By Jodi Torpey
Gardeners may take cover during sizzling summer afternoons, but the flowers we’ve planted have to take the heat or get out of the garden.
Flowers that can’t stand up to high temperatures, low humidity, and intense sunlight don’t last for long around here. Fortunately Mountain region gardeners have some beautiful high-altitude options.
One of my favorite heat-loving plants has lovely blooms that grow on pads covered in sharp spines. Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia) loves the hot weather, and the hotter, the better. I placed my plants where they get full sun and even some reflected heat. I think the pink and yellow flowers that bloom in early summer are as lovely as any domesticated rose.
Daylilies are another tough, heat-loving flower. Each summer I’m surprised by the yellow daylilies that fill the median of a busy thoroughfare near my neighborhood. These flowers and their tidy green foliage stay perky during summer, despite being exposed to sun, heat-absorbing black asphalt, and car exhaust. If these daylilies can live here, imagine how they’d look in the hottest spot in your landscape.
You know that any plant called red-hot poker is perfect for a hot spot in the xeriscape garden. Regal torch flowers (Kniphofia caulescens) are native to South Africa and accustomed to hot conditions. The tall flower stems, with their brilliant yellow and red flowers, grow from the center of a rosette of long, spiky leaves.
Torch flowers make dramatic plantings when placed in clumps near the back of the garden. These plants prefer a well-drained soil and an occasional deep watering during the hottest months of summer.
Another of my favorite heat-loving perennials is Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia). This hardy plant originated in central Asia, where it thrives in high and dry conditions. I’ve planted one sunny corner garden bed with four plants that show up reliably each year.
Russian sage grows into tall, upright shrubs featuring tiny lavender flowers that bees adore. Leave the stems standing to add interest to the winter garden and then cut them back each spring.
The ‘Coronation Gold’ yarrow (Achillea filipendulina ‘Coronation Gold’) in my xeriscape exceeded expectations this year. Despite a full-sun space -- and an extremely dry winter -- both plants grew tall and bloomed profusely to give the backyard long-lasting color.
I’m always on the lookout for other flowering plants to add to my hot, dry garden. If you have suggestions, please add them here!
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