Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A. | 6/1/2007 2:21:14 AM
By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
There is still time to add colorful bedding plants to your landscape, but it’s important for you to choose plants that are able to thrive in the intense heat of a Louisiana summer.
Summer bedding 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.
You can create cool, elegant color schemes with pastels. Or you can opt for 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. Check your local nursery for the following plants and many other delightful choices for summer color.
Angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia) is a relative newcomer to summer gardens. We didn’t see it in the nurseries until the late 1990s. Since then, more colors and sizes have been developed, and you should find a nice selection at your local nursery. They are among the most reliable and heat-tolerant plants for sunny, well-drained locations. I especially recommend the Serena angelonias that come in several shades of lavender, purple, pink and white. They are more compact and floriferous than other types.
Blue daze (Evolvulus glomeratus) is a low-growing, shrubby bedding plant that loves summer heat and sun. Neither insects nor diseases bother this plant, which has grayish foliage and clear blue flowers that add a cool note to the garden.
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. They make ball-shaped plants that are under a foot tall.
The Summer Wave and Catalina strains of torenia are quite different. These torenias are vigorous, low-growing plants that create a ground cover of color. They have amazing stamina and will be blooming just as much when the first freeze kills them as they were when first planted. Various shades of blue, purple and pink are available. They are excellent choices for hanging baskets or draped over the sides of pots.
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. Look for low-growing varieties like Gold Mound, Silver Mound, New Gold and Patriot Rainbow.
If I could only have a few of the many heat-tolerant bedding plants, pentas (Pentas lanceolata) would be among them. Pentas stay in constant bloom all summer and into fall, with flowers in shades of white, pink, rose, lavender and red. Dwarf varieties stay less than 2 feet, and taller varieties grow to 3 feet. They require almost no care other that trimming or pinching back occasionally, if desired. And they are simply irresistible to butterflies.
The narrow-leaf zinnia (Zinnia angustifolia) is usually a brilliant, in-your-face orange, but it also comes in yellow and creamy white, and it loves hot, sunny areas. It is low-growing and constantly covered with flowers, and it looks particularly nice cascading over the edge of raised planters. Also look for the excellent Profusion zinnias in white, orange, cherry, orange red and apricot. Once established, these zinnias are fairly drought-tolerant.
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. Wax begonias, coleus, caladiums and impatiens are among those plants that provide the most reliable 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 great heat-tolerant plants for colorful summer flowerbeds:
Low Growing (less than 2 feet) – Mexican heather, ornamental peppers, coleus, impatiens, periwinkle, wax begonia, dwarf pentas, dwarf globe amaranth, salvia "Victoria," blue daze, perennial verbena, purslane, dusty miller, narrow-leaf zinnia, wishbone flower, caladium, gerbera daisy, gaillardia, celosia, lantana and scaevola. For plants that can be seeded into the garden or into flats now, try dwarf cosmos, marigold, portulaca, abelmoschus, Dahlberg daisy and balsam.
Taller Growing (over 2 feet) – butterfly weed, rudbeckia, angelonia, shrimp plant, salvias and cigar flower. Also, these can be planted from seed now: melampodium, four o'clock, cosmos, hardy hibiscus (mallow), sunflower, Mexican sunflower (tithonia) and cleome.
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.