Plant Information

Use the search box below to search plant information. Or choose a month from the drop down menu to view monthly garden checklists.

Smart Gardener

July

Season after season, our horticulturists come up with amazing plant combos for the beds, borders, and containers in their gardens.

And season after season, we see visitors pulling out smartphones and cameras to photograph and document those gorgeous combinations.

July Checklist

ClematisNewly planted trees, shrubs, perennials, and roses must receive 1 inch of water per week throughout their root zones. This is especially important in hot, dry weather.

Continue to cultivate and weed. The return of hot weather will certainly push weed growth.

If not done yet, mulch garden beds immediately after weeding with 2 to 4 inches of shredded bark. This is the best way to retain moisture and keep weeds under control.

Pruning JulyIf not done yet, renovate overgrown shrubs including redtwig dogwood, lilac, and forsythia by removing one-third of the oldest canes.

Prune out all ground-level sucker growth from crabapple, apple, plum, peach or apricot trees by cutting out growth below soil level.

Prune out weak, green but very fast-growing water sprouts that grow vertically from branches of fruit trees, redbuds, or other ornamental flowering trees.

If necessary, boxwood and yews can be lightly pruned to maintain geometric form. Avoid overpruning, especially in very sunny, hot weather.

Rose - JulyFertilize roses for the third and final time at the end of the month with a liquid 20-20-20 fertilizer. Do not fertilize after August 1.

Continue to deadhead roses by cutting flowers back to the first set of five leaflets.

Monitor roses closely for blackspot. Remove any leaves that show darkened circles with fuzzy margins on either the topside or underside of leaves; yellow foliage with dark spots; and any leaves that have already dropped from the plant. Begin a spray program with approved fungicides immediately. Always choose disease-resistant roses in the future.

Container garden JulyTo promote a second, late-summer flower show, cut back, shear, or remove flower spikes from the following early blooming perennials: catmint, geraniums, salvia, and delphiniums.

Annuals in containers and hanging baskets may require daily watering during hot or windy weather. Continue to fertilize container plants with half-strength balanced liquid, but avoid applying in the heat of the day or during long, hot dry spells. Always water plants before fertilizing.

Remove spent flowers or seedheads of daylilies immediately to conserve plant energy.

Monitor foliage of densely planted annuals and perennials that might show fungal attacks due to cool, damp weather earlier this season.

Continue to pinch out new growth of tall sedums, asters, and chrysanthemums until the middle of the month.

Stake tall plants, if necessary, by tying with soft nylon ties.

Continue to guide clematis vines and all other soft-stemmed vines to their supports.

Make note of empty spots in borders that might benefit from planting summer-flowering bulbs next year.

Seeds of perennials can be sown directly into the garden at this time. Note their location to avoid accidental "weeding" next spring.

If necessary, dig and divide Oriental poppies as their foliage yellows and dries. Always plant poppies in sunny, well-drained areas. Avoid moving them, if possible. Since poppies fade out by midsummer, plant annuals or later-blooming perennials in front of them to conceal their unattractive yellowing foliage.

The lush greenery that grew abundantly during a rainy spring might become a target for insects. Monitor closely but avoid drastic action or strong chemicals until insects are correctly identified. Many, like aphids, will go away with a strong stream of water from a hose. Aphids have many natural enemies and are rarely cause for harsh pesticides. When in doubt, visit Plant Information at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Do not fertilize lawns in summer. Early fall is the best time to apply a 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer.

During drought or times of water conservation, turf will go dormant, but the grass plants’ crowns will remain alive with only 1 inch of water.

Mow grass at a high level in hot summer, 2½ to 3 inches. Grass clippings can be left on the lawn and gently raked to avoid clumping.

Avoid using herbicides in hot weather. Always read directions carefully. Pull out annual weeds, such as crabgrass, before they go to seed.

HerbsContinue to harvest herbs to use fresh, and dry or freeze them in small batches in an ice cube tray. Pinch off developing flowers to retain essential oils and flavor in the plants’ foliage.

Monitor tomatoes during hot weather. Tomatoes appreciate an even supply of moisture rather than a heavy soaking and then a drought. Straw mulch is helpful in these beds.

Many hot-weather-loving veggies, such as peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers, might be delayed in fruit production due to a cool, wet spring. Side-dress these vegetables with a nitrogen fertilizer, taking care not to spread it on the plants’ foliage. Water in well.

Monitor vegetables for symptoms of fungus or blight: soft, darkened areas; yellow and dropping leaves; or sunken dark spots on otherwise green foliage.

Harvest onions and garlic as they are ready, and begin the drying process.

Seeds for fall crops may be sown toward the end of the month. These include beans, broccoli, spinach, cool-season lettuce crops, and cabbages.

Monitor all plants for insects. The return of sunny, hot weather will bring a bumper crop of insects. Hand-remove large insects such as tomato hornworms and other caterpillars.

Caterpillars on fennel, dill, and carrots might likely be those of swallowtail butterflies, which lay their eggs on these favorite host plants. Consider planting a special herb crop just for them next year.

Monitor apples during late July when apple maggots are laying their eggs. Visit Plant Information for current control methods. Some gardeners place red decoy apples in trees to trap these pests. When the insect count reaches a high level, control steps are then taken.

Espaliered fruit trees should be pruned for the second time once their spring flush of growth is over. The first pruning is done in late winter when plants are dormant.

orchid NovemberPlants brought indoors this fall might exhibit temporary “transplant shock” in their new environment due to changes in light and temperature. Sun-loving houseplants might suffer during cloudy winter season. If possible, consider supplemental artificial lights. Avoid overwatering houseplants. Cut back on fertilizer in general, except for plants intended to bloom all winter, such as miniature roses or geraniums.

Most houseplants appreciate a 10- to 15-degree difference in day and night temperature. Monitor plants for early signs of problems. When indoor heat is turned on, natural humidity disappears. Try to wash plants occasionally in a warm shower. Humidifiers and pebble trays can help raise humidity.

Pot up pretreated bulbs, such as amaryllis, paperwhite narcissus, and others, for holiday blooms.

Continue to fertilize orchids with very dilute orchid fertilizer until they set flower buds. Monitor orchid foliage to be sure it doesn’t scorch from exposure to direct southern sun.

Extra hardy bulbs not planted outside this month can be potted up and forced for indoor blooming. Plant bulbs in wide, shallow pots in a soilless mix. Large bulbs are planted side by side with just their tips showing. Little bulbs are planted with ½ inch of mix covering them. Water well and place pots in a refrigerator, cold frame, garage, or shed where the temperature remains between 35 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If storing in a refrigerator, cover pots with plastic wrap and avoid storing ripening fruit in same area. Some fruit releases ethylene gas, which inhibits flower formation. Major bulbs require 12 to 14 weeks of cold storage; little bulbs require a few weeks less. When pale yellow sprouts begin to show, pots can be brought out of cold storage into a bright but quite cool room (55 to 65 degrees F.) for about two weeks. As flower buds begin to develop, bring pots into a warmer room but avoid direct sunlight. Water as needed.

Pruning MarchWatch weather conditions for an appropriate window of time to spray fruit trees or large deciduous trees with dormant oil. Spray if aphids, scale, or mites were a problem in the past. Temperatures must be at least 40 degrees Fahrenheit with no chance of freezing or rain within the following 24 hours. Avoid spraying on a windy day. Certain trees have a phototoxicity to dormant oil and should not be sprayed. A few common ones are arborvitae, beech, red maple, Japanese maple, sugar maple smokebush, blue spruce, blue cultivars of juniper, and yew. Call Plant Information if in doubt.

To reduce the spread of oak wilt, all oak pruning should be completed in March, or before the oaks begin active growth. Pruning should not resume until after the first frost, or around November 1.

Prune fruit trees in early March on a dry day before buds swell. As with all pruning chores, sterilize pruning tools with a 10 percent solution of bleach before each cut. Prune out sucker growth, water sprouts, and any diseased or dead branches. Remove crossing branches, rubbing branches, or those that grow toward the center or the plant rather than outward, away from the interior. Fruit trees benefit from having their canopies opened up to permit more sunlight and air into their centers.

Prune spring-flowering trees and shrubs immediately after they flower to preserve this season’s flower display.

Prune roses when the forsythia begins to bloom. When pruning roses, make a 45-degree cut above a healthy bud, angled away from the center of the plant. If not done last fall, prune hybrid tea roses and grandiflora roses back to 12 inches to reinvigorate growth. Prune out dried, darkened, and broken canes and any dead tips. Prune shrub roses to remove dead wood and very lightly to shape to size.

Fertilize woody plants four to six weeks before they begin new growth only if they have shown signs that they could use it. These would include poor leaf color, failure to completely fruit or flower, or stunted growth. Use a slow-release granular fertilizer or an organic product and water in well. Do not fertilize newly planted trees or shrubs. Wait one year before making this application.

Plant trees and shrubs before they break bud and when soil conditions permit. If spring weather is unusually wet, consider planting in the fall when the plants begin their dormancy. With all woody plants, avoid planting too deep. Research indicates that more trees suffer from being planted too deep in the hole than any other problem. Plant with one-third of the root ball above ground. Taper soil away from the trunk back to ground level. Mulch the entire root zone with several inches of shredded or chipped bark.