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Evaluation of Garden Plants

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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

The sweltering summer heat continues to scorch our gardens, it is time to do a little garden evaluation. Realizing that this is not the time to plant it is time to run a reality check on the plants in our gardens. Base your check on how well the plants withstood the record summer heat.

Scrutinize all the plants in your garden. Trees, shrubs, turf, vegetables, fruit and flowers all must make the muster. Then make your plans for next years garden based on this seasons results. I do not claim this is a scientific sample but I am basing it on my observations of many local public and private gardens I have enjoyed this season. My appraisals for this column are for annual flowers and tender perennials grown as annuals that have weathered the siege and are still thriving in spite of the difficulties.

It is important to distinguish between heat tolerance or the plant’s ability to tolerate high temperatures and drought tolerance, which is the ability to use less water. Some plants are able to tolerate both conditions and still thrive. As you select flowers, group those with similar requirements together to maximize the tolerance to one or both of these conditions.

Make note of my appraisals and include them on your shopping list next spring. Even more important, make notes about the heat tolerance of your own flowers. The flowers are in no particular order.

Lisianthus or Eustoma grandifloru, is a flower that has been around for a long time but plant breeders are adding new varieties to the garden palate. The plants grow 12 to 18 inches high and have many fragrant cup shaped flowers on each stem.

Gazania or Gazania rigens grows 6 to 12 inches high and is covered with fragrant daisy looking blossoms. The flowers are usually yellow and orange but newer shades include lavender, red, or muted pink.

Joseph’s Coat or Amaranthus tricolor is also know as summer poinsettia. The plants grow 1-6 feet high and will make a real showstopper in the garden. Grow them for their highly colored leaves that are ablaze with shades of red, orange, purple, gold, or lime.

Vinca or Catharanthus roseus is about as close as you can get to a showy heat and drought tolerant annual groundcover for Utah. The plants grow 4 to 18 inches high and have white, pink, lavender or red blossoms. They tolerate full sun to partial shade and bloom from planting until frost. In addition to the groundcovers use, they are excellent for mixed borders and containers.

Snow-on-the-mountain or Euphorbia marginata is one of the most heat and drought tolerant plants I know of. It grows 2-3 feet high and has white flowers. Grow it in full sun in beds, borders and mass plantings.

Globe Amaranth or Gomphrena globosa is a partially dried flower that is excellent for cutting or drying. The plants reach 18 inches high and have globe or strawberry shaped blossoms of white, pink, purple, orange, or red. Grow it in full sun and it will bloom from summer through fall.

Sunflower or Helianthus is a versatile heat and drought tolerant plant. If you think that the common sunflower and the seed sunflower are the only choices, think again. These plants have been revolutionized by plant breeders and grow 2-15 feet high with white, yellow, gold, or red flowers. Grow them in full sun or light shade as borders, screens, fences, or in containers.

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