In the Garden:
Lower South
April, 2003
Regional Report

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These 'Butterfly Pink' pentas will provide beauty from summer until the autumn's first frost. In addition to attractive blooms, they'll also bring in butterflies and hummingbirds to complete the eye-catching display.

Six Sensational Flowers for Sultry Southern Summers

We are enjoying a wonderful spring when temperatures are cool, rain is usually sufficient and everything is growing well. Yet veteran southern gardeners know there is another season on the way. One that will melt and fry plants not well adapted to what some call the southern dormant season ... namely, summer.

Hot weather may shut down some wimpy spring bloomers but there are a number of annual blooming beauties that will take all our southern summers can dish out. Despite the sultry, infernal heat, they continue to thrive and keep on blooming up a storm! Just give them a little water on a regular basis to help them keep up with the demands of summer and they will keep your landscape in color for months on end.

While there are a number of great color plants to choose from, let's focus on a few outstanding selections that range from sun to shade.

Angelonia provides a great 18- to 24-inch-tall backdrop to lower growing annuals. The tall flower spikes bear numerous, small, orchid-like blooms in colors ranging from white to lavender and purple. This heat-loving annual blooms in summer. As blooms fade, shear plants back by half and fertilize to stimulate regrowth and more blooms. Angelonia makes a great cut flower too. The Angel Mist series of colors provide several great choices.

Black-Eyed Susan Vine
I love black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia) because it provides a "tame" blooming vine for areas where vigorous invaders are just not appropriate. This annual vine grows to only 8 feet, making it ideal for a small trellis or even a large container. The Sunny series offers flowers with dark centers in bright orange ('Orange Wonder') or bright yellow ('Lemon Star').

Flowering Tobacco
Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana) does well in sun or bright shade. Clusters of tubular blooms in shades of white, pink, and red top the plants all summer long. The Hummingbird series stays within about a foot tall, making it ideal for beds and containers. It is well named as the blooms of Nicotiana are a favorite of these feathered visitors.

Pentas (a.k.a. Egyptian Star Cluster) may be the best multi-purpose, colorful plant for sun to part shade. The large clusters of tiny, star-shaped blooms in shades of pink, lavender, and red appear atop dense, attractive foliage. These plants attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and make great cut flowers. The Butterfly series is an especially outstanding group of colors that have received awards from university testing programs from Mississippi to Texas to Colorado.

Impatiens are a staple of shady spots in southern gardens. They come in multiple colors, including white, pink, lavender, coral, red, star markings, and even a peppermint stripe. For landscape beds the large-flowered Dazzler series provide shade-brightening color. For containers and patio beds the multiple petals and frilly flowers of the Fanciful series and the fully double, rose-like blooms of the Fiesta and Fiesta Ole series are especially suited for close-up viewing.

So check out some of these summer-proof bloomers for great color in your southern landscape.

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