Container bloomers that take the heat

The weather has been sporadic in many parts of the country, and here in Western Oregon has been no exception. We’ve had many hot days and nights, and in most areas, there has been little or no rain.

At our house, we have a large deck that always has an assortment of containers with plants that will flower or provide colorful foliage for most of the summer. Most of the deck area receives hot afternoon sun, and I have learned from trial and error which plants will perform the best.
I have also learned to be cautious of a plant label that says “full sun” because the intense afternoon sun is often more than the label writer expected.

Many gardeners will ask their garden centers which are the best plants to grow in their particular area. Most local garden centers are ready to answer that question. Garden centers and their personnel are a superb resource for these kinds of answers.

Certainly this summer and early fall, the primary questions may be related to what will survive in the intense vacillating heat.

The following is a partial listing of plants that seem to adapt well to hot weather and full sun. These are all plants that I have grown over the past couple of years. in some cases, this is my first time growing them. I find them all to be worthy of a full sun location and they will produce flowers or outstanding foliage for most of the summer.

Some of these plants are technically perennials, but for my mental gardening well-being, I treat them as annuals and if they survive the winter, then it is a happy spring surprise.


Lantana. Photo by Rich Baer.

I had not planted Lantana for several years and I don’t know why because I have grown them in the past. After having a pot of Lantana, on my deck this summer, it made me realize what a reliable summer blooming plant this is.

Starting in the spring when they were in 4-inch size pots, some plants were in bloom, the flowering never stopped. The flowers are in tight clusters and often are multi-colored, although there are some that are of one color. They appear to prefer well drained soil and full sun. The plants will quickly fill a container and provide color all summer. It is best to treat this as a summer annual, although in some areas it may survive winter in a protected location.


Canna ‘Cleopatra’. Photo by Rich Baer.

The big bold leaves of Cannas can provide color in the garden long before there are any flowers. Cannas grows from a rhizome, technically a horizontal underground stem, and these rhizomes can easily be lifted from the pot in the fall and stored in a garage.

Cannas are often thought of as an old-fashioned flower, but recently are undergoing a revival with gardeners wanting a tropical look. There are some compact strains, but the old-fashioned tall growing types seem to be the most popular. Plants can easily reach 4-6 feet in height with flower stalks reaching even higher. The flowers will last into the fall. After a frost, the plants can be cut to the soil level and the rhizomes lifted and stored.


Mandevilla. Photo by Rich Baer.

With flowers of red, pink, or white, this tropical vine needs some support, such as a trellis to grow on. Mandevilla is not winter hardy here and is probably best treated as an annual. It is fast growing, likes the summer sun, and will bloom all summer and into the fall.

Grown in a pot on a trellis, on a deck, it can offer some spectacular summer color. The white flowering plants are especially showy in the evening hours against a background of green foliage.


Sedum ‘Variegated Atlantis’. Photo by Rich Baer.

Variegated Sedum Atlantis is a new plant for me this year and one that I would certainly grow again. It grows low and quickly covers the container it is in and the variegated foliage provides great color all summer. It also provides a nice color contrast to the green foliage salvia that I have behind it.

This sedum does have clusters of small yellow flowers, but it is the foliage that makes this plant outstanding.


Cuphea ‘Cherrybells’. Photo by Rich Baer.

Cuphea plants have been a tradition on my deck for many years. This year, Cuphea ‘Cherrybells’ was new to me. The dark orange flowers proved to be a hummingbird magnet all summer. The flowers are also attractive to honeybees and that makes this a good pollinator plant. The small flowers were profuse and there was never a time when the plant was not covered with them. I found that on the very hot days with intense sun, the plants did wilt, but with a shower of water, they bounced back quickly.

As the cuphea grew, some of the stems did hang down over the pot and presented the effect of it being like a hanging basket. It is certainly a plant that will be on my deck next year.

Agonis and Euphorbia

Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ and Agonis ‘After Dark’. Photo by Rich Baer.

A very attractive combination for a container in a sunny location is Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’® and Agonis. This euphorbia is low growing with clusters of white small flowers all summer. It is often used in hanging baskets with a combination of other plants. I wanted a contrast to the white flowers and planted Agonis ‘After Dark’ (peppermint willow), in the center of the pot with the euphorbia surrounding it.

Agonis is not widely planted or known here, because it is a tree, but it is not winter hardy and does not survive a winter. However, if treated as an annual, it provides some beautiful foliage. The leaves are long, about 6 inches, and are a beautiful burgundy color. It is called “peppermint tree” because when the leaves are crushed, they have the fragrance of peppermint. The leaves make a striking contrast to the white euphorbia.

There are many other plants that are excellent for growing in containers. Gardeners can mix or match as they see fit.

I’ve suggested that garden centers display containers that are planted early in the spring with a diversity of plants. This can spark ideas for customers to plant their own container mixes. There are no real rules. Just be aware of the exposure, sun vs. shade, and the general growth habits. The only limit is your imagination!

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