— Photo Courtesy Brian Wheat, AAF, PFCI, of Lafayette Florist, Gift Shop & Garden Center in Lafayette, Colorado. http://www.lafayetteflorist.com/It seems like only yesterday it was early spring when you journeyed to the garden center to select your blooming treasures. With the anticipation of good weather on the horizon, you were all aflutter with excitement of a good growing season. You stood in marvel at the greenhouse, looking in at the sea of colors and textures that soon would be yours. You carefully selected the perfect pot, the best potting soil and the best looking bedding plants they had to offer. You were on your way to an epic spring display after a long winter. So, you got it all hauled home, got it all planted and placed in the perfect location to enjoy all summer long.

Things are looking great. A month goes by, and still everything looks pretty good. Then all of sudden one afternoon, you notice it. The shine has worn off; you need help. This is a common occurrence for all of us flower and plant lovers. Care and maintenance is essential. There are many reasons things deteriorate a bit, such as a lack of dead-heading or fertilizer, insect or disease issues, weather, or even the location needs changed.

Here are some helpful tips to keep your patio pots, hanging baskets and flower beds performing at their best all the way into the fall.

— Photo Courtesy Brian Wheat, AAF, PFCI, of Lafayette Florist, Gift Shop & Garden Center in Lafayette, Colorado. http://www.lafayetteflorist.com/Deadheading is a simple task. As your flowers fade out of bloom, remove the dead flower heads to encourage new bud and blooms. Each time you water, inspect the flowers and remove any yellowing leaves or broken stems to keep your plants healthy.

Feed those flowers and plants. Fertilization is vital to keep plants healthy and blooming. I would say this is the most neglected task by most gardeners. Fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Plants need nitrogen to enhance stem and leaf growth; phosphorus contributes to flower production and root growth; and potassium ensures general vigor and helps plants resist disease. All these, plus micro nutrients contribute to overall plant health. Feed generously with granules, powders or liquids, whichever works best for you. Natural, organic or chemical fertilizers are available at your local garden center.

Watch out for invaders. Many issues occur when insects invade your flowers. Chewing insects, such as beetles, caterpillars and budworms can cause lots of damage and hinder blooming. Sucking insects like aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites are quick to infect our plants. They consider our window boxes of blooms a smorgasbord. Many organic and natural solutions of neem oil, insecticidal soaps, BT, diatomaceous earth, spinosad, and even hot pepper sprays or lady bugs are a great solution. Identify your pests early for best control, put them in a sealed baggy and head to your local greenhouse for identification and the best solutions.

— Photo Courtesy Brian Wheat, AAF, PFCI, of Lafayette Florist, Gift Shop & Garden Center in Lafayette, Colorado. http://www.lafayetteflorist.com/Treat diseases. Disease issues on your flowers and plants range from powdery mildews, rusts, black spot, grey mold and blights. They can cause leaves to suddenly wither, stop growing and die. Avoid wounding stems, make clean cuts when pinching back spent blooms, remove and destroy damaged leaves and flowers. There are good organic and natural controls for these issues. They include copper fungicides, sulphur and neem oils.

And last, but certainly not least, there are other variables that can hinder plants from not blooming and thriving. Factors of watering issues from too wet or too dry, drastic temperatures, high wind damage, poor drainage, sunlight conditions, the wrong plant in the wrong location, root damage when planting or just plain neglect. Your local garden center can help — seek their advice and expertise!

Enjoy your flowers and plants all summer long. Take the time to keep them happy and healthy. They’ll reward your efforts, I promise.

— Photo Courtesy Brian Wheat, AAF, PFCI, of Lafayette Florist, Gift Shop & Garden Center in Lafayette, Colorado. http://www.lafayetteflorist.com/

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