In the Dirt – Plant Something Hot This Summer!

Give your garden an infusion of color that peaks now that summer turns up the heat. Ray Greenstreet gives some inspiration of what to plant.

The exotic Hibiscus loves water and rewards you with 10-inch-plus-wide blooms open from mid- to late summer. (Photos courtesy of Greenstreet Gardens)

By Ray Greenstreet

Alexandria, VA – Give your garden an infusion of color that peaks now that summer turns up the heat. These perennial late bloomers dress the summer garden with reliable color. Take advantage of summer’s sizzle by planting heat-loving perennials, such as black-eyed Susan, cosmos, and ornamental grasses. Here’s a quick overview of some terrific perennials that thrive when the temperature soars:

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

Drought-tolerant, and deer-resistant, Russian Sage looks great with ornamental grasses, coneflower, and dark-leafed coral bells. (Photos courtesy of Greenstreet Gardens)

Lacy, silvery foliage showcases lavender flowers on plants that are low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and deer-resistant. Give Russian sage dry, alkaline to average soil. This beauty looks great with ornamental grasses, coneflower, and dark-leafed coral bells. Dark mulch contrasts nicely with Russian sage.

Goldsturm black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’)

Interject sunny splashes of gold with black-eyed Susan blooms, which beckon butterflies and bees. Goldfinches feast on seedheads. Blooms make wonderful cut flowers; plant extra so you can gather summer bouquets. Black-eyed Susan combines well with Russian sage, ornamental grasses, or coneflower.

Dwarf fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’)

Give your garden a grassy touch with the tidy clumps of Hameln fountain grass. The foliage of this perennial grass grows 20-30 inches tall; when the fuzzy, bottlebrush seedheads start appearing in midsummer, they add another 10 inches to plant height. Plants are deer-resistant and drought-tolerant once established.

Hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos)

Add a tropical flair with the exotic-looking flowers of hardy hibiscus. The 10-inch-plus-wide blooms open from mid- to late summer. This beauty needs consistently moist soil; water during dry spells. Plant with hydrangea, Siberian iris, and joe-pye weed for a long-season color combination.

But it’s August, right? Surviving 100-degree temperatures isn’t just hard on you—it takes a toll on your landscape too. Give your new plantings a fighting edge by taking these simple steps.

Water! Water! Water! It will get all of us and your garden through these hot late summer days. (Photos courtesy of Greenstreet Gardens)

Water wisely. When possible, water plants early in the day to assure that water doesn’t evaporate before soaking into soil. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation apply water most efficiently, delivering it directly to soil. If possible, place soaker hoses beneath mulch. Landscape plants need roughly 1 inch of water per week, either from rainfall or irrigation.

Add mulch. A 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch on planting beds helps soil retain moisture. Choose pine bark or hardwood mulch—not wood chips—to avoid attracting termites. Keep mulch away from tree or shrub trunks; no mulch volcanoes!

Tackle weeds. High temps speed weeds along in setting seeds. Pull or dig offenders before they set seed. If you can’t remove the entire plant, cut off the maturing flowers before the seeds ripen.

Be sure to enjoy your garden this season and plant bursts of color that will flourish in the summertime sun!

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