Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A. | 6/29/2005 2:05:46 AM
By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
If you want to boost the color in your landscape, nurseries still have a good selection of colorful bedding plants that will thrive in whatever heat the summer throws at them.
These plants come in a variety of heights, textures and colors, and they are adapted to grow in everything from moist, shady areas to hot, dry, sunny locations.
The following are some excellent summer bedding plants, but there are lots more. I’m sure you will be surprised at the selection area nurseries have and how well these plants will do in our torrid summer weather.
Angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia) is a plant still rather new to gardeners. This delightful, heat-tolerant plant produces a fairly tall shrubby plant perfect for the middle or back of flower beds. Flower production is nearly continuous, and the blooms come in shades of purple, lavender, white, pink and rose. If the winter is mild enough, plants will live over winter and provide another season of bloom
Blue daze (Evolvulus glomeratus) is a low growing, shrubby, bedding plant that loves summer heat and sun. Neither insects nor diseases bother this plant, and its grayish foliage and clear, blue flowers add a cool note to the garden.
Wishbone flower. A versatile and very reliable plant that does well in full sun to part shade is the wishbone flower (Torenia fournieri). This virtually foolproof annual plant provides a tremendous display of blue, purple, lavender, rose, pink or white flowers over a very long period. Also outstanding is the low growing Summer Wave series, which is exceptionally vigorous and long blooming.
Lantana. The common lantana or "ham and eggs" (Lantana camara) has been refined into a number of garden varieties that are among the best plants for summer color. Few plants combine constant flowering, heat tolerance and ease of care as well as lantana does. Don’t forget there are dwarf forms that stay under 2 feet and taller types that get 3 feet tall or more. Know what you are buying.
Pentas stay in constant bloom all summer and into fall – with flowers in shades of white, pink, rose, lavender and red. Dwarf cultivars, such as the Butterfly series, stay less than 2 feet, and taller cultivars grow to 3 feet. They are absolutely carefree other than trimming or pinching back occasionally, if desired. And they are simply irresistible to butterflies.
Narrow-leaf zinnia. The narrow-leaf zinnia (Zinnia linearis) usually is a brilliant, in-your-face orange, but it also comes in yellow and creamy white, and it loves hot, sunny, dry areas. It is low growing, constantly covered with flowers, and looks particularly nice cascading over the edge of raised planters. Also look for the new Profusion zinnias, which come in several colors. They produce larger flowers on more compact plants but are just as tough and long blooming.
Bedding Plants For Shade
A shady area is no excuse not to have summer color. I, for one, would rather work in a shady bed when it’s hot anyway. Coleus, polka-dot plant and caladiums provide bright splashes of color with their variegated foliage. Wax begonia, torenia and impatiens provide the most reliable flower color in partly shaded conditions.
Don’t let the heat of July and August do your garden in. Choose your plants carefully, and watch your garden thrive despite the weather.
Here are some more great heat-tolerant plants for colorful summer flowerbeds:
Low growing (less than 2 feet) – Mexican heather, ornamental peppers, coleus, impatiens, periwinkle, dwarf cosmos, wax begonia, dwarf pentas, dwarf globe amaranth, ageratum, Victoria salvia, marigold, portulaca, blue daze, perennial verbena, purslane, dusty miller, rudbeckia, abelmoschus, narrow-leaf zinnia, Profusion zinnia, wishbone flower (torenia), Dahlberg daisy, caladium, balsam, gaillardia, celosia, lantana, scaevola and dwarf melampodium.
Taller growing (over 2 feet) – butterfly weed, angelonia, shrimp plant, cleome, coleus, melampodium, four o'clock, cosmos, hardy hibiscus (mallow), sunflower, salvias, cigar plant and Mexican sunflower (tithonia)
Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.