Fill your gardening space, large or small, with sun-loving plants that can take the heat. Colorful flowers and bold foliage please the eye and offer butterflies and other pollinators a place to park and soak up nectar.
Well-established plants have the root systems to endure heat stress. But, busy gardeners take heart, late summer is still not too late to get annuals and perennials in the ground, as long as they’re able to get sufficient water for a couple weeks while they’re getting settled. Setting heat-loving annuals in planters may be the best option, with a cozy foundation of well-draining potting soil, frequent fertilizing and watering.
Tip: Many plants can go with less water during the summer, but they will still need fertilizer. Mix up a balanced liquid fertilizer at half-strength and apply frequently.
Plants that like it hot
1. Ornamental grasses really prove their mettle in late summer. Most ornamental grasses ask for little more than room to grow and average soil. Once established, they are low-maintenance and resilient. You can show ornamental grasses some love by pruning back in the fall or early spring, and fertilizing annually.
Choose the best ornamental grass for your garden.
2. Lantana. This plant produces clusters of brilliant blooms, usually variegated red, yellow, pink and orange on woody stems. Lantana is salt-tolerant, making it a favorite in coastal quarters. A little light pruning in season may be necessary, but lantana is resilient once established.
Lucky southern gardeners can grow lantana as a perennial in USDA Hardiness zones 8 to 11. In zones further north, lantana makes a fine annual.
3. Daylilies may be the perfect perennial: reliable, colorful, adaptable to a variety of conditions. They are not true lilies like Asiatic and Oriental lilies (genus lilium) that grow from bulbs. Daylilies (genus hemerocallis) are widely cultivated, so there’s always a daylily to add sparkle to your late summer flower border.
Plant daylilies in well-draining soil amended with compost. Give them a two-inch layer of mulch to slow evaporation during the heat of summer.
4. Limelight Hydrangea. There’s always room for hydrangeas in the garden, but “Limelight” is extra special. Limelight hydrangea from Proven Winners has clusters of celadon green flowers that age to pink, red and burgundy. Limelight is drought-tolerant and will come back every year in hardiness zones 3 to 9.
Give Limelight hydrangea partial to full sun and moist, well-drained soils. This shrub grows six to eight feet tall, and if that’s too big for your space, take heart, and look for “Little Lime” hardy hydrangea. This little sister grows three to five feet tall and can be grown in a container.
5. Rudbeckia (Brown-eyed Susans), coreopsis (tickseed) and coneflower (echinacea). These vigorous performers are designed to endure the late summer doldrums. Alone or together, they are reliably perennial in zones 4 to 8, with some selections hardy to zone 3. This trio is know for deer resistance, drought tolerance and being irresistible to butterflies.
Rudbeckia, coreopsis and coneflower also play well together, with companionable colors, textures and soil requirements. Give them well-draining soil amended with compost and a blanket of mulch to keep the roots cool.
6. Coleus. This plant is so generous and forgiving that frequent watering hardly seems like too much to ask of the gardener. The gasp-worthy coleus foliage is a bonus. As temperatures increase in summer, coleus sends up flower stalks. They attract pollinators, but also make the plant leggy. Frequently pinch leaves back to keep the plant in shape.
Coleus is ridiculously easy to propagate: just pinch back new leaves and stick in good quality, damp potting mix. Keep out of the sun for a few days, until the shoot roots, then move to partial or full sun.
More Heat-Loving Favorites:
- Dusty Miller
- Ice Plant
- New Guinea impatiens
- Rose of Sharon (hibiscus)
How to Plant in Late Summer
Late summer isn’t too late to plant flowers and shrubs, as long as you’re willing to water. Rainfall will supplement, but you’ll need to commit to watering several times a week to reduce heat stress on the plant. Larger plants and shrubs need even more water. As the weather cools, you can taper off the watering schedule.
- Purchase healthy, well-watered plants. Read the plant tag and look for drought-tolerant or heat-tolerant.
- Amend your garden soil with compost to improve drainage. If planting in containers, use a potting mix with moisture control to help keep water in and feed the roots for less frequent watering.
- Dig a hole as deep as the container and twice as wide.
- Mix organic compost into the soil.
- Use a garden trowel to dig individual holes, or a shovel to dig a bed for a lot of plants.
- Grasp the plant container in one hand and squeeze to loosen the plant. Gently remove the plant from the container and tease out the roots.
- Plant the flowers as deep as the container they were in, fill the hole with remaining soil and gently pat down around the roots.
- Water thoroughly.
- Mulch a couple inches around the new plants to retain moisture.