Sensational Container Garden Selections to Beat the Summer Heat

Sensational Container Garden Selections to Beat the Summer Heat

As the high heat of summer sets in, many plants hunker down to survive. Some drop their leaves to conserve energy during the brutal heat. Others wilt to prevent excessive loss of moisture, and others go completely dormant. While these adaptations ensure long term health for the garden as a whole, it does tend to leave gardeners frustrated and longing for color and beauty in summer months. The answer is to create container gardens featuring plants that have evolved to thrive in these conditions!

plants that thrive in summer heat

Sensational Color in the Summer Garden 

The key to plants that bloom beautifully in summer heat is to select those that evolved in just such conditions. Planting them in containers makes for easy care of their watering needs in summer as well as moving them to protection come winter.  These are some of my favorite blooming plants for a silling summer!

disocactus blooms and plants

Disocactus - Epiphyllum - Climbing Cactus

Disocactus is a spectacular blooming cactus native to the cloud forests of Mexico. The spectacular blooms in a range of brilliant red, pink, yellow and white give rise to the common name of orchid cactus, but I think my favorite common name is discocactus - the two colored image above looks like a disco ball, doesn't it?  :)   

Disocactus bloomsDisocactus are epiphyllum - plants that grow on other plants. They are not parasites stealing nutrients, but instead use their roots to stabilize themselves in the fork of a tree branch.  Despite its exotic origins, orchid cactus is one of the easiest and most forgiving plants to grow. Happy outdoors in the ground or in a container in zones 10 - 11, it will cheerfully grow indoors in any climate year round, or with outdoor excursions spring through fall. A true cactus, disocactus have no spines, and indeed, no true leaves. What appears to be long leaves are actually long, wavy, flattened stems. These can be tied to a lattice to grow vertically, or allowed to trail, and frequently large plants will do both.

Provide your orchid cactus full sun to bright filtered light, and plant in a 50/50 blend of good quality potting mix and cactus mix. Though a very tough succulent that can survive months without water, your Disocactus duo will grow and bloom its best given weekly waterings (or when its soil is dry) spring through fall. Apply a half strength 10-10-10 fertilizer twice a month spring through summer. Come winter, protect from frost and cut back on the water to just once or twice per month.

This pink and yellow disocactus duo blooms nearly 10 months each year!

stephanotis fragrant Madagascar jasmine plant 

Stephanotis - Madagascar Jasmine

A summer breeze drifts past, bringing the intoxicating scent of jasmine... Clusters of waxy white stephanotis blooms emit an enchanting fragrance, blooming on a fast growing vine that is happy indoors or out in the garden.  Also known as Madagascar jasmine, this heavy flowering tropical vine is well suited to growing in bright shade or diffused light in the garden, in a container or indoors. Large, oval, leathery leaves are a deep and glossy green, providing a handsome frame for the clusters of fragrant white blooms.  

stephanotis jasmine flower leis and crownsStephanotis is called the wedding flower or bridal veil in Hawaii and is traditionally used for leis and bridal bouquets. The name is from the Greek term meaning "fit for a crown".  Sturdy, woody vines and leaves evolved to retain moisture in summer heat make this a plant that holds well after cutting and can be used as a handsome cut flower.

Planted in the garden bed, stephanotis will quickly scramble up to 20 feet tall! For container growing, cut back the vines in the fall, to keep the size in check and to promote branching. Provide stephanotis vine with a sturdy support to climb.  Stephanotis is not frost hardy and should be brought indoors over the winter in all but the most mild of climates. A long-lived plant, this tender evergreen can grow and bloom indoors for many years.

Whether you are planning a garden party, a tropical staycation or just a laid back time for relaxation - bring stephanotis into your garden to enjoy that jasmine scented summer breeze!

mixed succulents are perfect for summer containers

Succulents for Summer

Succulents have taken the world by storm! A dizzying array of vibrant colors, fascinating forms and extraordinary textures are matched by the versatility with which they can be used in the home or garden. This vast collection of plants has evolved in hot, dry climates to store water in special structures in their leaves, stems and roots. This adaptation of storing water for later use enables succulent plants to thrive even when water is scarce.

mixed succulent garden in reclaimed wood planter

This adaptation to store water is the primary reason we succulents thrive in the wide range of containers and the many decorative DIY projects we just love to use. It is also the characteristic that lets succulents flourish in the same hot, dry conditions that would damage other plants.

Whether you mix succulents with other succulents like this mixed succulent garden in reclaimed wood planter or mix succulents with culinary herbs, the water needs are much lower than for most plants. This does not mean no water - succulents do need proper watering - just much less than most garden plants. 

There is a succulent variety to suit every gardener's taste and conditions. From tiny plants just an inch or two tall and wide, to enormous, architectural beauties - succulents can be happy indoors or out and - if protected from winter cold - any climate!

adenium desert rose tree, blooms and plant

Adenium Obesum - Desert Rose

Adenium are incredibly strange, undeniably cool plantsThis fun and fabulous succulent thrives and thrills with very little care. Native to the semi-arid regions of Africa and Arabia, it requires lots of sun, and little water. Forming an extremely wide, bulbous base, and twisting, swollen branches tipped with tightly clustered leaves and bright flowers, Adenium lend an architectural interest in the garden or in containers.

adenium obesum desert rose pink picoteeOn the savannah, adenium, also called desert rose, soar forty feet or more to form odd looking, bright blooming trees.  In the home garden, adenium take well to container growing, and are a natural fit for bonsai as they swell and bloom beautifully even when confined to a small planter. The strange, swollen trunk is called a caudex. Together with the exposed, twisting, swollen roots, the caudex stores water for the plant's future needs. This is an adaptation the plant made to the searing heat and long droughts of its native environment. This same adaptation makes adenium incredibly easy to grow and enjoy in containers.

Provide your adenium desert rose with fast draining soil like a 50/50 blend of quality potting soil and a cactus mix. Simply water once per month - possibly twice during an especially hot summer outdoors. Reduce water in winter, but continue monthly watering indoors, where this will remain a handsome and intriguing house plant. Protect from temperatures below 50 degrees. Adenium desert rose are very easy to grow - plant this sure-fire conversation piece and enjoy!

Along with the fabulous and fragrant plumeria, these plants are my prescription for an easy summer garden filled with color and fragrance. I would love to know what your favorite summer selections are! Please take a moment to leave a comment and let me know what you think!  :)


Happy gardening!




great selections for summer container gardens

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  • Kathleen McCarthy
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