Each spring, we can hardly wait for summer to arrive. But then, around the Fourth of July, the love affair turns sour. The South gets hot. But just because you retreat indoors doesn't mean that your garden has to look abandoned. Plant these heat-loving flowers (see list below) by the first week of June, and your neighbors will want to know your secret. You'll only have to water them every other week, and most thrive with little or no fertilizer.
Prepare the Soil
Before you select the first plant, take a look at the soil. Now is the time to amend with organic matter such as compost, soil conditioner, or decomposed chopped leaves. These materials improve drainage and enable the plants to utilize water. Well-prepared beds help plants to become established faster and get them ready for the hot, dry days ahead.
Water and Mulch
Once your plants are in place, water regularly early on to establish good root systems. When hot weather hits, you'll have to do so only periodically. Remember to water slowly, close to the ground, and infrequently. A soaker hose or drip system puts moisture right where it needs to be--on the ground. If you water close to the soil, you'll have less evaporation, fewer diseases such as powdery mildew, and a lower water bill. Don't forget to mulch. It conserves soil moisture, reduces weeds, and looks pretty.
Drought-Tolerant Plants that Love the Heat
- Blackfoot or star daisy (Melampodium sp.)
- Blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandifolia)
- Lantana (Lantana sp.)
- Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha)
- Narrow-leaf zinnia (Zinnia angustifolia)
- Portulaca (Portulaca grandiflora)
- Threadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata)
- Verbena (Verbena hybrids)
Star daisies are available from Select Seeds, 1-800-684-0395 or www.selectseeds.com.
Blackfoot daisies are available from Plants of the Southwest, 1-800-788-7333 or www.plantsofthesouthwest.com .
Muhly grass can be purchased from Wayside Gardens.
This article is from the March 2005 issue of Southern Living.