Sun Lovers

Updated May 19, 2014


12 Easy-care plants that can take the heat

During the dog days of summer, the sunny garden can pose a challenge to the most experienced landscaper.

The key is to select plants that not only tolerate hours of direct sunlight, but also don’t require a lot of care – watering, pruning and fertilizing.


1. SunPatiens (Impatiens x hybrid).

A hybrid between shade-loving impatiens (I. walleriana) and New Guinea impatiens (I. hawkeri), SunPatiens thrive in full sun. Showy variegated cultivars have suntanned foliage, while green-leafed cultivars come in a variety of flower colors from soft pastels to brilliant orange or red.

2. Summer Snapdragon (Angelonia angustifolia). This durable annual showcases 10-inch, pastel-colored flower spikes above clean, waxy green foliage. The ‘Serena’ series is valued for its heat and drought tolerance and striking white, pink, lavender and purple blooms.

3. Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena). This low-maintenance annual withstands full sun, blistering heat and poor, dry soils once established. Try oldies-but-goodies like ‘Strawberry Fields’ or new takes such as ‘Fireworks’ with its unique explosion of lavender-pink flower clusters atop four-foot plants.

TIP: Not unlike other impatiens, SunPatiens need ample hydration in the summer, so make sure to plant them soon after the last frost date in spring. This will give the roots a chance to establish and allow the foliage to flush, shading the roots before the summer heat arrives.




4. Salvia One of the most durable, heat- and drought-tolerant perennials, Salvia comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Mexican bush sage (S. leucantha) has velvety purple flower spikes atop 3-foot plants. Delicate flowers, in colors of red, pink, white and purple, adorn the Gregg’s sage (S. greggii); try the ‘Mesa’ series.

5. Coneflower (Echinacea). This perennial is a stalwart of the sun garden. Try classic cultivars, such as ‘Magnus’ or ‘Kim’s Knee High.’ For more flower colors, shapes and fragrances, take a look at newbies like ‘Hot Papaya,’ a double flowering orange coneflower and ‘Mango Meadowbrite,’ a fragrant yellow coneflower.

6. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia). Enjoy this long-lived perennial from summer until late into autumn. The 3-foot-tall R. fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ is a Perennial Plant of the Year winner and tolerates clay soils. Check out ‘Little Goldstar,’ a new miniature version of ‘Goldsturm’ that has equally cheery yellow blooms but in a 1-foot-tall plant.



7. King Tut Papyrus (Cyperus papyrus ‘King Tut’). ‘King Tut’ is a giant papyrus whose billowy plumes soar to 6-feet tall. It can grow at the edge of a water feature or at the back of a flower bed.

8. Blue Lyme Grass (Elymus arenarius). Striking, steel-blue foliage grows about 2-3 feet tall and spreads slowly in full sun. ‘Blue Dune’ is a top performing cultivar that tolerates wet as well as dry soil.

9. Napier Grass (Pennisetum purpureum). Burgundy foliage thrives in a sunny border, turning a richer purple the warmer it gets. Try 6-foot ‘Prince,’ 3-foot ‘Princess Caroline’ and petite ‘Princess Molly.’




10. Encore Azalea (Rhododendron hybrid). Not your typical azalea that prefers shade protection for part of the day, the Encore series actually blooms off and on throughout the year in full sun. Make sure to provide it with adequate moisture throughout the seasons.



11. Rose (Rosa hybrid). Breeders continue to produce more disease resistant, floriferous, sun-worshipping shrub roses, such as the ‘Home Run’ and ‘Knock Out’ series, or floribunda roses, such as ‘Cinco de Mayo’ with its rosy-coral flowers with a tinge of light purple.

12. Fringe Flower (Loropetalum chinense). The burgundy leaves of fringe flowers provide a striking contrast for pink-, red- and white-flowering selections. ‘Purple Pixie’ is a weeping, pink flower selection that reaches about 2 feet tall. ‘Ever Red’ flowers on 6-foot plants.




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