Perennials that Beat the Heat

07 Apr 2022

A collection of die-hard, heat-thriving blooms

Story and Photos by Christine Hall

What could be better than sandy soil and drought-tolerant perennials for your sun-drenched garden? Perhaps ones that offer volumes of blooms and sprigs each season for your own cut bouquets? Or what about herbaceous perennials that attract native pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds, but not deer? if you are a gardener in the Sandhills who has been searching for new garden selections that will be as hardy and resilient as they are copious and self-sufficient, these suggestions may be music to your ears.

Lantana  I’ve found nothing hardier or more tolerable of neglect than Lantana. It sounds like an indecent life, but Lantana thrives in dry, hot weather and prefers it that way. Blooms are abundant, and it is available in a wide variety of mounting sizes and colors. Look for the durable and feisty ‘Miss Huff’ variety.

How to Plant and Grow Be sure to reference the mature growth height, because each variety differs. From shrub-like powerhouses to medium and small mounds, Lantana is a truly drought tolerant cultivar.

Tips and Tricks Deadheading is not necessary, which makes this perennial fuss-free. Be sure to plant in your sunniest spots, because even a few hours of shade reduce blooming vigor. Last year’s plant stems die and must be cut back, but its roots inground remain intact and ready for growth the following year.

Stokes’ Aster One of the bluest of the “blues,” ‘Stokes’ Aster’ brings down the house when in bloom. Spreading into mounds of robust daisy-like clusters, Aster is resilient and attracts winged pollinators of all kinds.

How to Plant and Grow Plant in full sun from early spring through early summer, spaced according to mature size. Clumps of three look beautiful offset by varying textures of white, pink, or yellow wildflowers.

Tips and Tricks Because Aster is often raised in compact garden center containers, they will unfurl in the garden, so be sure to give ample space. Deadhead spent blooms to encourage new growth. In early spring, cut stalks back to 4-6 inches. New growth will come from the base.

Salvia Salvias (also known as sages) flower for a long time, grow well in arid conditions, and provide textured variety with their different bloom shapes, colors, and heights. Part of the mint family, their stems offer velvety leaves and sprouting spires of purple and red hues. As such, hummingbirds, and butterflies flock to them!

How to Plant and Grow From creeping spreading varieties, to mounting bush-like selections, there is a Salvia for everyone. With one of the longest blooming seasons, Salvia will be on display Spring until frost.

Tips and Tricks Naturally deer and critter resistant, Salvia requires little care. Look for the ‘Hot Lips’ variety if you want a pinkish red showstopper. Side-benefit, Salvias are aromatic and offer an herbaceous waft to the air.

Getting Started

1. Know the Condition of your Landscape. Do you have shade or sun? When and where? Dappled light or bright and open? Morning light or afternoon blaze? All these things matter in selecting the right plants for the right places.

2. Height, Size and Color Selection. Read the garden nursery tags! Knowing the eventual height and spread of the mature plants will help you select the right number and where to strategically place to avoid overcrowding, planting something tall in front of something short, and so on.

3. Soil Preparation. Prepare your planting space. In sandy soils, the particles are so loose that water runs right through, and nutrients have nothing to cling to. Organic matter in the form of composted leaves, manures, and garden compost available at most gardening stores are invaluable to improving the soil’s ability to hold nutrients.

4. Timing. In the Carolinas, you can plant container-grown perennials year-round, but spring and fall are suitable times to get things in ground. The objective is to give the perennials time to establish before the onset of summer heat or
winter freeze.

5. Designing. Once you have covered the bases with selection, timing, and soil amendments, it’s time to get creative. One of my favorite tasks is to spend time planning my garden space. I sit and admire different areas of the yard, studying light, shadows cast from neighboring trees, and backgrounds. Will the bed look better against that fence? In front of that dark bush, or next to that stone wall? The colors and textures all interplay to create
mini masterpieces.

Home Grown Bouquets

The giving of flowers has been a storied gift in times of encouragement and support for centuries. Similar in timeframe to the invention of terrariums for nourishing indoor plants, the Victorian era introduced the tradition of giving flowers to convey messages. History, myths, and tales dating back to ancient Egypt, Greece, China, and Rome show how florals became an integral player in social customs. During these times, emotions were thought to be most appropriately expressed through the giving of flowers, as expressing feelings in words was taboo.

As we look for meaningful ways to stay connected with friends and loved ones during troubling times, it helps to lean on the wisdom of our natural world. Adding these perennials to your landscape will offer seasons of blooms ready to offer your own message of hope, appreciation, or support to those you love.

If you want more inspiration, visit the Village Arboretum in Pinehurst or the Sandhills Horticultural Gardens at Sandhills Community College. Both have labeled native plants on display and are free and open to the public.

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