Summer flowering machines

Keep the midsummer garden looking good with hot summer survivors that keep on flowering when everything else feels frazzled.

Summers are getting hotter, and it is hard for the garden to survive, especially during the hottest months when there is pressure on everyone to use less water. There are ways to heat proof the garden, and a good place to start is with heat loving plants, which can be ‘zoned’ according to their water needs.

Grouping plants with the same water needs is a water wise strategy advocated by Rand Water. This makes it easy to use water more effectively and selectively in the garden.

Heat tolerant plants with low water requirements

These are plants that need watering once every 10 days, or once a week in extreme heat. Plants that are adapted to hot, dry conditions generally have small, narrow leaves, silvery, hairy leaves or fleshy succulent leaves that either reduce moisture loss or retain water.  In a garden where water is limited, it makes sense to use such plants as much as possible. Mostly, these plants need soil that drains well.

Try these: EuphorbiaGlitz’ or ‘Breathless’ (a profusion of tiny white flowers), Gaura ‘Belleza’ and ‘Little Janie’ (compact, well branched, flowers non-stop), Cineraria Silverdust (decorative leafy bush), Perovskia ‘Blue Steel’ (Russian sage with blue flower spikes), Vinca ‘Tattoo’ or ‘Titan’ (bedding plant full colour flower range), Salvia ‘Lancelot’ (silvery leaves, purple flowers) or Salvia ‘Salmia’.

What’s new: 

The Salvia ‘Salmia’ range delivers an impressive performance with endless spikes of large dark purple, pink, or orange red blooms from spring onwards. Plants are a good filler for sunny beds or as a feature in a large container. For strong growth, cut back in spring, fertilise and water well.

 Heat tolerant plants with medium water requirements

These are plants that like the heat and are water wise but flower better with deep regular watering once a week. They do best when planted in well composted soil that drains well. They need sun to flower well but can take afternoon shade.

Try these: Gazania ‘New Day’ (compact, bedding plants, huge colour range), pentas ‘Glitterati’ and ‘Lucky Star’ (perennial, attracts butterflies), carnation ‘Oscar’ or ‘Sunflor’ (fragrant, compact, many colours), salvia ‘Mirage bicolour’ (low, mounded bedding), Angelonia ‘Archangel’( large, long-lasting snapdragon like flowers).

What’s new:

Salvia Mirage ‘Rose Bicolour’

This compact bedding perennial salvia produces the same abundant performance as the long time favourite ‘Hot Lips’. The plants remain compact and attractive, are heat resistant and, unlike its predecessors, the stem are less likely to snap off. 

 Heat tolerant plants that need regular watering

These colourful sun-lovers are garden stalwarts, that are aptly named summer flowering machines. They do best in fertile, well-composted soil that drains well and will thrive if watered deeply once or twice a week, depending on the temperatures. Many flowers in this categories are traditional favourites that have been ‘improved’ through hybridising to be more water wise, more disease resistant and with better flower power.

Try these: Dahlia ‘Dreamy’ and ‘Dalaya’ (dwarf dahlias with vivid flowers, bronze leaves), Zinnia Zahara (single) and double Zahara (low maintenance bedding flowers), Sunpatiens (plants in full sun, need more water), Begonia Big (bedding and landscape in semi-shade), Coleus Sun collection (sun brings out the vibrant leaf colour, Every Daylily (compact, reblooming daylilies).

What’s new:

Dahlia ’Dreamy’ is a flowering machine with a range of vividly coloured blooms that stand out against the burgundy-bronze foliage. The large double or semi-double flowers drop off cleanly. Plants are robust and tolerate rain and wind.

 Tips for heat proofing the midsummer garden

  • Water early morning or late afternoon. The plants absorb water best when it is cooler and will stay fresh for longer.
  • Deep watering less often helps plants to become more drought tolerant because their roots have to go deep to get water. Shallow, frequent watering keeps roots near the surface where they dry out quickly. A deep watering should be about 40 minutes.
  • Cover the soil with a thin layer of mulch (1 -2 cm) from dried leaves, dried grass cuttings, coarse compost, nutshells or milled pine bark. Mulch reduces the soil temperature and shades the roots. Don’t make the mulch layer too thick because the water may not be able to penetrate through it.
  • Don’t let the soil become hard and compact, because it doesn’t absorb water, which runs off wastefully. Condition the soil with compost and organics to improve its water holding ability as well as drainage.
  • Don’t fertilise during very hot months. This promotes new growth which takes extra energy from the plant and increases its need for water. If you need to feed, use a liquid fertiliser as a drench.
  • Allow lawns to grow longer and set the lawn mower higher. The grass will develop deeper roots, which also helps it to become more water wise. Longer grass also shades the roots, reducing its water needs.

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