By Mary Glazer
Summer for me conjures up images of sprinklers, sparklers, and splashing children. My heat-loving flowers’ salute to the sun inspires my own fortitude, especially as I am wilting. At least I get to escape into air-conditioned buildings. I don’t know how the flowers do it 24 hours a day.
For all the years I’ve lived in the Gulf region, the words “heat” and “sun” seemed interchangeable. But as a gardener I’ve come to realize that all my flowering plants have to be able to handle the heat from late spring through summer and into fall. It’s not only the number of sunny days but also the high nighttime temperatures (typically 70 to 80 degrees) that take their toll.
My yard has no shortage of flowering plants that can take the heat. Some of my favorites include bougainvillea (pictured above), a flowering vine that keeps plugging right along no matter what the thermometer says. I enjoy the neon-pink flowers, but if that seems too bold, you also can get bougainvillea with white, purple, or red flowers.
Another flowering vine that works well in our area’s heat is coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), also called trumpet honeysuckle. The tubular flowers are reddish-orange on the outside and yellow-orange on the inside. Talk about bright! And they’re hummingbird magnets.
Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) can handle the heat too. The plant’s common name, cape leadwort, doesn’t do it justice, so most of us just refer to it as plumbago. No matter what you call it, this evergreen shrub is a delight, with its sky-blue flowers in summer and fall.
And don’t forget pentas (Pentas lanceolata), sometimes called star cluster, for the shape of its flowers. The plants are available in a range of colors, including pink, magenta, lilac, and white. But all bloom happily from spring to fall.
The list goes on and on: cat’s whiskers (Orthosiphon stamineus), bulbine (Bulbine frutescens), blue daze (Evolvulus glomeratus), marigold (Tagetes), bush daisy (Euryops pectinatus), and sunflower (Helianthus annuus).
And finally we have yarrow (Achillea millefolium, pictured), but it’s a catch-22 plant. It most definitely can take the heat, but it’s not happy with torrential rainfall. The plant also tends to spread readily—almost too readily—so be ready to keep it in check.
As for me, I’m sitting directly under a ceiling fan, air-conditioner running full blast, as an Italian ice frozen treat melts in my mouth. I’d never qualify as a heat-loving flower.
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