Garden: Pick right flowers to deal with heat, drought

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

If heat and drought are playing havoc with your flower garden, here are some bulletproof flowers to add some sparkle.

A great little annual that pumps out color throughout the growing season yet takes very little effort is Angelonia. Rising to a height of 12 to 14 inches, a single plant produces multiple spires covered with small blossoms that are said to look like snapdragons, hence the common name, summer snapdragon. Personally, I think they look more like tiny orchids.

Available in purple, white or pink, these pretties look good in containers and window boxes, as well as flowerbeds, and they also are great for cutting.

As a testament to their toughness, ‘Serenita’ Pink Angelonia is an All American Selections winner for bedding plantings:

Proven Winners variety ‘Angelface’ Angelonia is taller, rising from 18 to 24 inches.

Another annual that’s garnered raves in my display garden is the Proven Winners ‘Dark Blue’ Verbena, which is covered with bright-colored 4.5-inch clusters of flowers through out the season. This ground cover type plant can be used as a stunning spiller in a container as well as a bedder in the garden.

Another favorite heat lover of mine is the old-fashioned Verbena bonarienses, and this year we included Proven Winners new hybrid ‘Meteor Showers’ Lilac. At 20 to 30 inches, it’s more compact and floriferous than its ancestor.

Those colorful leafed sweet potatoes are all the rage for container gardens, but what gardeners don’t know is they are also great for use in garden beds. A hedge of lime, chocolate or black can make a dramatic background for taller growers such as bronze leafed cannas or giant dinner plate dahlias. The ‘Solar Power’ Ipomoea in lime or black was bred for compact growth (12” in height and up to 36” in width), so as not to overgrow their space. But the more common and often unnamed varieties also work well. A quick snip, snip with hedge shears will keep them under control. Lay off on the fertilizer and you will have less control issues.

New to me this year is the single interspecific Dianthus ‘Jolt.’ Tall and handsome would be the way I’d describe it. A single plant will climb to 16 to 20 inches in height and spread 12 to 14 inches across, sporting hardball sized clusters of bright pink single blossoms. ‘Jolt,’ another All American Selections Winner, is said to be another heat lover and this summer is perfect for testing it.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnewscom/homestyle.