It’s hard to believe, but in just a couple weeks, summer will be over—at least for those of you who have children going back to school. In reality, though, summer in our corner of the world typically runs from July through September, so summer is only halfway over. Now the big question: are your flowers looking up to the challenge of the second half of summer weather? If not, here are a few ways to freshen things up. 
First, you may have a pot or two that falls into the “hopeless” category. Fortunately, there are plenty of great summer-blooming perennials just coming into color to help fill your containers.
‘Little Goldstar’ Rudbeckia
Rudbeckia, commonly known as “black-eyed susan,” is a great choice for landscape plantings, but for containers, an excellent dwarf option is ‘Little Goldstar.’ This brand-new rudbeckia is well-branched, blooms prolifically in late summer and tops out at just over a foot tall. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out at Vander Giessen’s—‘Little Goldstar’ is sure to become a must-have for perennial lovers.
Another great option for your plantings that will add plenty of color for late summer is echinacea, or coneflower. Traditionally, this perennial was only available in varied shades of pink; however, recent innovations have greatly broadened the color selections. With names like ‘Salsa Red,’ ‘Sandy Yellow,’ and ‘Pow Wow Wild Berry,’ there are plenty of fun, colorful choices available. My favorite this summer is another new introduction called ‘Solar Flare.’ Boasting huge neon red flowers that age to a dusky rose, this echinacea will liven up even the most sad-looking container.
‘Firefly’ summer heather
If you like the look of summer flowers but want to also enjoy evergreen foliage, summer-blooming heathers might be a great choice. Bloom times vary, but most summer heather varieties bloom during August and September—a time of year when most evergreens don’t. Summer heather blooms in many different shades but also has great variety in foliage color. ‘Winter Chocolate’ has pink flowers set on lime-green foliage that turns beautiful bronze in winter. ‘Spring Torch’ has mauve flowers on bright green foliage; in early spring, the new growth turns bright pink or red at the tips. ‘Firefly’ is another great option for year-round color with lavender flowers in summer followed by brick-red foliage in winter and orange-yellow tones in spring. 
Now, if you’re not ready to give up on the plants you have, there are some great ways to bring them around. If you haven’t already, switch from all-purpose fertilizer to Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster or Petunia Feed to give your flowers an added boost and bring on bigger, healthier flowers. If you’re battling bugs in your pots, skip the spraying and use Bayer Insect Control spikes. These easy-to-use plant spikes can be pushed into the soil of your pots to provide up to eight weeks of systemic insect control, which will easily carry you through the rest of the growing season. 
Finally, whatever you do to freshen up your containers, keep up on watering. On warm days, soak your plants early in the morning to sustain them through the heat of the day; if needed, supplement your containers with a second watering in evening. As long as you have good, well-drained potting soil, the chances of overwatering on sunny August days are pretty slim. 
Soon enough, summer’s warm days will be behind us and a new season will begin. In the meantime, though, make the most of the nice weather with a trip to Vander Giessen Nursery to see what options you have for fresh summer color in your containers.