Sun-Loving Summer Plants

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During the hot summer months, it can be a challenge to find plants that can take the heat. Always searching for ways to improve the garden, we asked one of our plant experts, Theo H., to tell us about his favorite sun-loving plants and why they’re great for summer gardens. Check out his picks below. 

Lagerstroemia ‘Pocomoke’ (Crape Myrtle)
A dwarf-style crape myrtle great for containers, patios, entryways, and borders; this cultivar thrives in the summer heat. It produces gorgeous, deep-rose flowers atop dark green foliage throughout the hottest parts of the season. Caring for this variety couldn’t be easier. Design a structured watering and feeding schedule for the first season after planting, then as the seasons progress the watering and feeding schedule can become more sporadic and often dismissed. Once the roots have settled, this plant becomes extremely drought-tolerant, making it the perfect choice for summer sun.

Hibiscus ‘Cranberry Crush’ (Rose Mallow)
This cultivar distinguishes itself from older hibiscus varieties by blooming along its stems as well as at their ends, creating a compact shrub with impactful colors. In mid-summer, Cranberry Crush produces dusty maroon flowers whose petals overlap to create a beautiful, crinkling texture. These blooms sit atop a multi-branched plant that grows 3-4 feet high and 4-5 feet wide. This variety can tolerate a slew of stresses, but does need consistent moisture throughout the blooming season. Lack of water will deter flowering and create a smaller, leggier specimen. Cranberry Crush will bloom consistently throughout the summer and fall until temperatures begin to drop. During the winter months, prune the plant to 3-4 inches above the ground to increase next season’s productive value.

Lantana ‘Sunrise Rose'
Growing 15 to 20 inches high and 18 to 24 inches wide, Lantana ‘Sunrise Rose’ is a burst of color for the summer garden. It produces tubular, five-lobed, multicolored flowers in dense spherical clusters during the heat of the summer; as the flowers age, the color intensifies from a yellow to a deep rose. These fragrant plants are perfect for butterfly gardens. Once established, this plant thrives in hot, humid soil conditions. Not exceptionally drought tolerant, it will lose flower productivity if under-watered. Lantana should be pruned after the first flowering in order to increase future flower production. They can either be dug up and overwintered or repurchased every spring. 

Citrus meyeri (Meyer Lemon Bush)
This compact lemon cultivar is the exemplary plant for eastern summers. Growing 6 to 10 feet tall at maturity if given enough space, this plant will produce an abundance of standard lemons once mature. Perfect for the patio or garden, this bush thrives in containers as well as planted. Citrus tend to run into problems when faced with rapid temperature changes occurring over a 24-hour period. Fluctuating conditions can produce a lemon tree lacking vigor in size, production quality, and appearance than if the plant were kept in stable weather conditions. Be sure to prune water sprouts and weak branches during the winter and early spring in order to establish a strong summer plant. 

Above, two of our summer favorites: Crape Myrtle (l) and Hibiscus (r).
Photography courtesy of Harvey Barrison (Crape Myrtle) and Tatiana Gerus (Hibiscus).

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