Some Like It Hot: Drought Tolerant Plants

by | Jun 1, 2018

The growing interest in the use of canna lilies is phenomenal. These beautiful foliage plants are true sun lovers. Canna lilies will really begin to perform when serious summer temperatures hit and other parts of your garden might be losing their enthusiasm. Although there have been some beautifully coloured foliage varieties over the years, there’s not been much new lately. Instead, the focus has been on shorter more compact varieties that flower earlier and are well suited for containers and today’s small space beds. Whatever variety fits your home and garden, you can be assured that a canna lily will provide an elegant and durable display well into fall.
Ornamental grasses are signature summer heat and drought tolerant plants that are taking more of a leading role in some contemporary gardens. ‘Purple Fountain’ grass (Pennisetum setaceum ’Rubrum’), with its dark burgundy foliage and complementary pink ‘bunny tail’ plumes, is the summer darling of all the annual grasses. A somewhat newer variety called ‘Fireworks’ is a little more vibrant with hot pink and wine coloured foliage. Don’t rule out fescues, acorus, carex, hardy pennisetums or the wide range of miscanthus for great perennial grass accents in hot summer gardens. Adding interest, texture, movement and durability, all while being low-maintenance, grasses are certainly ‘plants of the future’ for gardening.
Banana plants have become garden sensations over the past few years for their combination of providing a lovely tropical look while being easy to care for. They now come in a range of varieties to choose from too. The hardy green ‘Musa basjoo’ and the brilliant rich burgundy red ‘Ensete maurelli’ are two of the most popular and most dramatic. Surrounded by other tropical foliage (we suggest pairing with bougainvilleas and mandevillas) they can create a delightful exotic theme that thrives in the sun.
Dahlias are true summer garden heroes coming in a wide range of impressive sizes, colours and flower forms. They are showstoppers that love the summer heat and will continue to impress well into fall.

Lantanas have come from complete obscurity to becoming a mainstay in our gardens. The many new short varieties (30-40cm), like the ‘Lucky Series’ and the more pastel shades of the ‘Landmark Series’ provide a fresh range of colours. They are great in hanging baskets and containers but are also quite at home in garden beds. These new varieties don’t shatter nearly as much as the older forms, and they bloom well into fall.

Left: Blue Salvia, Right: Rudbeckia
The number of new rudbeckia varieties is downright mind-boggling. Their weather tolerant, non-stop blooms provide fresh colour and add a summer richness to your garden that few others can. The newer varieties are shorter, more compact and bloom their little hearts out. Compact annual varieties, like R. ‘Toto’, are great but the perennial varieties are about to bloom and will do so until late September. Rudbeckia ‘Little Gold Star’ is the shortest variety, but classics like R. ‘Early Bird Gold’ and the reliable ‘Goldsturm’ are still two of the best.

Blue is a great colour for summer, giving cool contrast to the heat. Lucky for us, annual salvias have really expanded their offering of blue hues. ‘Blue Victoria’ has given way to the shorter version ‘Rhea’ that grows a compact 30cm high with the same rich blue flower. ‘Evolution Deep Violet’ is another award winner, with darker, richer 15-17cm violet spikes that top 45cm plants.

The most under-used and under-rated summer heat lovers are the ‘Profusion’ zinnias. Growing only 25-30cm tall, they spread like a carpet (up to 40cm) and add true zing to our summer gardens. In a class by themselves, these award winning zinnias now come in shades of white, cherry, coral, yellow, scarlet and more. This year, look for the double version with its very unique 5cm daisy-like double blooms!

Petunias are the reigning queens of hot vibrant colour and today there are many incredible shades and blends to fit any sunny décor. Try the ‘Confetti’ combinations for sophisticated colour, or ‘Waves’ to create an eye-catching “pop” in your garden.

These are just a few seasonal beauties that can be enjoyed without fear of sunstroke or watering restrictions, and they would be a welcome addition to summer containers and larger gardens. Now is the time to get them growing and well-established before the temperatures really rise, so be sure to add them to your summer shopping list today!

Above: Zinnias