For more blooms, give your plants a pinch of love

By Norman Winter

Spring has finally arrived, and it will not be long until our perennials are full of blooms, butterflies and hummingbirds. As we get busy with Little League, soccer and planning summer vacations, if we can remember to give a pinch of love, we’ll keep those blooms developing and those pollinators happy.

A pinch of love is exactly that, pinching, pruning, or clipping, all terms we often use to describe deadheading. Sometimes our perennials, and even shrubs, are a lot like parents – they divert energy into taking care of offspring, in this case, unwanted seeds.

Consider those glorious spikes of blue or pink veronicas like Dark Blue Moody Blues™ or Pink Moody Blues™. Those spikey flowers create excitement in the garden by rising above the imaginary horizontal plane. When the flower is finished, it not only looks worn and tacky, but the plant goes into seed production mode.

The Southern Living®Plant Collection features the champions of the hummingbird garden with seven salvias. If you think putting up hummingbird feeders is fun, wait until you grow ‘Amistad’, ‘Nectar Blue™, or Saucy™ Red. Some may be perennial in your region, but all are worthy of being grown as annuals. By deadheading spent flowers, we will make sure the hummingbirds stay the entire season. 

If salvias are the hummingbird champions, then verbenas like Red EnduraScape™ and White Blush, and their relative Cosmic Firestorm™ Lantana, are the butterfly magnets. These perennials are the workhorses, so to speak, of the summer garden, but sometimes just get tired, hot and go into a down cycle. 

These perennials bloom on new growth, and it is our task to keep them growing. You might-think fertilizer and water is enough to keep new growth and blooms going continuously, but most often it’s not. They’ve been working hard for you, and now you need to give the love back. Cutting back by at least a third to fresh green leaves, and giving a little slow release fertilizer and supplemental water will trigger new growth and more blooms for late summer and fall

The Southern Living®Plant Collection features a dozen members of the aster or daisy family like Crazy Pink™ and Crazy White™ Echinacea. They all will pay dividends when you remove spent flowers. Doing so will produce more blooms and energy reserves for a healthier plant going into winter.

Deadheading isn’t just important for annuals and perennials, but also for our cherished shrubs like the hydrangea. Reblooming French hydrangeas like Southern Living®Plant Collection’s enormous ‘Big Daddy’ and Dear Dolores™, as well as the white panicle hydrangeas like Moon Dance™ and White Wedding®, need to have the old blooms removed to just above a full set of healthy leaves. This places the energy into the young developing flowers, as well as generating new growth resulting in a flush of new blooms.

It really is a pinch of love – sometimes done by hand, other times with a pair of shears. The result is the flower garden of your dreams being enjoyed not only by you, but by visiting butterflies and hummingbirds, too!

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