When it's time to buy and plant annuals for your summer containers, beds or baskets, you may encounter a common problem, and here's an easy solution. Plants that are grown packed together in flats or trays (especially annuals) often get tall and leggy, even though they may be in bud or flowering. I always recommend shearing as a way to promote bushy new growth, ultimately resulting in more blooms per plant in your garden. Reducing the amount of foliage temporarily also helps the transplant settle into its new home, and grow more roots that can support a fuller plant with lots more foliage and flowers.
Novice gardeners look on in horror when I show them the point at which the shearing should be done... generally half or more of the plant. But trust me, take a deep breath and cut! You'll sacrifice some in the short run, but reap the rewards many times over as the season goes on.
There are also many perennials that benefit from a haircut or two over the growing year... Asters being a particularly good example. An easy way to remember is to shear them on Mothers' Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. After that, let them grow on out and set their buds for September flowering.
I'm pretty brutal in my garden, so there's a whole list of perennials I cut right down to the ground after flowering: Daylilies, Comfrey and Pulmonarias to name a few... just to get a tidier flush of new foliage for the rest of the growing season.
So remember, in gardening as in life, a little delayed gratification never hurt anyone, so cut back early and enjoy the payoff later in stockier plants and lots more flowers!
Welcome to Sempervivum, an opinionated, sometimes informed and completely unqualified journal of gardens, plants and plantings by artist-gardener Robert Clyde Anderson.