Beautiful plants that can withstand the summer heat

After the scorching temperatures in July and the apparent lack of rain, it makes sense to take stock of those plants that survive and even thrive in hot and dry conditions. As a rule, plants with silvery or pubescent leaves have adapted to reflect or protect themselves from the sun and evaporation.

avender is a well known example, its silvery gray leaves untouched by the long Mediterranean summer. It is deservedly popular as it brings aroma, shape and color to the garden.

Another example is Santolina pinnate, commonly known as cotton lavender. In summer, it has finely feathery, silvery foliage and small lemon flowers. The leaves give off a delightful fragrance when crushed, and its round, compact shape makes this shrub a useful evergreen or ‘evergray’. Other silvery plants include nepeta, or catnip, a perennial that is fast growing, fragrant, and has blue flowers; perovsia or Russian lavender, again with silvery leaves and blue flowers; and Convolvulus cneorum with silky foliage and funnel-shaped white flowers in early summer.

Salvias have become extremely popular and breeders are busy creating more and more beautiful and flowering varieties, all of which prefer hot and dry conditions. ‘Nachtvlinder’ is a plant with tall racemes of maroon velvety flowers that will last until autumn. Crush the leaves to release the fragrant sage scent. It is a borderline species, so it will probably survive the winter outdoors in coastal areas, but if you are in colder areas, you may want to raise and shelter in a winter sheltered area. Last winter was not so harsh and mine survived outdoors, but now it’s worth taking cuttings just in case.

If it grows from a wall or a crack in the pavement, you will know that it is well adapted to drought. Nowadays, red valerian can be seen everywhere and is guaranteed to survive drought conditions. The beautiful flower heads are usually pink, white or red. Similarly, buddleias will grow in abandoned lots, but there are some beautiful cultivated varieties that are suitable for home settings and bring fragrance, beauty, and butterflies to your yard.

Huge purple balls of Allium do well in dry weather, but densely packed, spiky Echinops balls are also needed. This is a perennial with pointed leaves and globular violet-blue flowers.

These species are just a few examples of drought tolerant plants, but there are countless others to learn about. Wait for their root system to take root and they will reward you with their ability to survive the warm and dry summers that may be ahead.

Thick mulch is a good way to help the soil retain as much moisture as possible, and it can also suppress weed growth. While we take a more relaxed approach to weeds and appreciate their wild flower properties, in dry conditions they will compete with your crops for water, so keep new planted specimens out of any competition.

plant of the week

Cosmos two-feathered
Cosmos is a semi-hardy annual from Mexico that can be sown indoors in early spring or field sown in May. It never fails to please and is a great border gap filler. The cheerful, daisy-like flowers come in pale or deep pink, purple, or white, and simply need to be cut back once the flower wilts to keep the display working. Pinch during growth to form bushy plants, or plant in a mass where they will support each other. Friendly with bees and butterflies.

Questions and answers from readers

I would like to grow red-hot pokers. Can they be planted now?

Yes, you can plant them now if you keep them well watered, especially during dry periods, until they become established. After that, they are quite drought-resistant. There are many different varieties in terms of flower size and color, so it’s time to choose while you see exactly what you’re getting. From Africa, they prefer a sunny location and well-drained soil.

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@diarmuidgavin uses the hashtag #weekendgarden