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Summer flowers to beat the heat

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Gazanias grow well with grasses. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaGazanias grow well with grasses. Picture courtesy www.newplant.co.zaDoes your summer flower garden start to fizzle out as soon as the really hot weather arrives? If so, you need a new plan to keep your beds blooming. The good news is that while many plants and flowers seem to be fainting away, there are others which just breeze through the mid-summer heat.

If you plant a framework of hardy perennials now, which will bloom again next season, inter-planted with summer annuals which thrive in the heat, your garden will not only look great this summer, but next season as well. Reducing the amount of summer annuals you need to plant each season will not only save you a lot of cash but also a lot of time. Also, many of these plants are water-wise and will save you on water bills. You can experiment a little each season until you find combinations that suit you, your garden, and your climate.

I have re-published this article from last year because it was so popular.

Many plants perform best in poor soil, but add a little compost if your soil is very poor. Most other plants will benefit greatly if the beds and planting holes are well-prepared, so do not skimp on spending money on compost if your soil requires it, as well as some fertiliser to get your plants off to a good start. Organic matter and mulching will help to keep the soil cool and retain moisture, thus saving on water bills.

The following flowering plants are as tough-as-nails and will provide you with the colour you want, while tolerating the most intolerable summer heat.

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Scaevola 'Blue Horizon'Scaevola 'Blue Horizon'Scaevola 'Blue Horizon'Fan-flower (Scaevola aemula) is a prostrate and spreading little evergreen plant which produces lovely purple, blue, mauve or white flowers continuously during warm weather. It thrives in coastal gardens, tolerating salt spray, sandy soil and periods of drought. It loves full sun but will take light shade. It will trail down beautifully if planted in hanging baskets and window boxes; and also makes a wonderful groundcover and edging plant.

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Arctotis Radience Red. www.newplant.co.zaArctotis Radience Red. www.newplant.co.zaArctotis Radience Red. www.newplant.co.zaAfrican Daisy (Arctotis) is a low-growing spreading plant that loves full sun and is excellent to control soil erosion at the coast. The plants produce a dazzling display of flowers for most of the year in mild climates and are available in all shades of orange, yellow and red as well as plum, pink and cream. This plant makes a most effective ground cover and looks wonderful spilling over walls or a dry bank.

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Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun'Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun'Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun'Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) blooms from spring to autumn and thrives in hot, humid regions and tolerates drought once established; making them great water-wise garden plants. They are evergreen, love full sun and are hardy to frost. Flowers come in reds, oranges and yellows and the plant grows about 45cm tall and 45cm wide.

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Coleus mixedColeus mixedColeus mixedColeus are popular summer annuals that are easy to grow in the shade. Their colourful leaves are often blotched or variegated and come in a variety of attractive shapes and sizes; and in many startling colours and combinations of colours. A large number of cultivars have been bred and coleus is available in shades of green, yellow, pink, red and maroon.

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Angelonia 'Angelmist' www.ballstraathof.co.zaAngelonia 'Angelmist' www.ballstraathof.co.zaAngelonia 'Angelmist' www.ballstraathof.co.zaSummer Snapdragon (Angelonia) is called summer snapdragons because they can take heat and full sun, but they will still flower in very light shade. These ‘toughies’ will even withstand heavy thunderstorms and are loved for their snapdragon-like flowers, born on slender upright spikes. They bloom continuously during the hot summer months and hybrids are available in clear flower colours or two-toned combinations of rose, pink, blue, lilac, violet-blue, purple, and white.

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Callibrachoe 'Peach'Callibrachoe 'Peach'Callibrachoe 'Peach'Million Bells (Calibrachoa) are closely related to petunias and look like a miniature petunia, growing about 30cm tall and spreading up to 60cm wide. They love full sun and will add a bright touch to any landscape, providing an abundance of brightly coloured blooms from spring to the first frosts. The flowers are available in many sizzling shades of cherry, red, rose, pink, violet, blue, yellow, lemon, terracotta and white and will flower all year round in temperate climates.

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Dahlietta Connie Dahlia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyDahlietta Connie Dahlia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyDahlietta Connie Dahlia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyDahlia These beautiful cut flowers come in many shapes and sizes, from small, ball-like poms to huge dinner-plate decoratives. The colours cover almost every conceivable shade, and combination of colours. They are as tough as they are beautiful and thrive in full sun, but in extremely hot regions will appreciate some shade at midday.

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Sparkler Blush Cleome. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanySparkler Blush Cleome. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanySparkler Blush Cleome. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanySpider Plant (Cleome) is an easy to grow annual plant which grows well throughout the country, producing spectacular flowers on stems reaching as high as 120cm. It has attractive large green leaves and blooms continually throughout summer. The flowers are available in soft pastel shades of pink, rose, white and lilac. It grows easily from seed and loves full sun, but in extremely hot regions appreciates some midday shade.

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Sunflower 'Ballad'. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanySunflower 'Ballad'. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanySunflower 'Ballad'. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanySunflowers (Helianthus) thrive in the heat and full sun. They grow quickly and easily and will delight with their large cheerful blooms that turn towards the sun throughout the day. There are both dwarf and tall strains and the modern hybrids are available in shades of golden-yellow, lemon-yellow, orange and red. There are numerous forms, both single and double, and the taller garden varieties vary in height from 1.2 to 3m tall and the dwarf varieties from 30 to 60cm tall.

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Sonata Carmine Cosmos. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanySonata Carmine Cosmos. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanySonata Carmine Cosmos. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCosmos grows best in the worst conditions - hot and dry; doing well in the drier summer rainfall regions of the country. They thrive in full sun but do not enjoy high humidity. Flowers are available in shades of pink, crimson and white and hybrids vary in height from 40 to 100cm tall. Modern hybrids are compact and very free-flowering, and the dwarf strains are charming if planted in containers. Cosmos sulphureus has striking orange, semi-double flowers.

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Gazania 'New Moon' www.newplant.co.zaGazania 'New Moon' www.newplant.co.zaGazania 'New Moon' www.newplant.co.zaGazanias are very adaptable and thrive in many habitats, tolerating salt laden air, strong winds and moderate frost. There are a number of subspecies, cultivars, and hybrids available from garden centres, each with its own unique growth habit, with both trailing and clump forming varieties. Hybrids are available in a choice of colours ranging from bronze to red, orange, pink, yellow, cream and white. These tough little plants require very little maintenance and make fantastic garden plants, provided they are not overwatered and are planted in full sun.

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Nicotiana Nicki Red. Picture courtesy Ballorticultural CompanyNicotiana Nicki Red. Picture courtesy Ballorticultural CompanyNicotiana Nicki Red. Picture courtesy Ballorticultural CompanyFlowering Tobacco (Nicotiana) are tough shady garden classics which tolerate humidity and high temperatures. They grow well throughout South Africa as long as they are watered regularly and are protected from strong wind. They love to grow in semi-shade but will take more sun in cooler regions. In very hot regions plant them where they will receive midday and afternoon shade. Modern hybrids are compact growing and flower for a long period in summer. The tubular flowers are available in red, pale yellow, pink, lilac, burgundy, lime, green, and cream and white.

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Cooler Red Vinca. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCooler Red Vinca. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCooler Red Vinca. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyVinca (Catharanthus) thrives in hot, dry or humid climates and is one of the most reliable plants to grow in the blazing sun. It loves the heat and does not like to be overwatered, making it the perfect choice for water-wise gardens. Vinca produces charming phlox-like flowers in many shades of pink, carmine, blush, coral, peach, mauve, burgundy and white, from spring to the first frosts; and in temperate regions will bloom all year round.

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Clown Blue Improved Torenia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyClown Blue Improved Torenia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyClown Blue Improved Torenia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyWishbone Flower (Torenia) can take heat, humidity and shade, and there are not many annuals that can accomplish that. In cooler regions it will also take full sun and blooms consistently all summer through autumn, until the first frosts. The intense flower colours range from light and dark blue, to burgundy, pink, rose; lavender and white. Seedlings will grow quickly to about 20cm tall and 15cm wideand require regular watering.

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Petunia Daddy mix Petunia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyPetunia Daddy mix Petunia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyPetunia Daddy mix Petunia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyPetunias thrive in full sun and can be planted almost all year round. They are perfect for the dry summer rainfall regions because excessive rains will ruin the flowers and can cause the plants to rot. Petunias are susceptible to fungal diseases in humid climates. Thousands of hybrids have been bred and flower sizes and shapes vary greatly. Petunias are available in an array of colours from fiery reds, burgundy and purples, to all shades of pink, lilac, blue, yellow and white; blooming continuously all season with very little maintenance.

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Portulaca YellowPortulaca YellowPortulaca YellowPortulaca loves full sun and is very tolerant of summer heat but does not like humidity. These prostrate, spreading plants remain popular summer annuals because they don't require a lot of water and work really well in a xeriscape (dry) garden setting. Their masses of double; brilliant jewel-toned blooms are available in shades of rose, pink, red, purple, lavender, yellow, orange and white, and are often striped or spotted with contrasting colours.

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Zahara White Zinnia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyZahara White Zinnia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyZahara White Zinnia. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyZinnias grow are easy to grow annuals which thrive best in climates with long, hot, dry summers. In humid regions they are susceptible to fungal diseases but new and improved varieties like 'Zahara' are available that are more resistant to fungal diseases.  There are at least a hundred cultivars, in a diversity of flower colours and types, and in all shades of white, cream, green, yellow, apricot, orange, red, bronze, crimson, purple, pink and lilac. There are double, semi-double and dahlia-like "pompon" flowered varieties that range from dwarfs not exceeding 15 cm in height to cut flower beauties that reach up to 90cm.

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Aztec Violet Verbena. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyAztec Violet Verbena. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyAztec Violet Verbena. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyVerbena There are hundreds of cultivars varying in flower colour and growth habit, with erect and bushy varieties, as well as trailing and mat forming ones. The flowers are borne profusely in dense clusters all summer and come in shades which include white, pink, crimson, scarlet, vermilion, purple, blue, and yellow. Their main requirements are full sun and once established verbenas require very little water; making them ideal for hot dry sites. In extremely hot and dry regions they will need more regular watering to look at their best, and may appreciate some relief from the hot midday sun. Verbenas are susceptible to fungal diseases, especially in very humid regions.

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MarigoldMarigoldMarigoldMarigolds (Tagetes) grow well throughout the country and are the work horses of the summer garden, blooming virtually non-stop. They love full sun, grow well on poor soils and dislike being over watered. Marigolds come in all shapes and sizes, from dwarf to tall growing, and single or double varieties; all with intense flower shades and mixtures of orange, yellow, gold, maroon, and mahogany, flame red and light creamy-yellow.

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Cabaret Yellow Calibrachoa. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCabaret Yellow Calibrachoa. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyCabaret Yellow Calibrachoa. Picture courtesy Ball Horticultural CompanyMembers have full access to our Plant Index, so why not spoil your-self with a subscription to this website - our prices are affordable for everyone.

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