Tips for Getting More Blooms From Your Perennials

Large flower summer garden
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A garden full of luscious blossoms is the dream of many gardeners (whether they garden organically or not). There's nothing quite as disappointing as a perennial that isn't blooming the way it should. We all have them: daylilies that seem to bloom like crazy in your neighbors' yards but give you just one wimpy flower per season, or roses that just don't live up to their reputation. Before giving up on them, try a few easy organic tricks to make your perennials bloom better.

Give Them Some Compost

Side-dressing your perennials with compost in early spring and again in autumn will give your perennials a nice, long-lasting nutrient boost, which will undoubtedly improve your plants' overall health. Blooming takes quite a bit of energy, and an unhealthy or undernourished plant just won't have sufficient energy to do the job. Apply an inch or so of compost, scratching it gently into the soil (be careful not to damage any roots!) all around the plant.

Provide Additional Nutrition

One of the essential nutrients required for flower production is phosphorous, which is indicated by the second number in the N-P-K ratio. So, to improve flower production, look for an organic fertilizer or soil amendment with a higher middle number. There are several commercial formulations on the market. Simply apply these according to the package instructions.

Mulch

Giving your perennials a 2-inch to 3-inch layer of mulch will improve the overall health of your plants, resulting in more blooms. Most perennials grow and bloom better when soil conditions are cooler, and a layer of mulch helps to keep the soil and roots cool. That same mulch will also maintain soil moisture, and adequate moisture helps keep perennials from becoming stressed. Plants that are under stress are more likely to shut down, halting growth and flowering and devoting more energy to root growth. Just be sure that you don't cover the crown with mulch because this can cause rot. Pull the mulch an inch or so back from the crown.

Pinch the Plant

Pinching a plant involves removing the growing tip of the stem and is best when performed regularly to keep perennials bushy and full (assuming that's desirable for the type of plant). Pinching forces the plant to divert its energy toward growing side shoots rather than growing taller. It also helps promote the growth of blooms. However, there is one drawback to pinching: it usually delays the blooms by a week or two. With late bloomers, like mums and asters, be sure to stop pinching by early summer to give the plants enough time to produce buds for fall blooms.

Pinching usually involves removing the top one to two inches of stem. Typically is it best to do this with pruners, but if the growth is very tender, you can simply pinch off the stems with your fingers.

As a Last Resort

If you've tried multiple remedies and don't see any improvement during the season, consider moving the plant to another location and see if it blooms better in the next season or two. Sometimes, it takes a little trial and error to find the perfect home for your plants.