Many gardeners start spring with the best of intentions, dutifully heading to the local nursery to purchase the biggest, brightest, and boldest blooms available. Yet when the heat of summer strikes, plants that once grew effortlessly struggle to produce a sprout. While the pansies, snapdragons, and lilies that filled garden beds only months before wither and die, the Bermuda grass, clovers, and sedges multiply, turning your once beautiful garden into a wasteland.
Fortunately, it’s not too late to start over. With a few well-placed plants and a little extra summer care, you can enjoy vibrant color through fall. Here are five options that you can plant now that will last all summer.
Gulf Coast Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
This Texas native grass seems to sparkle in the sun. With fine blades of grass topped by wispy, pink seed heads, muhly grass has an ethereal quality and can resemble pink smoke from a distance. Blooming in late summer to fall, this versatile grass grows in sun or partial shade and can reach 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide. Plant it in masses or incorporate it into a native landscape with coneflowers for effortless beauty.
This popular shrub produces nonstop blooms in white, pink, purple, red, orange, and yellow in a variety of color combinations from summer through frost. Because the plant is widely available and easy to grow, some gardeners find lantanas commonplace, but don’t let that deter you. Used creatively in the landscape, lantanas are far from mundane, featuring more than 150 varieties. Be careful though, Lantana camara is invasive. Choose sterile, trailing types for hanging baskets and small spaces or try Texas native lantana (Lantana horrida or Lantana urticoides) to add some pizzazz to a native plant garden. A bee and butterfly magnet, this sunny lantana features yellow to orange flowers with a spread of 3-6 feet. Lantanas thrive on neglect, but prefer full sun and well-drained soil. You can find them growing wild along trails and in forests throughout Harris County.
These plants are no shrinking violets. Salvias embrace hot, dry conditions and can grow up to 6 feet tall. With approximately 1,000 species worldwide, salvias bloom spring through fall in shades of pink, purple, blue, and red. A pollinator favorite, salvias sport tubular blooms that hummingbirds and butterflies find irresistible. Plant them in well-draining soil in an area that receives at least six hours of sunlight.
Eastern Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Another pollinator favorite, coneflowers represent Texas at its best. In the wild, the plant offers a bright pop of lavender in fields of yellow and white wildflowers. With their tough, hardy blooms, purple coneflowers can add old-fashioned charm to any garden, especially pollinator and native plant gardens. Best of all, these drought-tolerant beauties return reliably each spring and bloom all summer. When the blooms drop in winter, goldfinches hang from the plant as they feed on the seeds.
Plant them in rows or in masses behind shorter plants. They pair well with native grasses or other native flowers. Coneflowers grow 2-5 feet tall and prefer full sun to partial shade in well-draining, fertile soils.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida “Goldsturm”)
A 1999 Perennial Plant of the Year, “Goldsturm” is a drought-tolerant perennial with large, cheerful, daisy-like blooms. They grow up to 3 feet tall in upright, rhizomatous clumps. Flowers appear to glow golden yellow in the landscape and look best planted in drifts behind shorter plants in perennial borders, cottage gardens, or meadow gardens. They pair well with native grasses, salvias, coneflowers, and wildflowers.
The plant blooms summer through fall and prefers full sun to partial shade.
Mercer Plant Sale
These are just a few of the heat-loving plants that will thrive in the summer. Stop by Mercer’s Summer Plant Sale to talk to an expert and learn more about which plants will work best in your garden. Stay tuned for updates on the Mercer Facebook page.