Hot plants for the long hot summer


It’s July and the long, hot summer has settled in. The fresh spring blooms of azalea, rhododendron, dogwood and redbud are just a memory. Our gardens are beginning to look a little like us – wilted and tired! Wouldn’t it be great to enjoy vivid color in the midst of heat, humidity and drought? You can still have a spectacular garden in the late summer if you add some of the amazing variety of hot summer survivors that reward you with blooms until the first frost.

Many annuals and perennials have been bred for our extreme summer conditions. You can have instant color by planting 6-inch or larger transplants in prepared beds or in containers. Just remove bedraggled spring annuals, add a little compost and slow-release fertilizer to the garden bed and mix up the soil. Plant these showy summer plants, pour yourself a glass of iced tea, sit back and watch the show for the rest of the summer.

lantana 2Those of us who watched last summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing were amazed at the flower display. The Zahara® series of zinnia was mass-planted at the Games for eye-popping color. The flowers are large and disease tolerant and come in vibrant scarlet, orange, pink and a new white with pink variegation called ‘Starlight Rose.’

Gardening expert Steve Bender recently shared his “must have” plants for color and recommended the double blooms of the Torch Blanket Flower. These prolific bloomers award you with continual color and give the added benefit of attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. Look for the new ‘Torch Yellow’ and ‘Torch Red.’

One of my new favorites for summer color is the Serena® F1 series of angelonia. The new white angelonia was one of the 2008 winners of the Classic City Awards at the University of Georgia Trial Gardens in Athens. UGA professor and horticulturalist Dr. Allan M. Armitage says of the white angelonia, “the plants were completely covered in clean, pure white flowers for months, earning it this coveted award.”

ColeusNothing takes the heat and keeps on blooming better than lantana. ‘Miss Huff’ is the perennial lantana that will come back each year. It has an interesting combination of pink, orange and yellow flower clusters. Treat ‘New Gold’ lantana as an annual that will give you seven months of golden blooms. Lantana attracts butterflies and hummingbirds but does not attract deer!

The Dragon Wing® and Baby Wing® F1 series of begonia are hard to beat selections for the shade garden. It is always a challenge to find continual blooming plants that add a punch of color in shady conditions. These cheerful begonias look great in containers and hanging baskets.

Want more color and less maintenance? Forget blooms and think about adding plants with colorful foliage. The new Versa ™ collection and Kong® series of coleus offer an amazing variety of color combinations, from watermelon to lime green to burgundy to chocolate. There are coleus plants for sunny and shady conditions, so check the labels carefully.

The large, variegated leaves of the caladium offer unusual interest throughout the whole season. Leaf colors include pinks, roses, reds and whites. For the shade, you can purchase the ‘Pink Cloud’ or ‘Rosebud’ selections and for the sun, look for ‘Aaron’ and ‘Red Flash.’

Other favorite hot summer survivors include ‘Knockout’ roses, ‘Wave’ petunias, coreopsis, sunflowers, pentas, ornamental pepper, portulaca, mums, coneflowers and trailing vinca. Don’t wait – add some pop and sizzle to your garden with these hot summer survivors before the temperatures really start to sizzle!

Bonnie Helander

I am a writer and blogger with a specialty in gardening and a proud graduate of the University Of Georgia. I live in Peachtree City with husband, Dan, and enjoy hiking, gardening, being a member of the Peachtree City Garden Club and rooting for the Georgia Bulldogs!