Beat the Heat with these Summer Bloomers

Summer, especially in the South, can take its toll on plants and gardeners alike

The good news is that there are a number of plants that take the heat and don’t miss a beat. This group of top notch performers includes annuals, perennials, bulbs, shrubs andtrees. Some bloom for weeks and others continue well into fall. An added bonus is that some of these “good doers,” like gardenias offer fragrant flowers too.

I still remember the gardenia my grandmother grew in her garden in south Florida. I don’t know what the cultivar was but the scented flowers were delightful. A large shrub it took up a corner of her backyard. For a more compact selection that reblooms, try Jubilation gardenia. Maturing at 3 to 4’ tall and 3’ wide, this gardenia will perfume your landscape from spring through summer. Make sure to site it so that you can easily appreciate its delicious perfume. For something different, use it for a low evergreen hedge. For a contrast, combine it with large dark leaved Cannas and tall fragrant hybrid lilies.

For some gardeners it wouldn’t be summer without crapemyrtles. Often though, crapemyrtles become large trees that require lots of pruning to keep them in bounds. If you love Crapemyrtle blooms but have limited space try Delta Jazz. This selection offers pink blooms and dark burgundy foliage. Maturing at 6 to 10’ tall, it is easy to use in the flower garden in combination with sun loving perennials and annuals.

Old fashioned, crinum lilies have been grown for generations in Southern gardens and with good reason. Blooming in summer, Crinum ‘Ellen Bosanquet’ produces large burgundy trumpets which rise above clumps of glossy, lush foliage. This sturdy perennial will form a large clump in short order and requires a minimum of care. In spring it provides the perfect backdrop for the fragrant bulb Grand Primo Narcissus.

Rain lilies are among the easiest bulbs to grow, and Zephyranthes grandiflora the Pink Rain lily blooms in summer and fall, often following a rain. Tuck them in the front of the flower border or plant them between stepping stones. This bulb grows to 6” tall and forms clumps of grass-like foliage that looks good even when the plant is not blooming. 

Heliotropium amplexicaule ‘Azure Skies’ is a heat tolerant perennial, producing clusters of lavender flowers from spring until fall. This heliotrope is reported to be “deer resistant.” An American native, it has a spreading habit and grows 12 to 14” tall. Plant it in the front of shrubs or trees; combine it with other perennials, annuals or, ornamental grasses like Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gold Breeze,’ which has variegated foliage and gold feathery blooms in August.

If your garden looks lackluster in the middle of summer, give it a lift by adding containers with colorful combinations of annuals, perennials, shrubs and bulbs. A combination that I recently planted up for my front porch includes and a dwarf pomegranate. The vivid flowers of Mandevilla complement the orange flowers of thedwarf pomegranate , Punica granatum ‘Orange Blossom Special.’ The pomegranate matures at 2-3’ wide and tall, making it ideal for container gardens.