nitrogen sidedressing four to six weeks after flowers have been set out. Additional fertilizations every three to four weeks can be helpful during a rainy summer, or if flower beds are irrigated. Common sources of nitrogen-only fertilizers include nitrate of soda, urea, and ammonium sulfate. Blood meal is an organic fertilizer that contains primarily, but not exclusively, nitrogen. Use only one of the listed fertilizers and apply at the rate given below.
Nitrate of soda (16-0-0): Apply 1/3 pound (.75 cup) fertilizer per 100 square feet.
Blood Meal (12-1.5-.6): Apply 7 ounces (7/8 cup) fertilizer per 100 square feet.
Urea (46-0-0): Apply 2 ounces (1/4 cup) fertilizer per 100 square feet.
Ammonium Sulfate (21-0-0): Apply 4 ounces (½ cup) fertilizer per 100 square feet.
If you cannot find the above materials, you can use a lawn fertilizer that is about 30 percent nitrogen (nitrogen is the first number in the set of three) and apply it at the rate of 3 ounces (3/8cup) per 100 square feet. Do not use a fertilizer that contains a weed killer or weed preventer.

Alicia Boor is the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for Barton County K-State Research and Extension. Contact her by email at or call 620-793-1910.