by Amanda Moon
As the annual summer roasting of Central Texas begins, this seems like a good time to ask which plants can take the heat and brighten up our landscapes at this time of year. There are plenty actually!
Driving around town in the midsummer months, it’s hard to miss the bright yellow blooms of the Esperanza (aka Yellow Bells, also in orange) and the en masse red and orange colors of the Pride of Barbados. These large growing perennials are always the first go-to for summer color, and they rarely disappoint.
But they’re not the only options out there. From trees to ground covers, many of our drought-tolerant stars are still blooming late into the summer, and some are just getting going for the season.
Crape Myrtles are wonderful additions to any landscape that needs a little summer pick-me-up. They’re fast growers, good for creating privacy in a garden, and are quite drought-tolerant once established.
Crapes come in a wide selection of colors and sizes, from the white blooming larger tree Natchez, to the smaller Red Rocket and Dynamite. Let them grow naturally and they won’t let you down.
Cenizo Sage (aka Purple or Texas Sage) will burst into bloom any time it rains, covering itself in purple flowers. That means any summer rain will send these shrubs into their full display no matter the temperatures. I like to have these large beauties as specimens, letting them grow into their natural form.
Some of my top color choices for smaller beds and lower plantings include Plumbago, Calylophus, Bat-faced Cuphea, 4-Nerve Daisy and Lantana.
Plumbago can’t be beat for its sky blue flowers. It’s not a tall perennial, topping out at about 2 ½ feet, but can spread twice as wide if allowed. They bloom from spring to frost.
Bat-faced Cuphea will also grow to roughly the same dimensions as Plumbago, but instead of bright blue flowers this unique plant offers deep red and purple flowers shaped like little bats. This little beauty also blooms all season long.
Calylophus and 4-Nerve Daisy are perfect for tight sunny spots. These yellow blooming wildflowers are evergreen, low-growing and bloom most of the growing season. They can handle the heat and drought, and deer won’t touch them.
Lantana is another fabulous summer blooming perennial. There are several cultivars out now that don’t get quite as large as the traditional varieties (New Gold, Dallas Red, Irene etc.), and new introductions come out every spring. When planted in full sun, most lantanas will bloom spring to frost with little outside intervention.
Just getting started for the season, Mexican Mint Marigold and its relative Copper Canyon Daisy are great additions to any landscape. Their golden daisy flowers can be seen from a distance and both are quite deer-resistant.
The Mint Marigold (or Texas Tarragon) works well in medium beds and herb gardens and is a nice substitution for French Tarragon, which struggles in our heat and humidity. Copper Canyon is only about 3’ high, but can spread out wide so give it lots of leg room.
The mistflowers are also just getting started as the hottest part of the summer hits. My two favorites are Gregg’s and White Mistflowers. Both are an integral part of any butterfly garden and will grow in full to morning sun. Gregg’s is a shorter, traveling plant with purple flowers atop spikes of foliage.
It can be invasive but the butterflies love it, so plant accordingly. White Mistflower, on the other hand, is a large full shrub 4’ tall and 6’-8’ wide. It will cover itself in white flowers from late summer into fall and attract every butterfly from miles around.
Though our heat can be oppressive this time of year, there are still some wonderful landscape plants that can bring summer joy even on the hottest, driest days. Even if you only have room for one or two, those small changes can brighten up an otherwise bloomless summer landscape. Happy gardening everyone!
If you have a gardening question, send it to me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. (Please put ‘Ask Chris Winslow’ in the subject line.) Or mail your letter or postcard to: Ask Chris Winslow. It’s About Thyme: 11726 Manchaca Road, Austin, TX 78748