6 SENSATIONAL PLANTS FOR LATE-SUMMER COLOR Add these plants to keep your garden looking its finest through late summer into fall.
By Justin W. Hancock, Costa Farms garden guru
I love having my garden in constant bloom. It’s such a delight to look out from the house, or see beds from the street, that don’t seem to run out of flowers. It takes a little planning (especially if you mainly grow perennials), but it’s relatively easy. Late summer, though, when warm days transition to cool nights can be one of the most challenging times to ensure a steady supply of blooms. Here are six of my favorite plants to bridge the gap.
There’s a wealth of lovely varieties of agastache available. The traditional variety goes by the common name anise hyssop (due to its licorice-scented leaves and violet-blue flowers), but look around and you’re likely to find a wealth of other fun choices that bloom in yellow, orange, peach, pink, and purple. All love full sun and are wonderfully heat and drought tolerant, attract butterflies, and are ignored by deer and rabbits. Hardiness varies, so read plant tags to make sure you select varieties appropriate for your garden.
A delightful cut flower, anemone offers big blooms on tall stems. Usually available in shades of white and pink, you may find varieties with single or double blooms. In my experience, anemone is rarely bothered by deer and forms a mound of divided foliage topped by blooms in late summer and autumn. Some varieties spread by underground stems; some gardeners consider them weedy. Zones 5-8.
Though bluebeard (Caryopteris) has an odd common name, you’ll love it in the garden. Consider it a perennial or shrub, depending on where you live, but either way, bluebeard shows off a steady show of violet-blue flowers that prove irresistible to bees and butterflies. Most varieties grow 2 to 4 feet tall and have a mounding shape. They typically feature silvery-gray foliage, but some varieties have bright golden-yellow leaves. Zones 5-9.
Most gardeners are familiar with the low, bushy coreopsis varieties (such as the popular ‘Zagreb’ or ‘Moonbeam’), but miss some real gems, such as Coreopsis tripteris. Try it and I bet you’ll love this beauty, which offers lots of yellow flowers with cheery brown centers, but on tall stems (to 6 feet or more) that dance and sway in the breeze. It’s a North-American-native perennial that thrives in full sun, loves dry soil, and attracts butterflies. Zones 3-8.
Another colorful North-American-native perennial, Helen’s flower (Helenium) sports a show of yellow, orange, or red daisy-shaped flowers that look good on the plant and are great for cutting. It’s a favorite of bees and butterflies, though usually ignored by deer and rabbits. Unlike many natives, Helen’s flower prefers moist soil, so don’t let it dry out. Zones 4-8. Tip: Increase the flower show by pinching off the top couple of inches of the plant in early May.
A tough-as-nails groundcover, plumbago tolerates sun or shade, drought, and even deer and rabbits. It’s also beautiful, producing lovely sky-blue flowers against its dark green foliage. The show continues as the blooms fade; its leaves turn a rich shade of ruby purple in the fall. I’ve found it can spread fast in full sun; growing it in shade slows plumbago’s quick growth. Zones 5-9.
About the Author: Justin W. Hancock is a professional horticulturist at Costa Farms, the largest grower of houseplants, annual, perennial, and tropical plants in the United States. He currently lives and gardens in Miami, FL, but grew up in Northern Minnesota and has had a garden many places in between!
Posted September 16, 2014
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