Timely Garden Tasks for Late August — Water, Weed, and Groom

August 22, 2012 | By | Comments (11)

Ugly, parched dogwood. Photo by Steve Bender

If you love your dogwood, keep it watered. Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) may be native to the South, but it’s shallow-rooted and hates drought. If you let go into a full wilt, its leaves will brown and scorch and stay that way until the fall. Plus, the tree might not flower next spring and could simply croak. So anytime you see it with wilted leaves in the morning, water it until the soil is moist several inches down.


Photo courtesy of cricketbread.com

Weeds don’t quit, so don’t you either. Keep pulling them in your garden beds before they can set seed. Otherwise, you’ll be dealing with millions of stinking seedlings next spring. Even drive-me-nuts-until-I-want-to-punch-baby-seals weeds like nutgrass(shown here) can be gradually controlled if you’ll just pull a dozen or so every morning. I’ve done it, so I know. Just look that weed square in the face and say, “Son, my middle name is Tenacity.”

Grumpy loves butterfly bush (Buddleia sp.), because it comes in many colors,butterflies love it, and it’s one of the few shrubs that blooms all summer and fall. But summer’s heat and drought takes a toll by late August. So gives yours a little trim, removing gangly, overgrown branches, scorched foliage, and spent blooms. It’ll quickly send out new fresh growth and blooms for the fall.

Butterfly bush

Butterfly bush. Photo by Steve Bender


  1. Steve Bender

    You can spray the spurge with Bayer Advanced Natria Grass & Weed Killer. It is a natural product and won’t adversely affect the soil. You can get this at most garden centers.

    August 29, 2012 at 12:54 pm
  2. Jane Carr

    Grumpy: I have a bed filled with spurge. How can I get rid of it? I want to plant vegetables in the bed next spring so I don’t want to use chemicals that would be harmful. Help!!


    August 29, 2012 at 4:02 am
  3. Steve Bender

    Way until it drops its leaves this fall to move it. You can cut it back at any time if you want.

    You can trim back your butterfly bush right now to make it tidier. Then in late winter, give it a hard pruning, cutting it back to 1-2 feet. The tree you think looks like butterfly bush is probably chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus). It likes full sun and well-drained soil.

    If you’ll enter “hydrangea” into the search box, you’ll see a comprehensive post I wrote earlier in the year about how to prune hydrangeas.

    Does your butterfly bush get plenty of sun? It likes full sun.

    There is a product you can buy in the big box stores called Image that kills nutgrass. But read the label carefully, because there are different varieties of Image that kill different weeds.

    We’ll get working on it!

    August 27, 2012 at 12:56 pm
  4. Kay

    What has happened to Rex Begonias. They are such an interesting and beautiful plant that
    everyone had years ago. Please do an article on them. I have almost pulled up new plants
    with diligent weeding so I try to let them grow a bit now to be sure.

    August 26, 2012 at 8:05 pm
  5. Paula Seigler Beckham

    Anna, while you’re waiting for the grumpster, I agree with Roy and believe the tree you saw was probably Vitex agnus-castus, also known as chaste tree. It is more upright than butterfly bush and also less susceptible to broken limbs. It does not have as long a bloom time, however.

    August 23, 2012 at 11:30 am
  6. Dolly Sarrio

    Grumpy, I wish you would come to South Carolina and help me pull nutgrass…..Question is pulling about the only way to rid garden of that mess? Thanks

    August 23, 2012 at 7:03 am
  7. shirley

    i have a butterfly bush that grow and grows and has big long viens on it and isnt b looming anymore what could be wrong with it i cut it down low and ina month back up to the tall size again still no flowers…

    August 23, 2012 at 12:48 am
  8. Kathleen

    What about my hydranga bush it is very large, about 5 years old and I never know when to trim it back. I live in Maryland….

    August 22, 2012 at 5:47 pm
  9. roy

    If the tree you saw had purple or white flowers, it was probably a Chast Tree or Vitex agnus castus. They’re native to the Mediterranean but do well in the lower south.

    August 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm
  10. Anna

    Thanks for the tip, especially on the butterfly bushes. We planted some this spring and they are getting big. We were wondering when the best time would be for trimming. Also, we saw some small trees that VERY closely resembled out butterfly bushes except that they were small trees-shaped very nicely. Do you have any info, or a recommended site, on this? Is it in fact the same plant, as I have never heard of a butterfly tree?

    August 22, 2012 at 9:04 am
  11. Loretta

    Love your gardening articles….and your sense of humor! Question: I have a knock-out rose that hates it’s mostly shady location. Looks like an unkempt 13 year old….all legs and stringy! When can I safely move it to a sunnier spot in the yard without doing it in?

    August 22, 2012 at 8:18 am

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