If you want your home or patio to look its best, plants can contribute a lot. With the prediction that 2013 spring and summer are going to be very similar to the past two, gardeners need some new ideas. What we need is plants to replace the water-lovers, the older plants, and the plants that thrived in pre-drought conditions.
The difference between caring for your former plants and the drought tolerant ones is that you have to be sure to add enough compost that the soil drains well. Most drought-tolerant plants cannot thrive in wet dirt.
Here are some selections to consider when looking for lower-maintenance, heat-tolerant plants that need about an inch of water a week.
Echinacea or Coneflowers are perennials that can be started from seed or purchased as plants. There are dozens of colors, flower shapes and heights to choose from. A few of the newer series include Let’s Boogie (plants only), Sombrero (plants only) and the All-America Selection PowWow Wild Berry that can be started from seed. Echinacea flower colors include pink to red and cream to mustard yellow.
Zinnia elegans and Zinnia marilandica are large collections of seed-started plants that are available in garden centers or from seed racks. They are mildew resistant, bring butterflies by the dozens and thrive until hard frost. Zinnias are Mexican natives that can take the heat. Start seeds 6 to 8 weeks before the last average frost to have plants ready to go into the garden, or, purchase plants at a garden center.
Lantana plants become shrubs within a few years, taking full-sun and minimal watering while blooming on and on. Popular as nectar for butterflies and skippers, you will want to give them plenty of room to increase in size. The leaves are scented so the plants are rarely eaten by deer. The newer Landmark Series thrives in heat, humidity and drought. Colors range from white to bright yellow and soft to dark pink and orange.
As their name implies African Daisies or Osteosperums can take heat but not temperatures below 28 degrees F. The plant series include Lemon Symphony, Cape Daisy, Sea Mist, Passion, etc. The Passion Mix series can be started from seed (www.veseys.com). High night-time temperatures in periods of extreme heat can slow down flowering. Osteospermum fruiticosum is planted along the freeways in northern California where they are called Freeway Daisies. Passion Mix and Symphony can take the most heat. Keep an eye on Osteospermums and never let them suffer water stress.
Gryphon Begonia has large silver-green leaves with bronze under-sides. They add a tropical look to beds or large containers. Each pest-free plant grows 18-to-30-inches tall and wide in bright indirect light with little water. Gryphon Begonias cannot take freezing weather but do well indoors near a window over the winter. A Fantastic Foliage plant, the seeds are available from Harrisseeds.com. Seed germination takes 10 days.
Euphorbias such as Cypress Spurge have been popular garden plants for decades. E. Jesse was introduced in 1998 and became famous for its bright yellow floral bracts with thin, orange margins. Diamond Frost was the new Euphorbia a few years ago. The newest entry in the deer-proof family is Euphoric Euphorbia. Euphoric is new this year and looks like it flowers twice as much as Diamond Frost.
Heat Lovers series Caliente Geranium blooms all summer on trailing stems. It is a Medal of Excellence winner for zones 9 to 11 so the rest of us have to bring it indoors during cold weather. In the summer, Caliente will appreciate afternoon shade. They would be a good choice for window boxes and pots.
Plan to refresh your garden with heat-tolerant selections this year.