Beloved by butterflies and hummingbirds, summer phlox (Phlox paniculata) gets props from gardeners too. A sun-loving, hardy perennial generally growing 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, it has showy flower clusters on multiple stems in red, white, blue, purple, lavender, pink, magenta, or combinations of colors. Trim off faded flowers so you’ll keep getting more. New, improved selections resist powdery mildew, the bane of older types. Try “Blue Paradise” (deep violet-blue), “David” (white), “Eva Cullum” (pink with red eye, shown above), “John Fanick” (light pink with darker throat), “Laura” (purple with white eye), “Nicky” (deep magenta), and “Robert Poore” (violet-pink).
Plants growing in containers that are frequently watered can quickly exhaust the nutrients in potting soil. Fertilize them with liquid plant food every two weeks to keep them growing vigorously. If you haven’t given your St. Augustine, Bermuda, or zoysia lawn its second summer feeding yet, now is a good time to do so. Water the lawn for at least a half hour after you apply it so the fertilizer granules don’t just sit on the leaves.
Plant seeds of quick-sprouting annuals for a big flower show this fall. Sow seeds of zinnias, cosmos, bachelor’s buttons, sunflowers, spider flowers, and marigolds in pots or directly into the garden.
When it’s this hot, don’t scalp your lawn. Raise mower blades to at least 2 inches. Tall grass needs less water than grass that’s cut short, and it will also stay green longer between waterings.
Tiny pests called spider mites multiply in hot, dry weather and suck the juices from the foliage of many broad-leaved and needleleaf plants, causing them to be stunted or die. Spider mites look like tiny red, yellow, tan, or brown specks and congregate under leaves. Signs of their presence are speckled, bronzed, or browning foliage and tiny webs between the leaves and stems. To control mites, blast the undersides of leaves with water from a hose—they hate being wet—or spray plants according to label directions with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.
WATCH: Learn the Right Time to Prune
Don’t prune spring-blooming shrubs and trees such as azalea, quince, lilac, and forsythia after the Fourth of July. If you do, you may cut off flower buds for next spring.