During the annual dog days of summer, it’s a really good thing to have reliable plants in the garden and landscape. One of my hot summer go-to plants is the lantana with its nonstop color.
Lantanas are versatile plants that will thrive in the heat and humidity, like the 118-degree heat index we had in Ocean springs this past week. Whew! There are many great lantana selections available for our gardens, from 4-foot specimens to sprawling ground-cover choices, which come in too many colors to list.
One of the most frequent calls I get in the summer concerns lawns and ground covers under trees, where sunlight is limited. Most callers want grass in these areas and realize the limitations presented by the shade.
My go-to answer is an unwavering: “Why not plant liriope?” Liriope is a versatile groundcover that is very effective under large trees with reduced light or mass-planted on slopes. It also creates soft borders and edging for paved areas and foundations.
Having a color scheme is a landscape design technique gardeners have used for a long time.
A couple of weeks ago, a social media friend was asking what people thought about planting their landscapes in the color scheme of their favorite athletic team. I think we’ve all seen the branding associated with ornamental plants in garden centers and nurseries. Can you imagine the branding possibilities with planting your favorite team’s plants?
A long road trip I’m currently on made me realize that our climates may be significantly different, but our plants are often very similar.
This week, I’m participating in the National Agricultural County Agents Association conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. As I was driving north of Omaha, Nebraska, on I-29, I observed and enjoyed the blazing orange flower clusters of Asclepias tuberosa, commonly called butterfly weed.
It’s pretty easy to grow plants when water is plentiful, and that’s the situation much of the time in Mississippi. But sooner or later, the weather gets hot and dry, and Mississippi gardeners know that we need plants that can thrive in the summer heat.
Mississippi gardeners also must know how to keep themselves safe while working in the heat. Working outdoors for any length of time in the hot sun can take a toll on even the hardiest gardener.
I’m like most home gardeners when it comes to working in and maintaining my garden and landscape. My philosophy to garden chores can be summed up by the catchphrase of a friend of mine who is a home improvement expert: “I’m all about easy.”
This philosophy is especially true during the heat and humidity of the summer.
But despite my desire to do things the easy way, there are important summer garden activities required to keep some flowering plants looking good. Deadheading is one of these maintenance chores that often gets overlooked.
Most gardeners have favorite landscape plants they use every year, and I’m no different. But I also like to try new plants I see in garden centers or learn about from perusing winter catalogs.
This week, I want to tell you about some of the plants that are so far performing well in my landscape.
One plant I like to grow each summer is Blue Daze evolvulus, because this is an easy-to-care-for plant that needs minimal attention. Blue Daze has been around for a long time and was one of the first plants chosen as a Mississippi Medallion winner in 1996.
Our gardens and landscapes are heating up, and for hot summer color, you just can’t beat the annual vinca.
In my opinion, vinca is one of those perfect landscape plants. It produces loads of color and handles the high heat and dry conditions of our Mississippi summers.
Some of the very best vinca plantings I have seen were growing in raised beds. But in some years, entire planting beds of vincas seemed to fail almost overnight. A common characteristic of these failures is wet soil. Vinca plants do not like to grow with their feet wet.
Tropical plants, like elephant ears, just scream for attention and attract interest in any landscape. Most gardeners love elephant ears because they are easy-to-grow tropical plants that make a big impact.
There are three species commonly found in Mississippi landscapes: Alocasia, Colocasia and Xanthosoma. Colocasia is my favorite elephant ear variety and the focus of this column. Most Colocasia plants feature big leaves and big texture, but they’re not all green. In fact, there are Colocasia varieties with black leaves.
Foxglove can create a dramatic effect with its tall spires of flowers but is an underused plant in Mississippi, especially in the southern counties.
Foxglove, known botanically as Digitalis, is a member of a somewhat curious group of plants called biennials. These plants typically take two years to complete their lifecycles. After germination, the plants only grow vegetatively (leaves, stems and roots), usually forming a low-growing rosette.
Many seasoned gardeners, myself included, consider Angelonia one of the best plants for the hot summer garden.
Angelonia, a member of the snapdragon family, is actually called summer snapdragon. It thrives in the full sun during the heat and humidity of summer. Since this describes our usual summer weather, tolerance to these conditions is a requirement for our Mississippi gardens and landscapes.
The garden world is dominated by plants with round flowers, so the spiky texture of the Angelonia flower stalks is a welcome addition to any summer garden.
If you’re looking for something for your landscape that you’ve never tried, may I suggest flowering vines. Many gardeners enjoy these plants but don’t really give them enough attention except when they’re blooming in the spring.
Two of my favorite flowering vines are yellow jasmine and Confederate jasmine.
If there's one area in almost everyone's landscape that causes a lot of problems, it's that area between the sidewalk and the street.
I surrounded my mailbox with a small planting bed to help me try to garden in this area. I have had some success trying many different planting combinations that change with the seasons. But it is the summer that causes me the most trouble.
Home gardeners are showing more interest in planting native plants in the landscape. This makes a lot of sense because native plants have a greater tolerance to local environmental conditions. What holds them back is the fact that many have a limited ability to create excitement in the landscape.
One that defies that stereotype is the butterfly weed. This native plant was chosen as a Mississippi Medallion winner in 2012, an award given to plants selected for their superior and outstanding garden and landscape performance.
Even though we’re still early in spring, we need to get ready for the sweltering temperatures we know are on the way. This means we have to start planting two of my favorite summer plants that pack a powerful punch of summer color: SunPatiens and sun coleus.
SunPatiens love growing in full sun during the hottest parts of summer. SunPatiens are an improvement of New Guinea-type impatiens that can be grown in full sun. They have beautiful variegations and bloom from the time they are planted in late April or May through the fall.
There’s been a lot of attention paid to the matter of pruning, especially with the crime against horticulture known as “crape murder.” But we’re also in early spring, when many gardeners want to tidy up their landscape plants, and I’m no different.
This weekend, I removed a couple of large, overgrown junipers that the previous homeowner had planted. Feeling invigorated and empowered, I proceeded to prune back the small Indian hawthorn hedge along my front walk. And this is a warning to my foundation planting of boxwoods: You’re next.
After living in the North, I miss some of my favorite spring and summer plants as I now live in coastal Mississippi. Columbine is one I miss, as I love the way the flowers seem to be suspended in midair by the slender stems as if floating on a gentle breeze.
In my opinion, you need a columbine regardless of where you garden. Columbine can grow in Mississippi if you treat it as an annual because of our shortish springs and long, hot summers.
I enjoyed the warm spring weather while driving around south Mississippi this past weekend. One of the sights I noticed for the first time this year was the wisteria starting to bloom.
Wisteria doesn’t bloom at the first sign of warm weather. It’s one of those plants that waits patiently and is a good indicator that spring has officially sprung.
I’m always amazed at how high wisteria can climb into the tops of the trees, showing off how vigorous and aggressive these plants can be. As such, they can seem to be a little too much for the typical home landscape.