When the heat of summer sets in, we see a dramatic shift in the garden. Plants that may have blossomed heartily for months on end suddenly lose vigor, their leaves curling against the heat and their blossoms faltering. But there are survivors – hardy sun-loving bloomers that tolerate the worst heat of summer and continue to thrive. If you find your garden melting like a Popsicle in July, consider replacing some plant material with the following fighters.

Southern Living® Plant Collection offers a number of unique crapemyrtles, such as Delta Series, that will stand up to the worst summer heat. For a dynamic display, surround these large shrubs with masses of heat-loving perennials such as Illumination® ‘Flame’ Digiplexis®. This new introduction is a cross between foxglove and Isoplexis, supplying the beloved blossoms of foxglove in a heat-tolerant perennial. Illumination® ‘Flame’ sports multicolored blossoms with pink, red and orange hues. 

Few perennials blossom as vigorously in the summer heat as salvia. Tall flower spikes stretch toward the sun in vibrant hues and draw hummingbirds into the garden. The cultivar ‘Ember’s Wish’ Salvia boasts bright coral red blossoms all summer long. For a striking red flower, consider Saucy™ Red Salvia with its compact habit and tidy appearance.

For dynamic foliage, ‘Meerlo’ Lavandula offers bright variegation and sweet aroma. An exceptionally drought- and heat-tolerant lavender species, ‘Meerlo’ is evergreen in zones 9 and 10, and makes an excellent container plant. For cooler climates, Yewtopia® Plum Yew and Bronze Beauty™ Cleyera offer evergreen color and proven heat tolerance.

At the ground layer, Azure Skies™ Heliotrope is an incredibly heat-tolerant selection. This American native is covered in small lavender blossoms spring through fall. Or plant Ragin’ Cajun™ Ruellia en masse as a luxuriant tall ground cover. Growing 12 to 14 inches high, the deep green foliage creates a lush bed beneath the wispy red blooms.

Tropical plants are always a good choice for the summer heat, and the enchanting ‘Vivian’ Vogue® Mandevilla is no exception. This prolific bloomer produces bright pink blossoms all season. Twist of Pink™ Variegated Oleander, with its deep pink blossoms and variegated foliage, is a perfect accent for the sunny border. Twist of Pink™ is evergreen in areas with mild winters. With bold form and graceful structure, ‘Poquito’ Banana is another excellent accent plant. Reaching only 3 feet high, ‘Poquito’ is perfect for containers and small gardens. 

Just because a plant is heat tolerant does not mean it is drought tolerant. Although these traits often go hand-in-hand, there certainly are exceptions. Pay attention to water needs when selecting plants for hot weather and continue to supplement rainfall with weekly irrigation. Remember, some plants will require additional water during extremely hot spells.

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