Marianne Binetti

It’s no time to be sentimental. Cull flowering plants that aren’t thriving by now

Now’s the time to decide if the plants that you think suffered over the winter or spring are worth keeping in your garden.

Some perennials such as Hot Lips Salvia, hardy fuchsia and hardy hibiscus are just slow to grow in the spring, but by now, if you don’t see lots of new foliage, you may need to throw in the trowel and use the shovel solution on any plant, tree or shrub that disappoints you. Life is too short to put up with ugly plants. If a shrub or perennial is not doing well after a few years in the ground, you can always try moving it to a different location. If that fails, give up.

Here are some easy fixes for common problems in the summer garden:

Q. Why didn’t my peony plant flower this year? I added a compost mulch in the fall and made sure it was fertilized. Instead of blooms I got lots of lush green leaves. — A.F., Auburn

A. The most common reason for bloomless peonies is that the roots are planted too deep. The clue to the cause of your missing buds is that you added a compost mulch.

Peonies do not need a heavy mulch for protection in the winter. Alaska grows great peony plants.

Adding a mulch can bury the roots too deep. Scrape away the mulch so that the root or growth eye is just an inch or less below the surface of the soil.

If you want to pamper your peonies, be sure to cut back the stem and leaves in November so that overwintering foliage will not spread disease.

You will be hearing “this bud’s for you” next spring.

Q. I have a hanging basket with a white, draping flower called bacopa. This plant was doing great for a while but now it has leaves but no flowers. The geranium in the basket still looks okay. Also the lobelia with blue flowers is turning brown. Help! — C.G., Renton

A. Water to the rescue. Bacopa and lobelia are two thirsty plants that will punish you if you let the soil dry out even one time. Geraniums, petunias and foliage plants are more forgiving. You can shear back your bloomless or brown annuals now and then water well and don’t let the soil dry out again.

You also must fertilize to encourage more flowers as frequent watering will wash the fertilizer right out of the soil. This time of year I recommend a liquid plant food you can add to a watering can so that the plants can absorb the nutrients quickly and your pouting plants can begin another bloom cycle. This is called a “water soluble” plant food, and Miracle-Gro is the most popular brand name.

Q. I just discovered a large blueberry bush hidden behind some overgrown shrubs at this new house we bought.

I have cleared away all the scrub brush, and now the blueberry has breathing room and I see a few small berries.

My question: Should I fertilize this forgotten blueberry now? What type of plant food? — P.P., Seattle

A. Hold off with the big meal until next spring. Fertilizing blueberries and other shrubs in midsummer could stimulate new growth in August, and then when winter arrives, the fresh growth may not be mature enough to handle the cold. Wait until early spring when you see daffodils in bloom to feed blueberries, rhodies and azaleas with a fertilizer made for acid-loving plants.