En español | Even the best flower gardeners can be procrastinators.
But by focusing less on when you plant than on how, you can still add flowers this summer that will produce color and joy all through late summer and fall.
“Just about anything can be planted all summer so long as gardeners can be attentive to watering,” says Mira Talabac, a horticultural consultant with the Home & Garden Information Center of University of Maryland Extension. “I was taught during my lengthy time in the nursery industry that the ‘best time’ to plant is whenever you’re ready to do it properly.”
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At Heritage Museum & Gardens, a botanical garden and historical museum in Sandwich, Massachusetts, gardeners plant new gardens throughout the summer, says Les Lutz, director of horticulture. And Diane St. John, garden center manager for Natureworks, an organic landscape and garden center in Northford, Connecticut, says their staff plant flowers for customers well into the fall.
What you can plant will depend on your climate and planting zone, so it’s best to check with your county extension service or local garden center. But in many areas, July is not too late to expand your garden or fill in gaps with either annuals, which only live for one growing season, or perennials, which are winter hardy and can live many years.
“We plant at least through October,” St. John says. “And if we have a warm November, our crews will continue to plant because then the roots have time to get established. And then in the spring, it’s like you’ve already got an established plant."
Planting in midsummer does require some general principles:
- New plantings require more water in summer, but be wary of overwatering. Check moisture by inserting a screwdriver or pencil 4 to 6 inches into the soil, says Talabac. If it’s dry at that depth, water; if moist, leave it. It’s better to give plants a deep watering once or twice a week rather than a light one more often. That light watering just encourages roots to grow near the surface, says St. John.
- Plants purchased in summer may be root-bound since they’ve been in pots at the garden center since spring. Tease out and separate the roots before planting, says Amy Jo Detweiler, a professor and horticulturist with Oregon State University Extension Service. And Lutz suggests giving annuals a jump-start with a bit of liquid fertilizer.
- Don’t forget to “deadhead” annuals, picking off faded blooms to encourage more flowers, Detweiler says.
- Buy a bag of compost along with your plants to enrich the soil, St. John suggests. And mulch around flowers to keep in moisture and regulate soil temperature.
- Plant perennials for fall bloom. Try asters, joe-pye weed and perennial chrysanthemums, which will bloom later and longer than the standard mums you buy potted at the supermarket.
- Come fall, don’t forget to plant in anticipation of spring. That includes bulbs like daffodils and tulips that will then bloom each spring but also pansies and violas — “winter annuals” that in many areas are hardy and will bloom when spring comes.
There’s another good reason to plant now: You might save money. Garden centers tend to devote space to flowers that are currently blooming, Talabac says. That means leftover out-of-season plants might be discounted, especially toward autumn. While you might not get blooms this year, the plants will be established by next growing season.
A list of summers flowers
But if you’re hoping for more blooms this year, here are some suggestions from the experts for perennials and annuals that you can install during July:
Susan Moeller is a contributing writer who covers lifestyle, health, finance and human-interest topics. A former newspaper reporter and editor, she also writes features and essays for the Boston Globe Magazine as well as her local NPR station, among other outlets.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 14, 2021. It's been updated to reflect new information.