The classic image of the summer garden is one of colorful phlox and snapdragons, demure daisies and regal lilies gently nodding in a gentle breeze on a warm summer's day. Those with experience in growing summer flowers know that the reality is often sweatier, buggier and grimier than the idyllic image. The summer gardener knows to get up early in the morning to weed and water because the bugs increase exponentially as the sun comes up. The rewards of the summer garden, however, are spectacular.
Choosing Summer Flowers
Choose perennials like phlox, salvia, coneflowers and others as background plants. Daisies, coreopsis and daylilies provide texture and fill spaces. Perennials have specific bloom periods; plant different species so there's always one in bloom (this is called a "succession of bloom").
Plant summer bulbs for bursts of color. Cannas, lilies and dahlias bloom for shorter periods than perennials. Plant a few every two weeks to extend bloom periods for gladiolas, lycoris and other fast-growing corms and tubers.
Plant annuals like marigolds, snapdragons, petunias and others for continuing color all summer long. Annuals will bridge the gaps in your succession of bloom.
Planting Summer Flowers
Plant summer perennials after the heat of summer has passed and into the fall. They will bloom next summer.
Dig bucket-sized holes and line with garden soil amended with compost, peat moss or sand for bulbs in late fall or early spring, depending on the species. Plant bulbs about one and a half times as deep as they are tall, unless directions state otherwise.
Cultivate and amend soil before planting annuals, which have shallow roots. Annuals can be planted any time but are most often planted in the spring for summer bloom. Biennials grown as annuals are generally planted in the fall.
Nurturing Summer Flowers
Fertilize summer perennials with low-nitrogen garden fertilizer in early spring to encourage growth before the warm weather sets in. Fertilize summer bulbs in the fall to help them store nutrients for the following season. Fertilize annuals twice a month through the growing season to keep them healthy.
Water summer flowers in the early morning hours. Summer mornings are cool and the wind is calm so water will not evaporate as rapidly as it would during the day but cannot stand and cause mildew as it would at night. Make sure that plants get at least an inch of water a week through the hot months.
Deadhead, or remove the spent flowers, to conserve water and nutrients and to encourage more blooms on annuals and some perennials. Complete maintenance tasks during early morning or evening hours to lessen stress on plants. Cut flowers in the morning when they are at their freshest for the table.
Weed. Dig and cultivate because summer weeds grow fast and deep. Mulch helps loosen their grip but you must still dig those roots out.
About this Author
Chicago native Laura Reynolds has been writing for 40 years. She attended American University (D.C.), Northern Illinois University and University of Illinois Chicago and has a B.S. in communications (theater). Originally a secondary school communications and history teacher, she's written one book and edited several others. She has 30 years of experience as a local official, including service as a municipal judge.