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When August rolls around, I’m thankful for the useful plants that thrive in the heat, Especially the ones that are drought tolerant!

Watering, weeding and insect patrol seem to be at the top of the list for August gardening chores. Weeds can be water and nutrient thugs, and insects can come calling the minute we turn our heads.

We have a unique, old-fashioned plant that is blooming around here at this time. Beautiful soft-pink surprise lilies, Lycoris squamigera, are usually in a group and are definitely attention getting. They aren’t lilies. Some people call them naked ladies, because there is no foliage with the tall stem, but I think they are as elegant as orchids.

 They are wonderful as cut flowers and worthy of a crystal vase. The bulbs won’t usually be found in stores, so the best way to get them is from a friend. The strap-like foliage comes up in spring, and then it dies back to the ground. The stems seem to appear from the ground overnight in late July or early August, bearing five to seven blooms at the top of each tall stem. They bloom best in full to partial sun, almost any soil, multiply like daffodils, and the hummingbirds visit mine every day.

Lightly pruning roses at this time can give you more blooms in cooler fall weather. Trim off dead flowers, dead wood and shape the plant. Mid-August is the cutoff to use nitrogen fertilizer. Roses are heavy feeders and need proper watering to bloom well. The extra work can be rewarding.

Herb cuttings can be taken now to make new plants for next year. Root them in pots or in a cold frame. Be sure to preserve some of your herbs so there will be enough on hand until next year. Most can be dried or frozen, and now is a good time to make herbal vinegars in pretty bottles.

It’s time to deadhead or cut back the leggy, tired annuals and perennials to rejuvenate and keep their blooms coming. Hanging baskets and containers will be good candidates for this. Of course, some plant food for blooms will help. Petunias, and others, can be beautiful again in two weeks. Consider saving any seeds that are dry enough. Put them in paper envelopes so they won’t mold.

Cool season vegetables will need to be planted soon. If planted in fall, the insects won’t be here like they are in spring. Watch for the hornworm on tomatoes, peppers, and some other vegetables. If you’ve been seeing a cute moth that reminds you of a hummingbird, you may find its’ offspring eating your plants.

Tomato hornworms have a blue horn and tobacco hornworms have a red horn. Their stripes are also different. They can’t sting, but they terrify me. Memories of tobacco fields of long ago!

Begonias of all types hold up well in summer’s heat, and I especially love the hardy begonia, B. grandis. It’s another pass-along plant that’s hard to find, so it’s one to share with friends who have shade gardens. It grows well with Heucheras, Hostas, Ferns, spring Phlox, and Tiarellas, and will return every year with blooms from July until frost.

Happy gardening.

Gardening Partners is a non-profit founded in 2003 to serve Dickson County with gardening education and advice. Readers may submit gardening questions by email:, on the website:, or by mail:  PO Box 471 Dickson TN 37056

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