Posts Tagged ‘deadheading’

Caring for Your Echinacea

Preferred Conditions: Echinacea prefers to be planted in locations with moderately fertile, well-drained soils. They do not perform well in locations with poor drainage or soils that remain constantly damp. Provide ample water during the first year after transplanting. Once Echinacea are established (2-3 years) they are quite drought resistant. Coneflowers prefer to be planted in full sun, but also grow well under partial shade. When they are grown in a shadier location they will not grow as vigorously and fewer flowers will be produced.

Maintenance: These exciting perennials are easy to grow and generally require few maintenance activities. Deadheading the spent flowers will promote additional blooming, but will not produce as spectacular flower display as the initial flush of blooms. Taller cultivars may need additional support from cages to prevent the flower spikes from lodging. Pinching them back in the late spring and not providing excessive nutrients will often eliminate the need for caging.

Pests and Diseases: Some of the most common insect pests that may be observed feeding on Echinacea include aphids, caterpillars, grasshoppers, Japanese beetles, leafhoppers, and whiteflies. Most of these pests, under normal circumstances, do not cause significant injury to them with the exception of leafhoppers. Leafhoppers transmit a disease called Aster yellows which often causes the plant to appear abnormal (most notably the flowers often remain green and become distorted). Besides Aster yellows, Echinacea are also susceptible to powder mildew and root rot diseases.

Uses in the Garden: Coneflowers are commonly used as accent plants or in mixed borders, open woodlands, and mass plantings. Coneflowers are also deer resistant.

Other Uses and Attributes: This native of the eastern and central United States is widely used as an aromatic border plant to attract butterflies and birds in to the gardens. They are commonly used as cut flowers or in dried floral arrangements. When Echinacea are not cut back in the fall, the seed heads will provide added winter interest to the often barren landscape and provide a source of food for songbirds.

Field of Echinacea

Field of Echinacea

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Perennial Aftercare

100_8149To optimize performance, improve plant appearance, and ensure longevity there are a few maintenance activities that gardeners should consider. Most perennials can be grown successfully with relatively little maintenance, while other perennials will require more work to keep them in good condition.
Although most perennials are not considered to be ‘heavy feeders’, it is important that they are produced with an adequate nutrient supply. Mulching the perennial beds with compost each year often supplies an ample supply of nutrients. In beds covered with bark mulches, it is recommended to fertilize once or twice per year with a general purpose fertilizer. Applying too much fertilizer causes many perennials to grow too quickly and become floppy. Do not apply fertilizer directly on top of the crown or severe injury from the salts may result. Perennials with tall flower spikes or full heavy flowers, such as Alcea or Delphinium, may require staking to prevent them from toppling over following heavy rains and high winds.

Several perennials benefit from deadheading, thinning, or cutting them back. Deadheading entails removing the dead flower heads and faded flowers; this practice keeps the garden looking nice and encourages many perennials to continue blooming for an extended period and improves the appearance of the plant. A few perennials benefit from thinning or removing some of the stems from the dense bushy clumps in the early spring which allows more air circulation and reduces the conditions for certain foliar diseases such as powdery mildew. Similar to deadheading, cutting some perennials back after they flower will often rejuvenate the clump by regenerating new growth and may possibly lead to another flush of flowers later in the growing season. Cutting back is also used to prevent some perennials from flopping over or to prevent the centers of the plants from opening up and appearing ragged following bloom.

Another important consideration is to prepare perennials for the winter. Do not fertilize perennials after they stop growing in the late summer or early fall. This will allow them to prepare for dormancy rather than encouraging them to remain actively growing. Many perennials go completely dormant (die back to the ground each year) and should have the foliage trimmed back before winter. Removing the existing foliage will make the perennial beds look cleaner and will decrease the likelihood of diseases setting in over the winter months or being carried over and infecting next years growth. Other perennials, such as ornamental grasses, are often trimmed in the spring allowing the foliage to provide some structure to the winter landscape. In northern zones or where tender perennials are being grown (marginal hardiness in your area) it is beneficial to apply mulch after the ground has frozen to help protect these perennials during harsh winters.

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