In case you haven’t heard, it’s July, and it’s hot outside. How hot? This weekend, a giant heat dome will cover half of the United States. Oklahoma isn’t just the center of the heartland, it’s also the beating heart of summer heat.
We need plants that thrive in Oklahoma summers.
Oklahoma gardeners aren’t worried though. Like good Boy Scouts, we’re prepared. We grow plants that not only survive but flourish in summer.
Let’s look at what works here. [Click on gallery photos to enlarge them.]
I’m talking flowers and tropical leafy plants. Don’t look at your tomatoes because you might just see their blooms fall off. If so, try not to worry. Once temperatures fall below 100°F, your tomatoes will flower and fruit again.
First up are coleus, or Plectranthus scutellarioides if you prefer.
I’d rather just call them coleus. It’s easier. There are so many great varieties of these plants now. I’m crazy ’bout coleus.
Once established, they are very sun tolerant if you water them. They do need water as do all plants except plastic ones.
Just say no to plastic plants.
What goes great with coleus? Well, almost everything, but their broad, brightly-colored leaves look great with prairie plants, both native and selected varieties.
Prairie plants love the heat.
Prairie plants like tall coreopsis, ‘Henry Eilers’ sweet coneflower and various varieties of purple coneflower all are thriving in the heat. Perennial ornamental grasses are also starting to strut their stuff although it will be in August and September that they come into their glory. Asclepias incarnata L., swamp milkweed, is just starting to bloom as are Joe pye weed and cup plant. I grow both ‘Little Joe’ and ‘Baby Joe.’ ‘Baby Joe’ was nearly forced out by Monarda sp., bee balm, earlier this summer so I don’t have any photos of it. I pulled up the bee balm. I have so much of it already. It’s another good summer bloomer if you have the room and don’t mind tending to its wandering ways.
I’m trying several new types of coneflower this year with mixed success. I find echinaceas a bit hard to get going, but once they are happy, they will thrive and often reseed throughout the garden. It’s the getting them started that’s hard. I find the natives hardest to start, but I think it’s worth it. I would show you some photos, but I don’t have any good ones of the natives right now. Just know that any prairie plant botanically close to its native relative that produces seeds also makes nectar to pull in pollinators.
I know I write and talk all the time about ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ coneflowers, but they really are fabulous if you want colors other than purple in your echinaceas. ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ and PowWow® Wild Berry echinaceas are also both AAS Winners. You should grow them. ‘Prairie Splendor Deep Rose’ purple coneflowers won a Fleuroselect Gold Medal in 2007. This is my first year to grow this variety.
Good old garden phlox are also heat lovers.
Phlox paniculata are such worthy summer plants, and many of the newer selections are powdery mildew resistant. If you want to grow summer phlox, know that they like well-drained, fertile soil. They love hot summer sunshine, but will also thrive in some shade.
Some of my favorites are:
- ‘Jeana,’ a variety found naturally growing along the Harpeth River near Nashville, Tennessee by Jeana Prewittsaid. ‘Jeana’ has much smaller florets than other border phlox, but according to the butterflies, is full of sweet nectar.
- Bright Eyes.’ I think Wanda Faller gave me my start of ‘Bright Eyes’ many years ago, and I’ve shared it with gardening friends all over. It won a Royal Horticultural Society of Great Britain Award of Garden Merit in 1993.
- ‘John Fanick‘ tops out at around three feet tall. After looking for years, I found ‘John Fanick’ at the Tulsa County Master Gardeners’ Plant Sale in 2018. For some reason, I’ve been unable to find ‘John Fanick’ locally which is a shame. It is a Texas Superstar and was found by Greg Grant growing in San Antonio so you know it’s tough.
- ‘Cherry Cream’ from Darwin Perennials is another fabulous plant. It is also shorter. Place this one at the front of the border.
- I must also give kudos to my passalong pink phlox which has stood the test of time. Nothing stops it, and even with our heavy spring rainfall, it didn’t have many disease problems.
If you want butterflies and moths, and who doesn’t plant phlox. Butterflies love the flowers.
Let’s not forget true lilies either.
Several good ones will grow well once you get them going. They don’t like crowding though, and since I tend to crowd my plants, I’ll be replanting a few this fall. Order lilies now, and the companies will ship them to you in October. Plant them immediately so they don’t rot. Also, it takes three seasons for them to get established, and they don’t seem to like shade. Morning sun is fine.
This post is a belated one of Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day hosted on the 15th of each month at May Dreams Gardens.
Okay, my friends, that’s all I’ve got for now. Must step inside where it’s cool. Have a glass of ice tea or lemonade and dream of a thriving summer garden with me.
The Gardenangelists Podcast.
If I haven’t bored you silly, and you want to learn more, head over to The Gardenangelists podcast where Carol Michel and I dish each week about “flowers, veggies, and all the best dirt.” You can now find our podcast on Stitcher and TuneIn. It is also on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts, plus other places where podcasts are found.