The Perfect Plants for Hot Summer Weather
Discover the best summer perennial flowers, plants that strut their stuff when temperatures soar.
High heat and drought have turned my lawn into a crispy affair that actually crunches underfoot. Despite the desert-like conditions, my new perennial bed is awash with color, thanks to tough-as-nails plants that flower through high heat, humidity and drought. One of the champions in the summer show is purple coneflower.
Thanks to intensive breeding efforts, purple coneflower blooms in a host of fruit salad colors, including shades of tangerine, lemon yellow, raspberry red and kiwi green. I’m partial to the deep pinks, like ‘Pow Wow Wildberry’ and this gem, ‘Sensation Pink’ (above). The new coneflowers boast a variety of traits, including long-lasting flowers, fragrance and short size. There’s definitely a coneflower to fit every taste. Read on to see what else is blooming in the midst of summer’s hot, dry afternoons.
This perennial showstopper, also known as rose mallow, is related to Chinese or tropical hibiscus. Like its cousin, perennial hibiscus blooms open and last for one day. ‘Vintage Wine’ hibiscus showcases the latest in breeding breakthroughs, displaying 7-inch-wide blossoms on a 4-foot-tall, bushy plant. Flowers cover stems from top to bottom, making this perennial a true traffic stopper. It’s a favorite stop for hummingbirds. Perennial hibiscus makes a late appearance in spring. I like to mark where it grows—otherwise by mid-spring I think I have a plant that didn’t survive winter.
If you love fresh garden bouquets, make room for dahlias. The flowers come in a wide variety of hues, forms and sizes. I love the dinnerplate types for their larger-than-life flowers. Dahlias do their thing once soil temps warm. In the heat of summer, these bloomers handily steal the garden show. Dahlias are hardy only in Zones 8 to 10, so for much of the country they need a late spring planting followed by a pre-fall frost digging. Dahlias grow well in containers, too.
Bring on the heat, and you’ll see daylily buds bursting like popcorn. One of the garden’s low-maintenance perennials, daylilies open in a rainbow of colors, and you can find ones that are short, tall, fragrant or reblooming. ‘Happy Returns’ combines repeat blooming and fragrance. The trick to the strongest flower show from summer heat until frost is deadheading. Remove spent blooms at least every third day.
‘Blue Fortune’ Agastache
It’s tough to beat agastache for long-lasting color—not just from its flowers, but also from the butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators it brings to the garden. The actual blossoms are tiny and purple, but the flowerheads are long and lavender tinted. The color isn’t strong compared to the bright reds and golds that dominate the summer garden, but it’s long lasting and consistent. In my garden, as soon as seeds form, goldfinches perch on the lavender flower heads, adding another note of color—and song—to the scenery.
Easy growing, dependable color—that’s what black eyed susan brings to the garden. Flowers start opening just as summer heat arrives, and they keep on coming right up to frost. The one drawback to the dark eyed beauty is its ability to multiply and, if it’s happy, take over in a garden. Pull seedlings with a free hand in spring. The only problem I’ve ever had with black eyed susan is that rabbits and even squirrels tend to nibble the young growth in spring. I usually cover mine with bird netting until leaves are more mature and sufficiently hairy-prickly to discourage hungry critters.