It’s not too hot for color in the garden

Richard Bogren, Gill, Daniel J.  |  6/27/2009 2:25:28 AM

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For Release On Or After 07/25/09

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. You can create cool, elegant color schemes with pastels, or an explosion of bright, vibrant colors full of excitement.

These plants can be used in flowerbeds, mixed borders, containers and hanging baskets to provide the color you crave wherever you want it.

Water new plantings regularly while they get established. This time of year, rain can be spotty, so watch the weather and water when necessary. Also, don’t forget to mulch the bed once the plants are in the ground.

The following are some of the best of the summer bedding plants, but there are lots more.

Angelonia

Angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia) is a delightful, heat-tolerant plant that produces loose spikes of flowers in shades of purple, lavender, white, pink and rose. If the winter is mild enough, these plants will live over and provide another season of bloom. Very tough and long-blooming, they are great as container plants or in beds.

Blue daze

Blue daze (Evolvulus glomeratus) is a low-growing, shrubby bedding plant that loves summer heat and sun. Neither insects nor diseases bother this plant, whose 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). The name of this virtually foolproof plant comes from the way the stamens in the flower are joined together in a wishbone shape. This annual plant provides a tremendous display of blue, purple, lavender, rose, pink or white flowers over a very long period. Also outstanding are the low-growing types, which are 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 that there are dwarf forms that stay under 2 feet and taller types that get 3 feet tall or more. Know what you are buying.

Penta

Pentas (Pentas lanceolata) 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 tall, and taller cultivars grow to 3 feet. They are absolutely carefree other than needing some trimming or pinching back occasionally, if desired. And they are simply irresistible to butterflies.

Narrow-leaf zinnia

The narrow-leaf zinnia (Zinnia linearis) is usually a brilliant, in-your-face orange. But it also comes in yellow and creamy white and loves hot, sunny, dry areas. Its low-growing, constantly covered with flowers and looks particularly nice cascading over the edge of raised planters.

Also look for the new Profusion and Sahara zinnias, which did exceptionally well in trials at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station. They bloom in shades of yellow, orange, red, pink, cherry and white. They produce larger flowers on more compact plants, but they’re 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.

Suggested plants for colorful summer flowerbeds

Low-growing (less than 2 feet tall) – Mexican heather, ornamental peppers, coleus, impatiens, Serena angelonia, periwinkle, dwarf cosmos, wax begonia, dwarf pentas, dwarf globe amaranth, ageratum, salvia Victoria, 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 tall) – Butterfly weed, angelonia, shrimp plant, cleome, coleus, melampodium, four o'clock, cosmos, hardy hibiscus (mallow), sunflower, salvias, cigar plant and Mexican sunflower (tithonia).

Rick Bogren

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