The heat is on
Try these heat-tolerant plants for blooms that will survive well into winter’s frost.
When it’s hot, it’s hot. Or so the old ditty goes. It certainly applies to gardening in Tulsa in the sultry summer months.
Rather than sulking at wilting plants that thrived in spring and early summer, it’s time to yank them up and replace with substitutes that can hack the heat and keep blooming until frost. Here are some time-tested suggestions from local nurserymen, horticulturists and just-plain garden pros to keep your garden a palette of color. All thrive on the heat and relatively little water.
Zinnia. This is the classic hot-weather annual. From border-friendly miniatures to plants that produce saucer-size blooms, this is the plant that adds garden color plus provides the perfect flower to clip for indoor bouquets. Buy plants in nurseries now, but it’s not too late to sow seeds that should provide blooms in about six weeks. The seeds love the warmed-up ground. Longtime Tulsa gardeners believed that July Fourth was the time to pop zinnia seeds in the ground. And it’s still the best bet to get the most color for a little bit of cash.
Lantana. If you kill this one, you might as well give up gardening and take up golf. Lantana, a heat-loving native of tropical regions, is an annual in our climate. Its flowers come in a rainbow of colors that transform as the blooms mature.
Butterfly weed. Keep deadheading this orange-yellow perennial and you will be rewarded with new blooms until frost. And, yes, it’s a butterfly attractor. If you don’t like the name, impress your friends and call it by its botanical title, asclepias tuberosa.
Butterfly bush. This is a perennial and botanically not related to butterfly weed but equally appealing to the winged creatures. It comes in shades of blue, pink and white. And, again, pruning will keep flowers abloom until frost.
Periwinkle. Another no-brainer that loves the heat and tolerates little fussing over.
Purple coneflower. This native plant and its hybridized relatives will keep producing blooms if they are deadheaded regularly. A perennial, it will be ready to go next summer with enough offspring to share with gardening friends.
Portulaca. Also called moss rose, this old-fashioned favorite makes a sturdy groundcover with blooms in a riot of shades.
Catmint. Sometimes called catnip, this perennial produces sprays of blue-lavender flowers. As a bonus, if you have a kitty, a sprig or two will send it prancing into feline heaven.
Coleus. Forget the flowers, but coleus in its multiple varieties of foliage can provide rich color in the garden. For the best look and bushiest plants, pinch off the purple flower shoots.
What to do in Tulsa gardens this month:
Think turf. To keep that grass green, just say “no” to scalping. Let the blades grow longer to shade the roots and conserve water. To avoid fungal diseases that show up as brown spots, water in the morning. Evening and night watering encourages disease.
Maintenance. Even the toughest plants need some help. Pinch off spent flowers and fertilize about every two weeks. The soil should be moist, so roots won’t be burned. If bedding plants look healthy but spindly, cut them back to about 3 inches from the ground. You’ll be rewarded with bushy new growth.
Rose rescue. Heat and humidity are the worst enemies of rose bushes. Be diligent about spraying regularly to combat black spot and powdery mildew. By the month’s end, prune bushes back by about half to get a garden bouquet of fall flowers.
Last call. If you have overwintered mums outside, now’s the time to prune to guarantee bushy plants and lots of flowers come fall. Add a shot of fertilizer.
Spring blooms. Do it if you need to, but keep those clippers away from spring-blooming shrubs such as azalea, forsythia and quince. You’ll be cutting off the start of next season’s flowers. The best time to prune is right after bloom.