10 Perennials You Should Plant in the Heat of Summer

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She said with serious indignation, “You are a professional gardener and of all people should know that you do not plant perennials now. You plant in the fall.”

I barely knew this person, so I just smiled in that Southern sort of way that says ‘mind your own business.’

Last week I planted an entire perennial garden not only in the heat but in mucky, totally saturated soil. Next month a design that I did for a new art museum goes in. End of August, I’m installing a design in New Orleans. Day after day, I dig, divide, replant, and ship perennials from my nursery.

Summer Perennials are a Thing

The myth of fall planting applies only to certain kinds of plants. Some plants need to be planted in the summer.

Ever heard of C-4 plants? They use a specialized sort of photosynthesis to operate efficiently in high temperature environments. Sugarcane and most grasses are C-4 but there thousands more. Not all of those below are C-4; honestly, most people don’t need to know about C-4, but simply to understand that some plants grow roots, shoots and fruits best in mild temperatures while some do so in scorching temperatures.

Here’s a list of ten perennials that love being planted in the heat of summer, all of which I’ve planted in the last week. With all of these, and any time I plant, I do three things to assure success:

1. Soak the plant, in its pot in water before planting

2. Add a spoonful of Osmocote (or, in organic situations, compost balls)

3. Water in after planting


Phyla nodiflora is like a tiny groundcover Verbena with tiny pink, honey scented flowers. (order 4” pots)

Sweet Grass

Muhlenberiga cappilaris ‘White Cloud’ is even more beautiful than the mauve flowered species.

Horse Tail

Equisetum hyemale grass like, evergreen scouring rush. I like the dwarf form called ‘Sheldon Short’.

Copper Canyon Daisy

Tagetes lemonii is so pungent that it keeps deer away from near by plants.

Four O’clock

(Mirabilis jalapa) You just have to grow this for it’s intense fragrance and as it’s such an old-timey plant! My favorite is a melon colored form in the photo above. Easy to grow from seed, beware, seeds come up everywhere.

Dwarf papyrus

Cyperus diffusus makes a running groundcover with umbrella like leaves. Best in part shade.

Elephant Food

Elephantopus carolinianus amazes me as its leaves lay flat on the ground. Makes a fantastic texture plant but also has small lavender flowers.

Ginger Lily

(Hedychium sp.) My favorite at the moment is the huge H. greenii. I divided a plant by my door, move pieces with 8 foot stalks attached and it never flinched.

Bananas of any sort!

Crinum Lilies

A stunning range of pinks, burgundy set against emerald leaves. I divided tons this week including and planted in an un-irrigated highway median. Including my favorite, one that thrives in the south and Midwest, the pink striped Crinum x herbertii.

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