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Johnson County

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Johnson County
11811 S. Sunset Drive
Suite 1500
Olathe, KS 66061

Office Hours:

Monday - Friday,
8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

(913) 715-7000
(913) 715-7005 fax

Map to our office

K-State Research and Extension is committed to making its services, activities and programs accessible to all participants. Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities may be requested by contacting Johnson County Extension at (913)715-7000. Notify staff of accommodation needs as early as possible.

Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service

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Time to Revive Summer Container Gardens

by Dennis Patton, horticulture agent

Return to Flower articles

Fall Pot ArrangementColorful container gardens bring beauty to front porches and patios all summer long. Unfortunately, for some, the good intentions in the spring may have begun to fizzle during the heat of the summer.

Don't give up hope if your container garden is starting to look tired and ready for the compost pile. These tips, plus the arrival of cooler fall days, can breathe new life into the planting.

Feed to Promote Growth

Container gardens require constant watering to thrive as the summer heat and winds quickly dry out the soil. Unfortunately, nutrients in the soil are leached out from all this watering or are consumed by the growing plants. This lack of nutrients is like a car running out of gas.

There are several ways to fertilize containers. Water-soluble fertilizers are easy, just follow the directions on the package. Lawn and garden fertilizers without herbicides are an economical choice as well. A teaspoon spread around the surface works for smaller containers, while a tablespoon is necessary for larger plantings.

Before fertilizing, make sure the soil is moist and the plants are not under stress. Apply water-soluble fertilizers by labeled rates. If using a garden fertilizer, apply about once a month.

Avoid the use of slow-relase fertilizers this late in the season. Time is running out, and they need the push now.

Prune to Promote Growth

Some container plants may be overgrown or look straggly. Just like pruning a shrub or tree to stimulate new growth, apply the same principles to annuals in containers.

Is the sweet potato vine taking over the patio? Is the coleus tall and leggy, crowding out other plants? If so, get out the pruning shears and cut them back.

Removing the top growth will encourage new branches to develop below the cut. The new growth will be stronger, stimulate flowering, and breathe new life into the pot.

Pruning can and should be done all summer long to keep the planting fresh. Some plants outgrow and overtake less vigorous plants in the container. Nipping back the more robust frowers maintains the balance of growth, keeping the planter looking terrific.

Replace the Dead and Dying

If fertilization and pruning will not work, it is time to get ruthless and remove the underperforming plant. Don't think of a dead plant or a hole in the planting as a failure. Instead, look at this spot as an opportunity to make a change.

Take a trip to the garden center to find inspiration and pop in a new plant. By adding a different plant, it can change the look of the container or transition it into a fall display.

An array of fall plants is coming onto the market. Use mums, flowering kale, colorful peppers, and pansies to transition between the seasons.

With the cooler days and nights, September and October can increase growth and flowering before the first frost. Don't give up on your containers. Impart new life by reviving your summer annuals. With a bit of care, they will continue to provide a splash of color and enjoyment.

Fall container planting

K-State Research and Extension Johnson County Master Gardener logo

Have questions? The Garden Hotline is staffed by trained EMG volunteers and Extension staff who will assist you with questions.

Phone: (913) 715-7050

Email: garden.help@jocogov.org