(photo: Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue'.)

Q: I just read in the Aug. issue that I need to cut back my leggy annuals, such as salvia by one-third. Does that mean just one-third of the beautiful blooms or one-third of the whole plant? I don't like the thought of cutting off all the color. They will look scalped! Am I missing something here? Thanks for your help. Emily in Macon, GA

A: OK, here's the scoop. You don't have to cut back your summer-blooming salvias, especially if you're satisfied with the way they look. It's just that many gardeners find these salvias looking bedraggled by August, getting leggy and not blooming so much. In such a case, pruning them back encourages a new flush of growth with nice foliage and lots of blooms for the fall. So does feeding them now with a bloom-booster fertilizer. Cutting them back by a third means removing the top one-third of the plant, always cutting back to a node (the place on the stem where new leaves emerge). Sure, you'll lose blooms for a while, but you'll get even more blooms in return.

By the way, even if you don't cut back stems and foliage, always remove spent flowers from salvias to keep new flowers coming. Grumpy