By Glenna Sheaffer
You would think there should be little to do with perennials in the summer, but they have certain needs to either help them to re-bloom or to be tidy. After a plant like a daylily or hosta is done blooming, the flower stalks should be cut down below the foliage. Daylilies can go to seed and the individual flowers can be deadheaded to keep the plant looking fresh. When you deadhead make sure you pinch out the hard seedhead at the base of the bloom. A daylily’s flower only lasts one day. The next day, if you touch the blossom, it will feel slippery and be dissolving. Those are the ones to remove [remember to include the ovary at the base]. They are very different from a fresh bud coming on which has a firm feeling when touched.
Iris flowerstems can be cut off at the ground. They will only continue to deteriorate so should be completely removed including the leaves that are attached to that stem. Often iris or daylilies will re-bloom again in the fall, if this is a feature of the plant, and cleaning off the spent flowerstems makes the plant put on a better display.
How much to cut off a plant is often confusing. If the plant has generous leaves near the ground, then the whole flower stalk can be cut back to the ground. If the plant has leaves that go up the stems, then just trimming out the old flowerhead is what is needed. The plant needs these leaves to sustain it through the rest of the summer.
Some plants like poppies and even some daylilies go dormant in the hot months of summer. Their leaves will yellow, turn brown and die off. These can be removed completely. The plant will regenerate new fresh leaves when the temperatures cool off to carry it into the winter.
Cleaning up the plants as they become disfigured keeps the garden looking good at all times and makes fall clean-up a bit easier to do. All good gardeners know that spending time in the garden on a regular basis is very therapeutic and relaxing.