pail of freshly cut zinnias provide a burst of
color on a picnic table near Goldsboro, N.C., in a
file image. Tall or short, upright or spreading,
zinnias bring a wealth of choices in color and
that we’re beginning to plant our summer flower beds,
it’s good to get to know some of these stalwarts of
the garden. Most originated in tropical climates and are
remarkably well-adapted to life in the heat of summer.
are just 10 of the best for the hot summer ahead that
can be planted in coming days and weeks.
Lantana. Lantana offers many color choices, and the
vibrant tones of red, orange and pink are especially
beautiful. Some lantanas are more upright and mounding,
making them well-suited for flower beds. Other kinds
spread, perfect for spilling out of hanging baskets or
trailing from large pots or window boxes. It gets high
marks for a long season of bright blooms.
Zinnias. Tall or short, upright or spreading, zinnias
bring a wealth of choices in color and style. Most can
be grown from seeds sown in warm soil or in small pots
for transplanting into the garden in May. But they are
also sold in bloom as young bedding plants. Blooming of
most zinnias is prolonged by removal of spent flowers,
and plants stay healthier with careful watering early in
the day so that foliage dries off quickly.
Portulaca. A semi-succulent garden flower that really
tolerates dry weather, portulacas are used widely in
hanging baskets and pots, which they seem made to
inhabit. But they also make good edging plants in flower
beds. The flowers come in a wealth of rich, vibrant
colors; the bright pinks and reds stand out beautifully.
Most gardeners buy young plants.
Pentas. These elegant flowers of pink, red, white and
purple appear on vertical plants of varying heights from
short to as tall as several feet, depending on the
variety. The long-lasting flowers are clusters of
star-shaped blooms backed up by medium green leaves. It
makes a very pretty sight in flower beds or large pots.
Madagascar periwinkle. Also called vinca, this useful
plant is a consistent bloomer through the hot months.
The flat flowers, typically white with a red center or
all pink or red. Plants are well-suited for the front of
sunny flower beds, where they grow 12 to 24 inches tall,
depending on the variety. Water lightly. Overwatering
tends to cause rots and blights of the stems and roots.
Angelonia. Fairly new to the garden marketplace, elegant
angelonia has a long bloom season in hot weather. The
flowers are white, pink and tones of purple. Plants grow
vertically but have a bushy effect, with many stems
rising 12 to 18 inches, suitable for just behind edging
plants. The blooms and shape remind some people of
snapdragons, except they bloom much longer. They
tolerate drought but benefit from regular watering.
Melampodium. This relative of sunflowers is a rugged,
all-summer plant. Unlike true sunflowers, it grows much
shorter. Popular varieties such as Showstar and Million
Gold rise about 18 inches and bear bright yellow flowers
shaped like daisies. They tolerate drought. White forms
Torenia. Even part shade can prove very hot for plants,
and torenia will bloom well in this environment or even
in shadier situations. Often called the wishbone flower,
it will also bring blue and violet to the garden as well
as pink, yellow, rose and white. Torenia stays short,
about 12 inches, and looks good as an edging or in a
Mexican sunflower. When you need a tall plant for the
back of your flower garden, this makes a nice
alternative to annual sunflowers. The daisy-shaped
blooms are bright orange or red with yellow centers.
Growth is robust in warm weather. Staking may be
necessary on plants that can reach 6 feet.
Plumed celosia. The plumed form with feathery blooms of
bright colors such as red, yellow, pink and orange makes
a nice contrast to other summer flowers shaped like
round daisies, such as zinnias. Rising about 24 inches,
celosias produce flower heads that are 4-10 inches long.
They also make good cut flowers.