Favorite summer plants

School’s out, hopefully the tornado’s are history for this year and we can feel the heat of summer coming. There are a number of color plants which thrive, actually grow and look their best in the heat of summer. We still have over 5 months left in this growing season so you can still plant most everything but these are a few of my personal favorite annuals for summer color and excitement.

“Olde time” summer favorites I remember enjoying in Grandma’s yard and from other experiences in my youth include celosia or cockscomb. These are available in many colors but nothing beats the impact of the bright or dark red plumes or combs. They are spectacular in a sunny spot in your yard or in competition at the state fair flower show. They often reseed and may come back on their own. Zinnia and marigolds are other impressive old timers but are now available in varieties producing lots of small flowers or fewer big significant flowers. There are short border varieties and varieties that grow 2 to 4 feet tall. Verbena, petunias and periwinkle are other old timers with lots of new varieties, colors and growth styles.

Some of my favorite summer plants used to be seen mainly in public gardens like the beautiful Oklahoma City Parks landscapes of the famous Henry Walter and Chuck Sparks. Penta and lantana were used in combination with their Canna plantings in neighborhood parks across the city. They are grown from vegetative cuttings and are now widely available and can be used by all of us. They grow rapidly, flower like crazy and are great in containers or for the middle or back of your flowerbeds. Recent breeding has dramatically expanded the choice of colors available in both the penta and lantana which produce stunning flower heads which are actually clusters of many individual florets. Oriental hibiscus are another great plant that grew out of these public plantings and are now a great choice for large containers by a pool or patio or for height in your flowerbeds. Their bright flowers in reds, pinks, oranges and yellows will transport you to Hawaii or a pacific island.

One of the hot garden trends is landscaping with plants that have colorful foliage. Plant sweet potato vines in green, lime and burgundy as a fast growing ground cover, border plant or to cascade from containers. Crotons are widely used as colorful shrubs in Florida and Caribbean islands but are spectacular here as annuals in their rainbow of red, green, orange and yellow colors in containers or in flowerbeds. Copper leaf plants and coleus have been used since Great Grandma’s time but many newer varieties have brought more excitement and color to these plants. Coleus used to be only for shade but many new varieties do well even in the sun. Shade areas can spring into color with wax begonias, salvia or impatiens. Many of the newer begonia varieties will also do well in the sun.

With increasing heat and hot, dry winds you will need to be more diligent in watering your plants. Mulching with bark or hulls will cool your roots and reduce your watering.

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