Six on Saturday: Taking Some Heat!

Lantana thrives in full sun to partial shade and blooms from late May until frost, attracting butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators.  This tough woody shrub tolerates many types of soil and is drought tolerant once established.  You may need to prune to control size on vigorous plants.  Choose from many colors and forms.  I use a trailing purple or white Lantana in hanging baskets, too.  Newer cultivars are winter hardy in Zone 7.

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The dash thermometer clicked up from 90 to 91F as we entered the shade of our neighborhood, returning home from some quick errands.  It was only 10:30 in the morning.

Our overnight low was in the 80s, with a high dew point and humidity.  Not surprisingly, many plants suffer in the heat, even when growing in the shade, just as much as our pets and ourselves.

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Rudbeckia species grow exuberantly in our summer heat and bloom from July through October, continuously producing new flower buds.  Grow in average soil in full sun to partial shade.  These natives will reseed and spread annually.  This is Rudbeckia hirta, black-eyed Susan, growing with Salvia.  Most Salvias also shrug off heat and humidity to bloom throughout the summer.  Choose carefully, as some prefer a drier climate and won’t like wet soil.

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When you read a plant tag, you’ll notice a range of zones where a plant will thrive.  It is smart to select plants that will still grow in a zone or two higher than where you garden. (I live in Zone 7b, so I want a plant rated at least to Zone 8, if not to Zone 9.)

Yes, summer heat can kill a plant just as surely as winter’s chill.  Even if the heat doesn’t kill a plant, it can weaken it to the point where disease, especially bacterial blights that thrive on humidity and wet plant tissue, will quickly finish it off.

This is the third summer in a row where an otherwise healthy looking potted Hellebore suddenly turned brown and expired.  I just moved the pot into deeper shade and crossed my fingers that the roots might survive, even as the leaves shrivel.   I believe that long stretches of intense heat and humidity may be too much for some Hellebore cultivars, especially when left in a pot through the summer.

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Agastache ‘Rosey Posey’ is one of many cultivars of this ornamental herb that thrive in humidity and heat, blooming continuously all summer.  Many bright colors are available in shades of blue, purple, white, pink and orange.  Grow in full sun to partial shade.  Keep your camera handy to capture the many butterflies drawn to Agastache.

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A gardener’s challenge is always to choose the right plant for the right place.  Just as we consider which plants will overwinter in our garden, it is smart to also notice which plants thrive in July and August.

Just because we ‘think’ a plant will survive all summer; just because a particular plant has done well in previous summers, doesn’t mean that we can expect great performance as our climate warms.  It is smart to choose varieties which aren’t susceptible to mildews and rots, whose foliage can withstand plenty of heat and humidity, and that can weather wet summer storms.

Those living closer to the coast may also need to consider salt tolerance, as storm surge, flooding and windblown sea spray bring more salt into our gardens.

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Native Hibiscus or naturalized tree hibiscus provide bright pops of color in July and August.  Tree hibiscus blooms for months, but herbaceous Hibiscus may bloom for only a few weeks.  Tropical Hibiscus grown in pots and brought in during the winter will also provide lots of summer color in sun to partial shade.

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What a disappointment when we buy lots of pretty flowering plants in April and May, only to watch them waste away by mid-July.  No amount of optimism and TLC can counteract the realities of how the weather affects different plants.

So the smart gardener chooses resilient, heat tolerant plants from the beginning.  Here are a few that grow well for us.  Your list may be different depending on where you live.  But as we all experience warmer and wetter summers than we have had in past years, we may need to discover some new plants to keep our gardens healthy and beautiful.

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Verbena bonariensis is a South American species that performs extremely well in coastal Virginia.  There is also a tall native Verbena hastata, as well as trailing Verbenas for pots, hanging baskets and ground covers.  All produce flowers that attract pollinators and hold their intense color for a long time, regularly sending up new flowers until frost.

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Woodland Gnome 2019
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Caladium ‘Burning Heart’ in one of hundreds of varieties that thrive in heat and humidity.  Each leaf lasts for many weeks, and plants continue to produce new leaves until November.  Flowers are insignificant, but the leaves offer bright pops of color in partial shade.  Newer varieties will grow in full sun, some older ones want full shade.   All are heat lovers, rated for Zones 9-11, and want constant moisture and rich soil.  Dig tubers before frost to save for next summer.

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“Resilience is accepting your new reality,
even if it’s less good than the one you had before.
You can fight it,
you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost,
or you can accept that
and try to put together something that’s good.”
.
Elizabeth Edwards

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Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator.

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About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

One response to “Six on Saturday: Taking Some Heat!

  1. Have you seen pictures of Trona in the News? That place is bleak. I was looking at real estate there earlier. Not only is it extremely hot all summer, but the ground is saline and toxic with all sorts of caustic minerals. ICK! It makes one appreciate their own climates.

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