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Top Summer Perennials

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Top Summer Perennials

Happy summer, everyone! By now, no matter where you live, the sun is shining and the weather is toasty. But nobody wants their garden to be toasty, right? We want our summer gardens to be lush, colorful, and to send us that vacation vibe that’s instantly relaxing. So, we’ve got tips to help you keep your warm-weather garden healthy, thriving, and drop-dead gorgeous!

What’s so special about summer plants, anyway?

While we cannot deny the allure of spring plants (The newness! The fresh colors!), summer plants keep us swooning. These are typically heat- and sun-loving plants, and are designed to take what Mother Nature is offering at this time of year—and look great doing it. They fill holes in the garden after the spring perennials and bulbs have completed their bloom cycles, and they also act as a bridge into the fall garden. In fact, summertime is the perfect time to determine where you need to fill in and add some texture and color.

Now, all of that being said, summer-planted plants need particular care because they are being asked to deliver the goods when the temps are soaring (and the rest of us are melting). But really, it’s pretty simple as long as you follow some easy guidelines, so keep reading.

So I can plant perennials in the summer?

Absolutely, you can! Now, while the optimal time to plant perennials is in the fall or spring, you can certainly also plant them in the summer as long as you care for them adequately. This is particularly true if you live in an area with high summer heat, but it’s absolutely doable. Here are our best tips:

  • Plant when temps are cooler—late in the day or on a cloudy day.
  • Avoid planting during a heatwave (nobody likes that, anyway!).
  • When you dig your hole, fill it with water and then let it drain before popping your plant in—the result will be a moist environment rather than a bone dry one to receive those new plants.
  • Give your summer-planted perennials plenty of water to get them established—daily for the first couple of weeks, and then backing off to a couple times per week, then weekly. Adjust accordingly if you receive a good amount of rain; you simply want to keep the soil moist but not wet.
  • Defer to the plant’s preferred sun requirements—if it likes part sun to full sun, opt to plant in part sun because the sun’s rays at that time of year are their strongest.
  • Remember to add 2–3” of mulch after planting to conserve soil moisture.

What if I have plants that I planted in the spring—do they need special care in the summer?

Your spring-planted perennials have a bit of a head start on those planted in the summer, but you’ll still want to keep your eye on them to make sure they’re getting off to a good start in the warmer weather.

  • Continue to water regularly—they are still in their first growing season and are not fully established yet.
  • If they completed their spring bloom, you can go ahead and give them a light cut-back and an application of a balanced fertilizer. They may actually re-bloom for you, depending upon the plant variety!
  • Keep them well mulched to suppress competition from weeds and to keep soil moist.

What are great plants to plant now?

We’re glad you asked! We have a running list of our favorites, but we’re not gonna lie—that list changes frequently. It’s like trying to choose your favorite child. But today, these are our six favorites, and they’re wonderful additions to the summer garden.

  1. Grasses: We adore ornamental grasses in the summertime because of their unique form and texture. They also add movement to the garden when the breeze picks up, adding a definite cooling effect in the process. Try Blue Fescue ‘Elijah Blue’ for a low-growing clumping grass with blue foliage, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’ for a taller grass with striped leaves, or Japanese Forest Grass ‘All Gold with its golden yellow foliage.

  2. Gaillardia: Also called Blanket Flower, these summertime beauties thrive in heat and low water conditions and are heavy-blooming with red to yellow colors. We’re kind of in love with ‘Arizona Apricot’ right now because of its lower-growing form and apricot-to-yellow petals.

  3. Rudbeckia: One of the most recognizable summer wildflowers, rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan) sports golden yellow petals with dark centers and makes a superb cut flower. Check out ‘Denver Daisy’ with its rusty markings, ‘Indian Summer’ for jumbo 6-9” blooms, and ‘Cherry Brandy’ for a unique maroon bloom with a purple-black center.

  4. Coreopsis: If you love pollinators and have a space in your summer garden that needs filling, scoop up some coreopsis! It’s drought tolerant, easy to grow, and available in some really intriguing colors and forms. Consider ‘Solana Golden Sphere’ with its ruffly petals, ‘Uptick Cream and Red’ for its pale yellow and burgundy markings, and ‘Jethro Tull’ for its classic coreopsis beauty (also you can’t go wrong with a plant named Jethro Tull, right?).

  5. Bee balm: Nothing better than flowers that look like fireworks, that’s what we always say! Bee balm (Monarda) offers up fringed blooms in shades of red, purple, and bright pink that will wake up your summer garden in a heartbeat. Choose ‘Pink Lace’, ‘Fireball’, ‘Grand Marshall’, or ‘Balmy Lilac’.

  6. Lantana: It’s super drought tolerant, heat tolerant, pollinator-attracting, deer-resistant, and produces non-stop blooms—lantana has literally everything going for it! Each flower is actually a cluster of tiny flowers, lighting up container gardens and perennial landscape beds. ‘Lucky Flame’ is mounding with red-orange blooms, ‘Lucky White’ cools the garden down with its creamy white and yellow petals, and ‘Hot Blooded Red’ delivers a powerful zing with its brilliant and dramatic bright crimson flowers.

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  • Katie Elzer-Peters