By Scott Calhoun
Some of the best flowering plants for high summer in low desert climates are shrubs. Plants such as yellow bells (Tecoma stans var. angustata) and sky flower (Duranta erecta, featured above), strut their stuff during the hottest weather. Yellow bells sport bright-green leaves and big, showy, trumpet-shape yellow flowers, while sky flower produces long, arching clusters of purple flowers fringed with white. Both are large plants, so give them plenty of room.
Plants in the Texas ranger group (Leucophyllum) are especially good in summer, as they respond to monsoon rain, flowering about two weeks after a storm or surge in humidity. Rangers, like the ‘Green Cloud’ variety pictured above, get 6–8 ft high and are great for screening in a full-sun location. Other ranger varieties, such as blue ranger, compact Texas ranger, and Chihuahuan sage, are smaller if you are looking for a shrub in the 4–6-ft-high range.
Tough Turk’s cap
The red-flower perennial Turk’s cap is beyond versatile. It grows in full sun, full shade, wet soil, dry soil, alkaline soil, and acidic soil. It also is drought tolerant. Native to Texas it blooms from summer till frost. There are several selections, including a giant called ‘Big Momma’, and a pink-flowered plant, ‘Pam Puryear’. All perform admirably throughout the hottest months of the year.
In the Southwest some of the sages that hail from higher elevations peter out in midsummer. Not so tropical sage (Salvia coccinea), pictured above. This short-lived perennial—sometimes grown as an annual—blooms like crazy in the heat and humidity. It also readily reseeds and persists in your garden indefinitely. It is a small plant, only 1–2 ft high, that looks great tucked into a bed of agaves or grown among other perennials. It takes full sun or part shade.
What are your favorite summer flowers?
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