Summer Bloomers

Five flowering plants that can beat the heat.



Caladiums

Keri Leymaster

Summer can be brutal on Central Florida gardens. With temperatures averaging 90-plus degrees and humidity to match, most flowering plants—like many of us—wither and droop. There are a few, though, that can add beauty and drama to your landscape or lanai with little maintenance. Keri Leymaster, assistant director of Orlando’s Harry P. Leu Gardens suggests these five for long-lasting summer color: Angelonia, Caladiums, Coleus, New Guinea Impatiens, and Pentas. 

Caladiums

Adding splashes of color to any yard, caladiums are an ideal edging plant. “Many of the smaller ‘lance leaf’ varieties stay under 12 inches tall,” says Leymaster, “and they make a great colorful border.”

The heart-shaped foliage can look like a work of art, with deep pink veins drawn across greenish-white leaves or dabs of red and pink on a lime-green leaf—there are many different colors, sizes and patterns.

Once considered a shade-only plant, newer varieties of caladiums can tolerate some sun exposure.

“Caladiums could be considered perennial in Florida, as they usually last three to four years,” says Leymaster. She suggests inter-planting a few new bulbs among the existing ones each year to keep your flowerbed looking fresh and full. 

Bonus: Caladium leaves make terrific additions to any cut-flower arrangement. “I have had these last for several weeks in water,” Leymaster says. “And, unlike many other cut flowers, caladiums do not want to be kept in a chilled cooler; this will actually cause them to wilt.” (By the way, caladiums do bloom, but the flower is usually held underneath the showier foliage.)

Angelonia

Sometimes called “summer snapdragon,” this hardy, yet delicate-looking plant generates spikes of blooms that range in color from purple to pink to white. “It’s easy to combine with other plants because of its airy texture and habit,” says Leymaster. “I prefer to mix it in a bed and let the purple or white flowers peek through for added interest.”

The great news is these plants are tough and drought tolerant. Once established, they don’t need supplemental watering.

They prefer full sun and grow from one- to three-feet tall.

Bonus: Some varieties have a faint, lightly sweet scent. 

 

 

 

 

 

Coleus

The varieties of coleus are endless—with colors ranging from faint yellow to deep burgundy. 

Coleus is an “indicator plant,” says Leymaster, meaning it is often one of the first in the garden to show a slight wilt to let you know that it is time to water.

These versatile plants make excellent flowerbed borders, but they also do well in containers, including hanging baskets. Some of them even thrive
as houseplants. 

Most varieties are shade-loving plants, but “a lot of breeding has been done in recent years to find coleus that will grow well in full sun,” Leymaster says. “Leu Gardens has a display of some of these tougher varieties including the bright ‘Redhead’ and ‘Coleosaurus.’ You can still grow these in shaded areas, too, but the color is most impressive in full sun.”

Bonus: Coleus is one of the easiest plants to propagate. Take a 4-6” stem cutting and suspend it in water. Little white roots will appear in a few weeks.

New Guinea Impatiens

Unlike regular impatiens, these hybrid annuals can tolerate partial sun. New Guineas do best when they have consistent moisture.

The flowers, which can be as large as 2 inches in diameter, are purple, pink, lavender, white, orange, and red; the narrow leaves range from light green
to burgundy.

They do well in containers and planted in the yard in mass. “They have a nice mounding form,” Leymaster says. “Large beds of New Guineas look like a single umbrella of color.”

Bonus: Traditional impatiens are succumbing to a disease called Impatiens Downy Mildew—this causes the flowers to look beautiful one day, and scraggly and wilted the next. Fortunately, Leymaster says, “New Guinea Impatiens are immune to this disease, and they provide the same great colors for shady or partial sun areas.”

Pentas

“Pentas are one of the best plants for attracting pollinators to your garden,” says Leymaster. “The star-shaped flowers have a deep throat that is perfect for butterflies.” Bees and
hummingbirds, too.

These plants are prolific bloomers. Flowers form in rounded clusters of red, white, pink, and purple. “Pentas are so versatile,” Leymaster says. “They can go from a container to a border plant to a mass planting.”

This annual plant grows as a perennial in Central Florida’s temperate climate. “I would trim them back hard in the spring to get rid of any woody growth and encourage flowering,”
suggests Leymaster.

Bonus: Pentas are extremely drought tolerant. “Once the plant has rooted in the soil, it will be able to withstand very hot temperatures with minimal irrigation,” says Leymaster.  

 

 


Gardening Tips 

  • Before heading to the garden nursery, decide where you’re going to plant—whether its in flowerbeds or in pots, says Leymaster. “The sites should be chosen beforehand so that you buy the appropriate number of plants. It may be helpful to think about the colors that will look best next to your home.”
  • Once you’ve selected your plants and put them into containers with fresh potting mix, or in flowerbeds with amended soil, follow these useful tips from Leymaster:
  • Water thoroughly, soaking the soil, which will eliminate air pockets and start plant growth. Regular watering may be discontinued once seasonal rains begin.
  • Fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer to provide the plants with nutrients.
  • Pull weeds when they are small so they don’t choke your plants.
  • Prune your plants by pinching or deadheading to encourage growth and more blooms. 

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