Tips for Central California Gardeners

Summer Care for Flowers of Drought-Tolerant Plants

By Elinor Teague

Native California plants and drought-tolerant plants can be more heat-tolerant than other varieties, but July’s really hot
day and nighttime temperatures will stress them as well. High summertime temperatures cause the buds of flowering
perennials and annual plants to quickly open and die. Deadheading spent flowers during our scorching summers,
prevents plants from setting seed. Plants which have “gone to seed” during the summer, will slow flower and foliage
production so that when growth resumes at normal speed, as temperatures cool in September, those plants will not
rebloom and re-leaf well. The flowers of many drought-tolerant and native plants provide pollen and nectar food for
pollinators – another reason to keep the plants blooming in summer.

Deadheading requires some basic knowledge of that individual plant and its’ flowering seasons, growth habits and stem formations. If you have questions about how best to deadhead the flowering plants in your garden, the docents and Master Gardeners who tend to the Clovis Botanical Garden will be glad to show the proper techniques. Bringing in a sample of your plant will be a great help in identifying it. Here are a few examples of different deadheading techniques for common native or drought-tolerant plants that do well in our climate.

  • Lavender: Lavender flower stems should be cut off at the junction where the long, straight stem meets the foliage. Some lavender varieties, including ‘Grosso’ as well as Spanish lavenders, will have a second bloom in the fall. Be careful when shearing spent flowers, since cutting into lavender wood will distort the natural shape of the plant and remove flowering wood.
  • Salvia: Salvias differ greatly in flowering habits. In general, most salvia stems should be cut back by one-third after flowering has finished. Some varieties flower at the tip, and only that dead tip should be removed. Dead stalks on some varieties like ‘Autumn’ sage should be cut off at their base. Removing dead stems at the base helps to regenerate new growth that will keep sages in bloom for months.
  • Succulents: Spent flower stalks on most succulent varieties are cut off at the base.
  • Nepeta or Catmint: Nepeta or catmint will produce side stems off the main stem if the spent flowering tips of the stem is removed. Flowering slows in July and August but will increase in the fall.

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