Summer flowers for summer heat


July temperatures are above normal today, but it is the middle of an Oklahoma summer so I’m not surprised. This post started out as one for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, but I missed the 15th so now it’s about summer flowers for summer heat instead. You can’t go wrong with these tough beauties.

Hemerocallis 'Cherokee Blanket' daylily with Rudbeckia fulgida 'Goldsturm,' a perennial so easy to grow that it's ridiculous. Still, don't plant this black-eyed Susan anywhere that is boggy or wet because it will take over with its underground stems.
Hemerocallis ‘Cherokee Blanket’ daylily on rebloom with a spotted coleus and Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm,’ a perennial so easy to grow that it’s ridiculous. Still, don’t plant this black-eyed Susan anywhere that is boggy or wet because it will take over with its underground stems.

I don’t like summer heat, but I do love summer flowers. Other than going out at daybreak to pull a few weeds, take a few pictures and make sure everything is watered, I don’t stay outside much in summer. I prefer movie theaters or a good book instead. Everything growing slows down in summer, and I do too. The past two weeks the mercury has been set between 95F and 98F, with high humidity and mosquitos courtesy of all that life-giving spring rain. I feel like I’m living in Louisiana or maybe Houston, instead of Oklahoma. Who wants to put on bug spray to just take a picture or two?

I did venture out there today though for you. Just look at all the summer bloomers I found.

Tightwad Red crapemyrtle with H. 'Venetian Ruffles' daylily.
Tightwad Red crapemyrtle with H. ‘Venetian Ruffles’ daylily.

Oklahomans and Texans, while you wait for cooler fall temperatures, you need something to make the yard pretty even if you do stay indoors at work or home. Everyone needs summer flowers in their garden repertoire. Otherwise, the grassy weeds will just take over your flower beds. These are the summer flowers I’ve come to rely upon in summer heat. Later, this week, I’ll talk about my favorite foliage plant, coleus, that takes the garden all the way into October.

First, some flowers to grow from seed. There are so many, but these are a few I planted this year. Some actually reseeded from previous years. When I’m in the garden, and I see a four o’clock from the Salmon Sunset type I grew a couple of years ago, it makes me smile. Mother Nature is one of the best garden designers even if she is a bit messy.

Salmon Sunset four  o'clocks closing after a night of partying hard
Salmon Sunset four o’clocks closing after a night of partying hard.

Elsewhere in the garden, I have yellow and white four o’clocks and the pink heirloom type. I don’t put these near each other to keep them from mixing.

Gomphrena that came back from seed. It is a shorter variety.
Gomphrena that came back from seed. It is a shorter variety.

Another flower I once planted that self sows is gomphrena. These are shorter varieties, and they now come back every year. In spring, I pull up many of them because they will crowd out other plantings. You quickly learn the seedling stage of these self sowers. I had some white gomphrena earlier. I only like the pink, purple and red, so I pulled the white ones as they began to bloom. I do the same with the washed out purple larkspur I grow from seed. If a stray purple one shows up, I pull it as soon as it blooms. I want the blue ones, but even blue seed varieties sometimes have errant purple flowers in there too.

If you want a summer blue flower that is easy to grow from seed, try cornflower ‘Blue Boy’ (bachelor buttons.) They are super easy to grow from seed, and in our long summers, you can plant them twice. Simply sow the seed outdoors. Botanical Interests has some very nice seed for these silver-leafed beauties. That ‘Irish Eyes’ rudbeckia was also grown from seed. You can start them indoors and transplant or sow outside. Because they are perennial, they take awhile to get going.

Panicum 'Northwind', 'Blue Boy' bachelor's buttons, Rudbeckia 'Irish Eyes'
Panicum ‘Northwind’, ‘Blue Boy’ bachelor’s buttons, Rudbeckia ‘Irish Eyes’

Glorious sunflowers. You see one in the feature photo above, but here’s a gallery of sunflowers I’m growing this year. I planted all of them from seed that I just sowed outdoors. Sunflowers don’t like to be transplanted which is why your child’s Dixie cup project from kindergarten probably died. Just get some seed and sow it together. Water and watch it grow. Keep an out for caterpillar damage from Checkerspot butterfly larvae. You can spray your plants with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt.) like Bonide Thuricide Bt. Insect Killer to stop some damage. It’s an organic control. I have a hose-end sprayer of it. The caterpillars eat Bt., and they don’t feel like eating your plants anymore. It doesn’t harm other pollinators. Now, before you think I hate Checkerspot butterflies, I sacrificed many of my beautiful black-eyed Susans to the them. Checkerspots love the fuzzy Rhirta type of Susans. They aren’t as excited about R. fulgida ‘Goldsturm.’ A lot of my pretty cultivars were destroyed all the way up to the flower. I think they’ll come back next spring though so I’m not too worried. Sunflowers, on the other hand, take awhile to grow, are annual and a commitment. I didn’t want to lose them. I bought a lot of my sunflower seed from Renee’s Garden and Botanical Interests. In the past, both companies have given me seeds too.

Zinnias are another summer favorite. I’m surprised that mine aren’t covered in mildew this year from the humidity, but so far, they aren’t. I grow a lot of zinnia seeds. In fact, I turned half of the vegetable garden into a cutting garden this year. The only problem is I can hardly bear to cut the flowers. How silly is that? I love bouquets, but I also love the flowers outside. I’m shaking my head at myself as I write this. As soon as I finish this post, I’m going out there to cut some zinnias. Promise. Two favorite zinnia seed varieties I’m growing this year are ‘Queen Red Lime’ zinnia and ‘Burpee Rose Giant Cactus.’ I bought the latter from Baker Creek, and my ‘Queen Red Lime’ seeds from Chiltern Seeds. However, you can now get them several places in the U.S., and you might get more seed. Chiltern’s was a bit skimpy on them for the price. I’m also growing a ton of other zinnias so I’ll do a gallery of them too. Click on the photos to see them larger.

Stepping away from seed, but maybe not all the way, let me show you some of the black-eyed Susans here. Below is one of many ‘Cherokee Sunset’ varieties. ‘Cherokee Sunset’ is a seed strain so you can get different color variations and sizes along with single and double blooms. How fun is that?

These were terrorized by the aforementioned caterpillars, but the blooms are fine. I didn’t take a photo of my double amber Susan because it is now only blooms with skeletonized leaves. I grew ‘Cherokee Sunset’ from seed last year. I started them indoors and planted outside after frost. They didn’t do much the first year, but this year have been spectacular and tall. The pineapple lilies are also growing well. It’s taken years, but I am now pleased with them.

Eucomis 'Oakhurst' pineapple lily with Rudbeckia hirta Cherokee Sunset.
Eucomis ‘Oakhurst’ pineapple lily with Rudbeckia hirta Cherokee Sunset.

Another R. hirta I’m trying this year is ‘Chocolate Orange,’ a shorter cultivar. Tiny pollinators were all over these flowers when I took photos this morning. They must have good pollen. I will say that mine aren’t as orange as in photos online. They have a much larger yellow band. You can grow these from seed. I bought my plants from our local nursery.

Rudbeckia hirta 'Chocolate Orange'
Rudbeckia hirta ‘Chocolate Orange,’ a shorter variety.

If you like large flowers, and who doesn’t, try perennial Hibiscus ‘Moy Grande.’ I also grow ‘Luna Red’ and a small cranberry one, but none are as beautiful as my giant ‘Moy Grande.’ It would stop traffic if I didn’t live out in the country.

Hibiscus 'Moy Grande.'
Hibiscus ‘Moy Grande.’

Perennial hibiscus are easy to care for. They like full sun and some water, but they aren’t picky about drought or soil. Grasshoppers are their nemesis so you’ll need organic NOLO Bait in spring, or they will eat them to the ground. Perennial hibiscus die back to the ground each winter so cut them back after a freeze or in early spring before they emerge. It’s hard to believe they grow to such a massive size in only a few month. Bumblebees love them so much that I often find one asleep in spent blooms when I deadhead in the morning. The poor, startled little things just fly away.

I have so many other flowers we could discuss, but I bet you’re tired of reading. Save some room in your summer garden for even a few of these wonderful flowers. Remember, too, you can always plant seeds for summer flowers in your vegetable garden. Flowers increase pollination, and there are no veggie police to stop you. It’s your garden. Do what you like.


  1. Teresa Hall says:

    Thanks for the encouragement. I needed it today as this first Oklahoma summer is getting to me! After being gone a week, it looks as if I never had a garden for all the weeds. It’s nice to know there are flowers that will bloom in summer here.

  2. Please don’t spray Bt!! Checkerspot populations are seriously declining! Try planting chelone so they’ll eat that instead of your rudbeckia. It’s one of their favorite foods.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I only sprayed Bt on a few selected flowers that I didn’t want to lose. Believe me, the Checkerspots are not in decline here. They are everywhere. I think it’s okay to use a natural control very selectively. I’ll check into chelone, but I don’t think that will stop them from eating fuzzy rudbeckia. It’s their favorite.

  3. marna says:

    Absolutely love your daylilies!!! Zinnia is a big favorite here. I usually buy several in bloom from my local nursery and they can be depended on to bloom thru heat and humidity until a hard frost. I love sunflowers too but had to stop growing them They were covered with small green bugs that ate the blooms. Still trying to find a solution to the green bug problem.

  4. Superb choices for summer blooms Dee!

  5. Les says:

    Your garden is an amazing testament to what happens when summer heat and adequate rainfall are combined.

  6. Phillip says:

    They all look great. I like that hibiscus!

  7. I’m a failure with daylilies. How can this be, but I am. Maybe the wet down here. Maybe next year I’ll try some of your other suggestions. You inspire me!

  8. So many pretty blooms! I especially like the zinnias. I’ll have to look for the Queen Ann Lime.
    With all the spring rains here, the weeds got a real foothold. I’ll be playing catch-up for a long time.
    Maybe the faucet being abruptly being turned off will help.

  9. Kathy Sturr says:

    Now I know why the four o’clocks aren’t really doing well – they like heat! – which is something we are lacking here in the Northeast except for the past few days. I planted a yellow and white stripe. The ants ate my sunflowers – like little beavers they chewed the bottom of their stalks until they toppled. I may get lucky with one or two but boo hoo! Zinnias do well here but I discovered Japanese beetles like them, too, in TI Park. I squish their little heads. I have grown Queen Lime before – stunning! Love that Pineapple lily! You really have beat the heat Dee!

  10. It’s hot, humid, and buggy here in PA, too, Dee, this week. Your mid-summer garden is amazing. I love that panicum/bachelor’s buttons/rudbeckia grouping. Your zinnias are doing better than mine, I think — the Japanese beetles are consuming them — and everything else. Maybe that’s one pest you don’t get in Oklahoma? P. x

  11. I am also a big fan of Queen Red Lime zinnias, and I pay dearly for a few paltry seeds. I’ve decided that the seeds are so pricey because the flowers last forever, and don’t get a chance to go to seed before frost comes! I’ve had very little luck saving seed from one year to the next. Mine are behind this year, but I still hope to have some eventually. I nearly swooned when I saw yours, so you can tell, I’m a fan! LOL

  12. Dee Nash says:

    Karin, the weeds are killing me. I’ve never had so much moisture, and they love growing in it. I kinda ignore some of it until September. Then, I go full throttle again.

  13. Yes, that is a tad too hot to spend too much time outside. Great for swimming, though. You have a lovely collection of sunflowers! I always plant flowers with veggies. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where I plant more flowers (for cutting) than I do vegetables! It’s so much fun to watch the pollinators! Beautiful photos, as always. 🙂

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Beth, I long ago lost my heart to flowers. I still plant veggies, but flowers are my favorites, especially easy ones.

  14. Hibiscus don’t always bloom here due to LACK of heat. They need hot summer days to let them know it’s time to get growing.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      I bet that’s true where you live Kathy. With the summer you’ve been having, I bet they’re blooming this year. 😉

  15. indygardener says:

    Such bright, pretty flowers. We share a few in common, but you’ve got several I don’t have!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      That’s what makes blogging so much fun. Seeing everyone else’s plants. So many things we can and cannot grow.

  16. Sounds like you are experiencing a real “southern” summer. I was drenched the other morning pulling monster weeds that grow a foot a day despite the heat and humidity. I find it exhausting to keep up with the garden in July and August and like you would much rather be inside in the comfort of air conditioning. Love, love all your summer blooms, especially the sunflowers!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hey Karin, yes the weeds are completely out of control here. I’m just hanging in there and doing what I can until September rolls around. Then, I’ll go full throttle again. Thank you for loving my flowers with me.

  17. Robin Ripley says:

    What a wonderful variety of flower you have, Dee! I’m kicking myself for not planting sunflowers this year. They do make such a bold statement. And don’t you love Botanical Interests? Love them.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hey Robin, yes love Botanical Interests. Such great seeds. Such nice people. It always seems like there is so much to do in the garden at the same time sunflower seeds need planting. If I don’t plant them though, I miss them so much. Such great plants. Nothing like them.

  18. I am happy you got out amongst the mosquitoes in the heat to take a few pictures. I planted a Cheyenne Spirit coneflower this spring. I hope it does as well as anticipated. I would like to have more of it’s color in the garden. Try to stay cool.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Lisa, I LOVE Cheyenne Spirit coneflowers. I think they are one of the best new seed strains out there. I hope it performs well for you. I bought a few this year. I had the aster yellows for a couple of years so I didn’t add any new echinacea then. Now, things are better. I hear it’s hot where you are too.

  19. Oh, I am growing that Queen Ann Lime this year and while it is just starting to bloom, I am loving it. The package picture did this flower no justice. All your blooms look resplendent in spite of the summer heat.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Layanee, a friend–I can’t remember who–suggested I grow it last year. It was too late to sow seed so I waited until this spring. You’re right. Even my photo doesn’t show this flower the way it truly appears. There is nothing quite like it. I love it. I think the garden looks good because of all the rain we’ve had.

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