Summer is a time to enjoy your garden in full bloom, but it can also bring its own set of challenges. Heat, drought and pests are just a few stressors plants can struggle with in the summer months. We’ve compiled some tips to address common summer gardening challenges to help you keep your garden looking great throughout the season.


Most of Illinois is still in a state of moderate to severe drought conditions according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. You may be seeing signs of it, even in your well established plants. Check your containers and garden beds regularly to assess watering needs. Containers can dry out more quickly as compared to plants in the ground.

Wilting leaves don’t always mean that a plant needs water. High temperatures can cause heat stress resulting in wilting leaves. If you already watered in the morning, hold off on watering again until the evening to see if your plants recover as the mercury goes down.

Over watering and under watering can often look the same in plants. It’s best to check the soil 1-2 inches below the surface to determine if watering is needed. For soil that is too wet resulting in wilted plants, pull the mulch away from the base of the plant to allow the soil to dry out before watering again. A soil moisture meter is a great tool for gardeners to quickly assess moisture levels by inserting it into the ground around your plants.

You can read more information on proper watering techniques here.


Deadheading spent blooms on your annuals and reblooming perennials will help promote new growth. Pinching back mums and asters by early to mid July will help these perennials set buds for fall. Annual flowers such as geraniums, zinnias and dahlias can be cut back to the next leaf node. Some annuals have a tendency to get “leggy,” such as petunia, calibrachoa and verbena.  These flowers can handle significant pruning by cutting back several leaf nodes to make the plant look bushy again.

Deadheading will help maintain a fresh, healthy look to your plants and will prevent excess debris from decomposing around the plant which can create an ideal environment for fungal and bacterial diseases.



Summer is still a great time to plant. It’s best to choose a cloudy day, or if you’re lucky, a day that has rain in the forecast. If your plants are in bloom, be gentle with the roots, and if you are willing, remove the flowers so the plant can send more energy to establishing its roots.  For plants that are not in bloom, tease the roots to loosen them and encourage them to spread out in the soil.

For more information on planting best practices, see our detailed planting instructions.


Not all bugs are bad or destructive to our plants. In fact, some bugs are a gardener’s best ally in the garden. For example, this picture of a ladybug larva is an effective defense against aphids. Spiders, green lacewing, soldier beetles, hoverflies and parasitic wasps, are just a few of the beneficial insects that prey on unwanted pests in the garden.  If you are finding significant damage being done to your plants, check the underside of leaves for eggs or unwanted visitors. Eggs of unwanted pests can be easily smashed with your fingers or the affected leaves can be removed. Larger bugs, such as Japanese beetles can be easily plucked from your plants and put into a cup of soapy water.

Just like every bug is not bad, not every leaf spot is bad either. The Morton Aboretum offers up-to-date disease and insect pest reports for northeastern Illinois so you can be on the lookout for common issues in our area throughout the growing season. If you are unsure what is affecting your plant, you can always bring in a sample in a sealed bag or email us a picture.

More Summer Gardening Questions?

Get answers from our Top 10 Summer Gardening Questions or visit us at our Aurora (p:630-820-8088) or Naperville (p:630-355-4000) location. We are open 7 days a week, Monday-Wednesday, Saturday Sunday 10am-5pm; Thursdays 10am-6pm.