By Kim Toscano
Don’t let the scorching sun and soaring temperatures bring your garden down. While the dog days of summer can send many plants into a downward spiral of wilting foliage and faltering blooms, there are plenty of tough plants that thrive even on the hottest days.
The following plants tolerate high heat and most are drought tolerant (the two traits don’t always go hand-in-hand). Pay attention to water needs when selecting plants for hot weather and continue to supplement rainfall with weekly irrigation. Some plants will require additional water during extremely hot spells.
While the following plants were selected for their heat tolerance, they also provide beauty and interest all year long. In addition to summer blooms, some selections bloom during different seasons, offer colorful fall foliage, produce berries that birds can’t resist, or provide structure or evergreen foliage in winter. All the elements a garden needs to look good no matter the weather.
Some plants shut down flower production when the temperatures rise, but these annuals and perennials keep on blooming through the heat, energizing the landscape and keeping the butterflies and hummingbirds well fed.
- Blazing Star, Liatris spicata
- Garden Candy™ Helianthus, Helianthus x multiflorus ‘Sunshine Daydream’
- Gaura, Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’
- Superbells® Coralina, Calibrachoa hybrid ‘iNCALMIABE’
- Blue My Mind® Dwarf Morning Glory, Evolvulus hybrid
- Serenita® Pink Angelonia, Angelonia angustifolia ‘PAS933541’
Prairie grasses are well adapted to long hot summers. Some grasses are slow to start in spring and only take off once the heat sets in. The following varieties add a sturdy, upright architectural element to the garden with colorful leaf blades. While most grasses bloom late in the season, ‘Wind Dancer’ sends up blooms early summer that sway in the breeze all season long. Try leaving grass foliage and seed heads in place over winter to provide food and shelter for song birds.
- Switch Grass, Panicum virgatum ‘Dallas Blues’
- Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Prairie Munchkin’
- Blue Lovegrass, Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’
Shrubs and Evergreens
Planning a garden that looks good all year long requires not only blooms but structural plants. The following shrubs and evergreens each bring unique beauty to the garden, from the winter foliage and flowers of hellebore to the autumn fruits of viburnum and aronia. Colorful fall foliage, summer blooms, and gorgeous form are just a few traits of these heat-loving beauties.
- Lil’ Miss Sunshine™ Bluebeard, Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Janice’
- Chicago Lustre® Arrowwood Viburnum, Viburnum dentatum ‘Synnestvedt’
- Low Scape Mound® Aronia, Aronia melanocarpa ‘UCONNAM165’
- Juniper, Juniperus virginiana ‘Taylor’
- Abelia, Abelia x grandiflora ‘Kaleidoscope’
- Winter Jewels® Red Sapphire Hellebore, Helleborus hybrid ‘Red Sapphire’
There are many reasons to incorporate ground covers into a garden, from weed reduction to soil insulation, and of course aesthetics. Ground covers complete a planting and many of our favorites are also quite heat tolerant. The following plants also add stunning blooms to the landscape.
- SunSparkler® Firecracker Sedum, Sedum hybrid ‘Firecracker’
- Fire Spinner® Ice Plant, Delosperma hybrid ‘P001S’
- Creeping Mahonia, Mahonia repens
Finally, tropical plants add unique character and plenty of style to the garden. From lush foliage to boisterous blooms, these tropical plants need the summer heat to thrive. It is important to note that many tropical plants come from humid climates and require plenty of water.
- Dwarf Banana, Musa hybrid ‘Poquito’
- Luscious® Citrus Blend™ Lantana, Lantana camara ‘Balandusbi’
- Sun Parasol® Crimson Mandevilla, Mandevilla hynrid ‘Sunmandecrim’