Summer Flowers For Color
This is the time of year that your flower beds can start to look a little weary. You had beautiful blooms from late spring through the first weeks of July but now, in the heat, summer flowers are starting to fade. You can dead head all you want — this will keep some plants blooming into fall (one of the reasons we love marigolds) — but most flowers don’t want to make the effort once things turn hot and dry.
Still, there are ways — and plants, both annuals and perennials — that will keep color in your flower gardens well into fall. Like most things in the garden, they require some advance planning. If you’ve started seeds well into the season indoors, and chosen those seeds wisely, then you may have late-blooming annuals that will keep your landscape alive with color. Late blooming is just one of the traits we’re looking for. Drought tolerance, the ability to adapt to xeric conditions, is another. You may think that starting annuals to put out later in summer is a lot of work for little return. You might change your mind when you’re enjoying blossoms on labor day. Perennials, well, your return on investment will accrue season after season.
Of course your local conditions will determine which plants are best for late season color. This is where a good local garden reference, either online, through a university extension division or, most likely, at your friendly neighborhood nursery, comes in handy. The nursery is also the place to get late blooming plants in case you didn’t have the luxury (or go to the work) of starting flower seed for late planting.
Zinnia, cone flowers (echinacea), helianthius (yes, sunflowers; check out some of the dwarf varieties), and asters planted in combination with dusty miller and marigolds make for a good combination of late season colors. Daisies make for good, warm, dry month flowers. Almost anything from the Rudbeckia family will give you blossoms late in the summer, especially if you trim them back after an early season bloom. Depending on the type, they’re also a good choice for xeric gardens. They don’t need much water once they’re established. The perennial rubeckia laciniata (“herbstonne”) is a good choice because its tall. That tall growth means it won’t be ready until you need it. It also makes for a good dimensional effect among shorter flowering perennials, such as Autumn Joy or Matrona sedum.
Of course the weather will turn cool eventually in the fall even as summer dryness remains. Pansies (often available at nurseries late into the season) and snapdragons will provide cool weather color and can be overwintered with a good mulching in gardening zones six and higher. Chrysanthemums, of course, are a fall favorite. We mentioned drought tolerance above. Starting these plants well into the summer requires a lot of water. Be sure to keep them moist until well established.
Woody ornamentals tend to be good in the late season, things like hardy hibiscus and even some varieties of roses. Plan to plant these in the fall ahead of first frost and mulch them heavily, especially in the colder zones. With care, they’ll give you color the following year, just when you need it. Here’s a list of perennial flowers for late season blooms from Oregon State University.
Again, what you plant will be determined by local conditions. Let us know what does well in your garden during the dog days of summer, and what carries the colors well into fall. We’re looking forward to learning from you.