Drought tolerant container plants

Consider planting drought resistant plants in your container gardens, especially if watering is a concern.

Most of us live in areas that face drought conditions at some time during the year. Many of us live where water use may be restricted at times. Long stretches of high temperatures and heat warnings are not uncommon in the summer months. Most drought resistant plants can also tolerate heat.

Growing plants that are tolerant of drought and heat goes a long way towards having a container garden that performs well under these conditions. They also mean using less water and less time spent performing that chore. You still need to water of course, since container plants can’t reach deeper into the soil searching for water, but these kinds of plants can stand completely drying out between watering. (Sedum is shown above)

Recognizing Drought Tolerance

There are certain things to look for when determining if a plant is drought tolerant. Silvery colored foliage, as well as fuzzy or hairy foliage generally indicates drought tolerance. (Lamb’s ear and geraniums have fuzzy foliage)

Succulent plants are drought tolerant – they store water in their thick parts. (Portulaca is an example)

A waxy coating on the plant’s leaves slows down water loss, like the leaves of the ivy-leaved geranium.

Plants with taproots, like butterfly weed, are generally drought resistant.

Below, from left: Lamb’s ear, geraniums, portulaca, butterfly weed and ivy-leafed geranium.

Drought resistant plants – Perennials

Coneflower – I have used and loved coneflowers forever – they were probably the first perennials I planted in my sandy soil – in full sun. And now I use them in containers – they do well. There are a few different colors, including white, pink and purple. They bloom most of the summer. Coneflowers can grow to 2 feet.

Perennial flax – these flowers are a deep blue – they open and bloom during the heat of the day and close up in the evenings. Flax can grow to heights of 2 feet in full sun.

Butterfly weed – the taproot of this plant makes it drought tolerant. Colors include white, orange, purple and yellow. It will grow to 3 feet in containers. As its name says, it will attract bees and butterflies to your gardens.

Globe thistle – this thistle has blue, globe shaped flowers and can grow 2 to 3 feet tall.

Others to try are lavender, yarrow, hyssop, evening primrose, gaillardia and garden sage.

See the Perennials page for more of these plants.

Drought Resistant Plants – Annuals

Many annuals are drought resistant plants and do well in sunny conditions. Some of my favorites are:

Lantana – my sister says this is all she can grow because she doesn’t get her hanging baskets watered enough. They hang on a westerly facing deck and get lots of sun and heat. Lantana comes in yellow, red, orange, white, pink and lavender. It comes in both upright and trailing forms. Dead head the plant to encourage blooms all summer long.

Sunflowers – colors range from white to yellow, orange, or red. Some have one big flower and others have several blooms on each stalk.

Zinnias – Mexican zinnias grow 8 to 12 inches tall. Look for zinnia augustifolia or zinnia linearis. Common zinnia is also good in dry, hot conditions. They are bright, showy flowers in orange, yellow and white. Zinnias are easy to start from seed.

Geraniums – one of my regulars for showy color and ease of care. Both pot geraniums and hanging geraniums do well in dry conditions.

See the Annuals page for more of these plants.

Succulents

Many succulents are drought resistant plants. Find out more about using them in container gardens.

Shrubs and Trees

Lots of shrubs are drought resistant plants and do well in containers.

Spirea blooms in early spring with lots of white flowers and its leaves turn yellow-orange in all. I prune mine to keep it nicely shaped.

Bluemist spirea is a pretty shrub with blue flowers in August and September. Cut it down to ground before winter to insure growth and blooms the following year.

Oregon grape is a lovely shrub with blue-green leaves and yellow flowers in spring. They will grow to about 3 feet tall.

Japanese holly is a small leafed evergreen. If you have a female plant, it will bear little black berries. It’s foliage is very nice and it needs almost no maintenance. To the left is the “Sky Pencil” variety of Japanese holly.

Cranberry cotoneaster is low-growing with small, shiny leaves. It gets covered with cranberry red berries.

Sand cherry shrubs are very easy to grow – one of my first shrub plantings. They get lovely pink lowers in spring and have a burgundy red leaf the rest of the summer.

Bristlecone pine is a slow growing evergreen. It has a bluish cast to its foliage and is a good focal plant.

Serviceberry trees have pretty white flowers in spring, and its gray bark is always attractive.

See other Trees and Shrubs for containers.

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Annuals for Dry Conditions

Best Practices for Growing in Dry Conditions: make good choices of plants that require less water or can survive in drier conditions. If planting containers, choose a high quality soil-less mix (not a top soil or garden soil) like Veranda Mix and add water retaining granular pellets like SoilMoist. This will help create a mix that is easy to grow in that will also hold moisture longer.

If your garden beds are sandy, consider adding a 3-in-1 soil (compost, black earth, peat moss) or black earth. This will add organic material to your soil and increase its moisture holding capacity.

Watering your plants well for at least four weeks after planting to establish a strong root zone will help your plant thrive in the drier summer months. Deep, thorough watering is required; turn off the “misting” option on your hose sprayer and direct a steady stream of water to the soil and roots, not the leaves. Or, leave the hose end on the soil and let it run for several minutes, moving it often so all plants are hydrated well.

Why grow drought tolerant plants? Growing plants that require less water can help save money. Drought tolerant plants can survive on less water, help reduce your environmental footprint and are more sustainable.

Best Annuals for Dry Locations

Gazania – (pictured) One of the best garden annuals for a dry location. The unreal, vividly coloured flowers of this South African plant bring a touch of the exotic to the garden. Excellent for sun-baked, hot garden sites with dry soil, very low maintenance.

Portulaca – If you have a hot and dry location, this is a plant that could add colour to a barren location. Often comes in solid colour or mult-colour blossoms. Succulent-like leaves help hold moisture and make this plant very drought resistant.

Cosmos – One of the fastest growing annuals, with lacy leaves and bright pink, white or red daisy-like flowers. Grows best in full sun but can handle partial shade.

Zinnia – This is one plant that can stand up to the sun; zinnias thrive in full sun. Available in a range of colours.

Geranium – can handle shady conditions but will bloom less

Petunia – One of the most popular annuals, petunias can thrive in handle hot and dry conditions. Trailing petunias create a carpet of colour and help keep sun off the soil and keep existing moisture in the ground.

Browalia – Has a rare sapphire coloured flower, is an even rarer shade plant that can handle dry conditions. Popular with gardeners with many trees or poor sun conditions. Blooms heavily.

Nasturtium – A rapid growing vine with bright red, orange or yellow blooms. Also a great companion plant serving as a natural pest deterrent. Thrives in hot conditions

Sunflower – A natural for hot conditions. Beautiful yellow flowers are a favourite with nearly every gardener; best started from seed.

Cleome – Can handle shady conditions, prefers sun though. Growth will be delayed in shade and flower masses will be diminished.

Dusty Miller – Silvery leaves make it a great texture plant in combinations or gardens.

Spike – Traditional accent plant. Can handle hot or shady conditions.

Strawflower – Flowers feel dry and stiff, this plant is great for conserving moisture. Thrives in hot conditions. Great as a dried flower.

Succulents – A waxy leaved plant made for hot and dry conditions. Similar to a cactus it stores water in its leaves and needs little water to survive. A popular new “succulent-like” plant is trailing Mezoo – ask us, it’s awesome!

With information from Heeman’s Garden Centre

Selecting Annuals for Dry Locations

We’ve complied a list of our top drought resistant annuals as well as some best practice tips and trips to help your annuals survive and thrive in the heat and drought that comes most summers.

Best Practices for Growing in Dry Conditions

  • The best remedy for poor water availability is a strong root system, unfortunately here in Southwestern Ontario many of our plants freeze off each year and are not able to build up a strong root zone in the short growing season.
  • Cover the soil to prevent water evaporation. Applying several inches of mulch can help create a barrier to keep the root zone protected and moist as well as reduce weed pressure.
  • Choose plants that require less water or can survive in drier conditions.
  • If planting containers choose a high quality soil-less mix (not a top soil or garden soil) like ProMix and add water retaining granular pellets like SoilMoist. This will help create a mix that is easy to grow in that will also hold moisture longer.
  • If your garden beds are sandy, consider adding a 3-in-1 soil (compost, black earth, peat moss) or black earth. This will add organic material to your soil and increase its moisture holding capacity.
  • You should water your plants well for at least four weeks after planting to establish a strong root zone that will help your plant thrive in the drier summer months.

Why Grow Drought Tolerant Plants

  • Growing plants that require less water can help save money.
  • Drought tolerant plants can survive on less water, help reduce your environmental footprint and is more sustainable.

Best Annuals for Dry Locations

  • Gazania – One of the best garden annuals for a dry location. The unreal, vividly coloured flowers of this South African plant bring a touch of the exotic to the garden. Excellent for sun-baked, hot garden sites with dry soil, very low maintenance.
  • Portulaca – If you have a hot and dry location, this is a plant that could add colour to a barren location. Comes in large stunning pink or white blossoms. Succulent-like leaves help hold moisture and make this plant very drought resistant.
  • Cosmos – One of the fastest growing annuals, with lacy leaves and bright pink, white or red daisy-like flowers. Grows best in full sun but can handle partial shade.
  • Zinnia – This is one plant that can stand up to the sun. These zinnias thrive in full sun. One of our most drought resistant plants. Available in a range of colours.
  • Geranium – can handle shady conditions but will bloom less
  • Petunia – One of the most popular annuals, petunias can thrive in handle hot and dry conditions. Wave petunias create a carpet of colour and help keep sun off the soil and keep existing moisture in the ground.
  • Browalia – Has a rare sapphire coloured flower, is an even rarer shade plant that can handle dry conditions. Popular with gardeners with many trees or poor sun conditions. Blooms heavily.
  • Nasturtium – A rapid growing vine with bright red, orange or yellow blooms. Also a great companion plant serving as a natural pest deterrent. Thrives in hot conditions
  • Sunflower – A natural for hot conditions. Beautiful yellow flowers are a favourite with nearly every gardener.
  • Cleome – Can handle shady conditions, prefers sun though. Growth will be delayed in shade and flower masses will be diminished.
  • Dusty Miller – Silvery leaves make it a great texture plant and great in combinations or gardens.
  • Spike – Traditional accent plant. Can handle hot or shady conditions.
  • Sanvitalia – A trailing yellow zinnia flower that can handle dry conditions.
  • Strawflower – Flowers feel dry and stiff, this plant is great for conserving moisture. Thrives in hot conditions. Great as a dried flower.
  • Statice – Thrives in hot conditions. A classic flower to drying. Cut flowers and hang to dry to enjoy for months.
  • Succulents – A waxy leaved plant made for hot and dry conditions. Similar to a cactus it stores water in its leaves and needs little water to survive

Drought-Resistant Perennials

Photo by Burpee

“Where drinking water is scarce, it doesn’t make sense to use so much of it on our lawns and flowers,” says landscape designer Nicole Lopez, who works in drought-prone Santa Monica. “You need to match plants to the climate that you live in. It just doesn’t work the other way around.”

The perennials in this gallery are excellent choices for low-water gardening. Plant information is provided for each, including climate zone information, which links to our Hardiness Zone Map.

Shown: Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (“Sedum” hybrid ‘Autumn Joy’)

Deciduous succulent with deep-pink to bronze flowers; grows 2 feet tall; prefers full sun, well-drained soil; hardy to -40 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9.

Yarrow ‘Coronation Gold’ (Achillea spp.)

Photo by Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

Golden yellow flowers on tall silvery-gray leaves from mid-summer to early autumn; grows up to 3 feet high; prefers full sun, well-drained soil; hardy to -40 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 8.

Silver Artemisias (Artemisia ludoviciana ‘Silver King,’ ‘Silver Queen,’ ‘Valerie Finnis’)

Photo by Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

Silvery-gray aromatic leaves; grows 18 to 48 inches tall, depending on variety; prefers full sun, well-drained soil; can be invasive in some climates—divide often or contain; hardy to -40 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Photo by Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

Abundant, purple-pink daisylike blooms; grows 2 to 4 feet tall; prefers full sun, well-drained soil; hardy to -40 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 10.

Tall Bearded Iris (Iris germanica hybrids)

Photo by Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

Ornamental swordlike foliage; distinctive six-petal flowers with fuzzy “beards” bloom in spring; reaches 27 inches tall or more; prefers sun, well-drained soil; hardy to -40 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 10.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Photo by Burpee

Highly aromatic with pine-needlelike leaves; grows to 5 feet tall; prefers full sun and well-drained soil; hardy to 10 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 6 to 9.

Common Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Photo by Burpee

Spreading mound of small, gray-green leaves; small white or light-purple flowers from late spring to early summer; grows 6 to 12 inches tall; prefers full sun or very light shade; hardy to -30 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8.

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Photo by Burpee

Mounding evergreen shrub with silvery-gray needlelike leaves and spikes of erect, lavender-purple or white flowers in summer; grows 2 to 3 feet tall; prefers full sun, well-drained soil; hardy to -10 degrees or -20 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8.

Common Sage (Salvia officinalis spp.)

Photo by Burpee

Shrubby plant with woolly, gray-green evergreen oval leaves; grows 2 to 3 feet high; prefers full sun and very well-drained soil; hardy to -20 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9.

Hens & chicks (Sempervivum tectorum)

Photo by Courtesy Quickmire

Succulent leaves in rosette form; green to blue-green with red or purple highlights in summer; grows 2 to 4 feet tall; prefers full sun or light shade, well-drained soil; hardy to -30 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 10.

Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum)

Photo by Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden Plantfinder

Silvery, woolly foliage topped by white, star-shaped flowers; grows 2 to 3 inches tall; prefers well drained soil, sunny beds in full sun; hardy to -20 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 7.

Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)

Photo by Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden Plantfinder

Hairy, bright-green, evergreen foliage; violet, pink, or white flowers in late spring/early summer; grows 2 to 6 inches tall; prefers full sun and fertile, well drained soil; hardy to -40 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 10.

Sedum (Sedum spurium)

Photo by Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden Plantfinder

Fleshy evergreen leaves; loose clusters of purplish or white flowers in summer; grows 4 inches tall; prefers full sun and average to rich soil; hardy to -30 degrees F; USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9.

Like all nasturtiums, Tropaeolum ‘Milkmaid’ flowers are edible and make a pretty addition to salads. (Photo: Helen Battersby)

As annual plants complete their lifecycle in a single season the concept of drought tolerance is a bit moot. Unlike perennials that can become drought tolerant after they are well established, our Southern Ontario short growing season means that annuals really do not have enough time for that process to take place. However there are some annuals that will tolerate drier conditions, and by giving them a good start, and continuing with good gardening practices, you can compensate for drier conditions.

As a first step determine why you want drought-tolerant annuals — i.e. will the drought conditions be the result of infrequent watering — either yours or nature’s as in a cottage garden that you visit only on weekends; is your garden on a balcony subject to windy conditions and baking sun; or, are you planning to xeriscape (conserving resources such as water by using drought-resistant plants). While not depending solely on annuals consider also that you can grow drought-tolerant perennials such as Hens and Chicks — sempervivums, Blanket Flower – Gaillardia or Gaura in pots along with annuals. You could also grow agaves, echeverias or other succulents too. By choosing plant material carefully you will get the colour and interest you are looking for, and maintain drought tolerance.

Considerations Related to Choice

Start by picking the healthiest plants by looking for good root growth (but not pot-bound) as dry conditions will stress your plants and the strongest plants will have the best chance of survival. If possible choose a disease-resistant variety. Make sure that your plants have been hardened off (reputable growers ensure that their plants have made a gradual transition from the warmth of the greenhouse to our frequently cool springs) and don’t plant before the last average frost date in your area. Remember that while it is easier to see what colour and shape a plant is when it’s in bloom, it may have been forced prematurely and is, therefore, not going to be as strong as another plant that has good leaf growth only.

The right site for your plant’s requirements is key. For example, don’t expect shade-loving plants like impatiens to thrive in full sun. If you have containers on a balcony recognize that it mimics an alpine climate. Try not to mix plants with differing water requirements and protect plants from the hot afternoon sun by planting in the shade of trees or other plants, or by putting containers near a trellis or other sheltering garden structure.

Cultural Practices

Soil

Cosmos is a hardy annual, meaning that while the plant itself dies after one year, its seeds will often live through winter to grow the following spring. (Photo: Helen Battersby)

In a garden bed work three to six inches of organic matter such as compost, or manure into the soil. This will lighten up heavy clay soils and not only improve water retention in sandy soils but prevent valuable water from running away from the plant. For containers use a good quality potting soil mixture and add water holding granules or other conditioners that will hold water, e.g. coconut husk fibre.

Mix in some granular fertilizer before you plant the bed or the container but first check your soil to see the nutrient levels. Use the right fertilizer for the plants but make sure the middle number i.e. the phosphorous in the N-P-K (Nitrogen -Phosphorous-Potassium) formula is higher than the N number. In general, bonemeal, which is a natural source of phosphorous, is a good soil additive as it will improve blooming and strengthen the roots of all plants – perennials and annuals.

Test your soil to learn its pH (a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a soil on a scale of 0 to 14 with a pH below 7 indicating acidity, a pH above 7 indicating alkalinity, and a pH equal at 7 indicating neutrality). A pH range between 5.5 and 7.5 is beneficial as it allows for sufficient microorganism activity and nutrient availability. Adding lime to the soil will make the soil more alkaline and mulching with pine needles, pine bark or shredded oak leaves will make the soil more acidic.

Air circulation

Ensure good air circulation around your plants as this will help prevent diseases, particularly the moulds, which can weaken plants. Space your plants properly. The general rule for annuals is 6 inches apart but some could be spaced closer together for a fuller appearance. However do check the estimated width of the plant on the tag first.

Protect your plants from strong winds which will dry out both the soil and the plants especially if you are balcony gardening.

Water

All annuals have to be watered for at least 4 weeks after planting in order for them to get established. Drought tolerant does not mean planting them in the garden or container and leaving them. Once the roots are established then they can be watered only occasionally. Water thoroughly when you do. Even if it rains check to see that the soil surface is wet at least one inch down – if not, top up with additional water. Remember that rain barrels capture valuable rain water which is better for your plants than treated tap water.

Mulch plants with shredded bark, leaves, cocoa shells or compost to retain moisture plus it will keep the weeds down.

General Care and Maintenance

Even though you may not be watering your annuals as much, make sure that you deadhead the spent blooms, fertilize according to the plants needs, and watch out for pests and diseases. Enjoy your plants and know that by using less water you are gardening in an environmentally friendly way!

The California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is native to the southwest climes of North America. It requires a cool, moist germination period, but remains quite drought-tolerant once established. (Photo: Helen Battersby)

As a general rule, good cultural practices that ensure optimal growing conditions, and good air circulation should minimize the risk of disease. Healthy plants, grown in appropriate conditions are less stressed and less vulnerable.

Maintain a chemical free garden, which will promote natural predators. Plant other plant species that attract a variety of insects to the garden. For example a light infestation of scale insects can be kept in check by birds and beneficial insects. Plant disease resistant cultivars.

Other control strategies include:

  • Use only clean garden tools.
  • Do not water over the heads of the plants, particularly in late afternoon.
  • Rake up and destroy all diseased parts of plants and debris. Do not use this organic material as compost.
  • Use mechanical control methods such as using a strong jet of water to knock off aphids, or liquid hand soap mixed with water.
  • Visit your garden centre for natural predators or parasites that occur naturally to control some pests.

Recommended species/varieties/cultivars

Annuals for dry locations
  • African Daisy (Gazania species)
  • Annual Candytuft (Iberis umbellata)
  • Blue-eyed African Daisy (Arctotis stoechadifolia)
  • Browallia (Browallia)
  • California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
  • Calliopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria)
  • Cape Daisy, African Daisy (Dimorphotheca qurantiaca)
  • Cosmos (Cosmos species)
  • Floss Flower (Ageratum)
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
  • Plume Cockscomb (Celosia cristata)
  • Ross Moss, Portulaca (Portulaca grandiflora)
  • Spiderflower, Pink Queen (Cleome hasslerana)
  • Swan River Daisy (Brachycome)
  • Zinnia (Zinnia species)

Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’ is one of the growing array of choices for lovers of annuals. (Photo: Helen Battersby)

Annuals for dry, hot conditions
  • African Daisy (Gazania species)
  • American Marigold (Tagetes erecta)
  • Annual Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila elegans)
  • Annual Blanket-Flower (Gaillardia pulchella)
  • Annual Phlox (Phlox drummondii)
  • Basket Flower (Centaurea americana)
  • California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
  • Calliopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria)
  • Cape Daisy, African Daisy (Dimorphotheca qurantiaca)
  • Cardinal climber (Quamoclit sloteri)
  • Creeping Zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens)
  • Cup-Flower (Nierembergia)
  • Cypress Vine (Quamoclit pennata)
  • Four O’Clock (Mirabilis jalapa)
  • French Marigold (Tagetes patula)
  • Ice Plant (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum)
  • Lantana

Annual Verbena is attractive to butterflies such as this pretty Red Admiral. (Photo: Helen Battersby)

  • Madagascar Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus / Vinca rosea)
  • Mealy-cup Sage, Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea)
  • Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
  • Perilla, Beefsteak Plant (Perilla frutescens Crispa)
  • Petunia (Petunia)
  • Plume Cockscomb (Celosia cristata)
  • Poppy (Papaver species)
  • Ross Moss, Portulaca (Portulaca grandiflora)
  • Sand Verbena (Abronia umbellata)
  • Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens)
  • Snow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata)
  • Spiderflower (Cleome hasslerana)
  • Statice (Limonium)
  • Strawflower (Helichrysum bracteatum)
  • Summer-cypress, Burning Bush (Kochia scoparia)
  • Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
  • Sweet Sultan (Centaurea moschata)
  • Zinnia (Zinnia)

Gazania is a South African native perennial, grown as an annual in our Canadian climate. (Photo: Helen Battersby)

Annuals for dry shade/light shade locations
  • Madagascar Periwinkle (Catharanthus ‘roseus’)
  • Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower)
  • Gazania
  • Godetia (Clarkia)- full sun or light shade
  • Lamium maculatum – if you have this as a perennial in your garden you can dig some up and put in a container and use as a trailing annual
  • Pelaragonium (in partial shade will not bloom as profusely)
  • Senecia cineraria
  • Spike – Dracaena indivisa

Hole, Lois. Lois Hole’s Bedding Plant Favorites. Edmonton, Alberta: Lone Pine Publishing, July 1996

Cornell University website www.gardening.cornell.edu

Date revised: January 8, 2006

For printable version, click Drought Tolerant Annuals- A Toronto Master Gardeners Guide

Produced by the Toronto Master Gardeners, these Gardening Guides provide introductory information on a variety of gardening topics.

Toronto Master Gardeners are part of a large, international volunteer community, all committed to providing the public with horticultural information, education and inspiration. Our goal is to help Toronto residents use safe, effective, proven and sustainable horticultural practices to create gardens, landscapes and communities that are both vibrant and healthy.

If you have further gardening questions, reach us at our gardening advice line 416 397 1345 or by posting your question here in the Ask a Master Gardener section. To book Toronto Master Gardener volunteers for talks, demonstrations, advice clinics, or other services, please contact us at 416 397 1345 or [email protected]

Colorado State University

Gardeners can revive their container arrangements in warmer months by pruning back overgrown plants and removing dried out, weather-damaged annuals. Replace those sad plants with heat-loving annuals.

Which annuals can take the heat? Here’s a list:

  • Angelonia. Available in blue, purple, pink, white and bicolors, this snapdragon-like favorite doesn’t require deadheading or pinching.
  • Plume celosia. This heat lover comes in pink, red, yellow, and orange, and prefers consistent moisture and an extra shot of fertilizer.
  • Geranium. Both the zonal and ivy leaf varieties perform magnificently. They come mostly in shades of red, pink, lavender and white. Pinch off spent blooms to encourage flowering.
  • Lantana. Available in upright and trailing forms, this multi-colored, drought-tolerant plant survives in part shade as well as full sun.
  • Marigold. This stalwart comes in shades of yellow, orange and red, as well as in bicolors. Deadhead faded flowers promptly to encourage bloom.
  • Spreading petunia. Unlike many of their upright cousins, spreading petunias offer outstanding heat and drought tolerance, as well as low maintenance. Look for Wave hybrids, as well as petunias in the Avalanche, Ramblin’ and Trilogy series.
  • Denver daisy rudbeckia. This cheery Plant Select® annual features masses of 4-to-6-inch golden blooms with chocolate centers against attractive deep green foliage. This plant prefers moderate to dry moisture.
  • Zinnia and creeping zinnia. Zinnias come in every color except blue and brown. They also offer an amazing variety of flower forms, including single, semi-double, double, ruffled, dahlia, cactus and small pompoms. Many varieties produce excellent cut flowers.

Be sure to water plants well after transplanting. Also, fertilize them periodically to encourage continued bloom.

For more information about strong-performing annuals, review the “Best Of” annual awards at http://www.flowertrials.colostate.edu/.

Tell us what you think!

Do you have a question? Try Ask an Expert!

Heat-Tolerant Annuals That Bloom All Summer Long

Believe it or not, some plants actually like to be hot. While most plants will suffer in the summer when temperatures rise, we’re here to talk about annuals that can take the heat—and actually like it!

See our favorite annual plant pairings.

All of these annuals grow well in containers. The smaller the container you use, the easier it will dry out, so be sure to pick a large container for your annuals. For an eye-catching container garden, utilize plants that require the same care but differ in colors, heights, and textures.

Although these annuals beat the heat, they also like to stay hydrated, so give them a drink every other day. Editor’s Tip: To know if your pot needs to be watered, stick your finger into the dirt. If the dirt is dry, your pot needs water. If it’s not, you can probably wait another day.

Be aware that if you rely on rain to water your plants, the water from the rain will most likely hit the leaves and fall off, rather than dampening the soil. In other words, don’t trust that water from rain is giving your plants a decent water supply—a hose will do a better job.

To ensure that your annuals bloom all season, be sure to deadhead blooms that look wilted or dead. This will make room for fresh, new blooms to take their place.

Mandevilla

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Mandevilla is an annual vine that doesn’t mess around—it can grow up to 20 feet tall! The plant flowers trumpet-shape blooms in shades of white, red, or pink and is identified as a tropical and subtropical plant. Although mandevilla is an annual, it can be overwintered in your home as long as it’s kept in a bright, sunny spot.

Ageratum

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One of the easiest annuals to grow, ageratum not only takes the heat but also can handle frost. That, plus its pest-resistant qualities, make it the perfect plant for the beginning gardener. Another fun fact about ageratum is that it is one of the few plants in the world that blooms a true, natural blue.

Scaevola

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Scaevola is a tough annual native to Australia, so it’s no wonder that this plant can take the heat. The plant produces small, fan-like blooms that range from lavender to blue to white. Scaevola looks gorgeous as a cascading plant from pots, baskets, and window boxes. There’s no need to deadhead spent blooms, either—scaevola self-cleans and keeps itself in production.

Persian Shield

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Persian shield is a leafy plant that thrives in Zones 9 and up and can be overwintered as a houseplant. This captivating plant is an ideal centerpiece in a container with its iridescent purple, green, and black foliage. Persian shield is also deer and rabbit resistant, so you don’t have to worry about the colorful leaves falling victim to pests.

Coleus

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Coleus puts on a nonstop show throughout the season. There are several different types of coleus, ranging from shade- to sun-loving, single to multi-colored leaves, and different leaf sizes. This easy-to-grow annual thrives in warm weather as long as soil is moist. With coleus, more light equates to more saturated leaves.

SunPatiens

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SunPatiens is essentially a sun-loving version of the ever-popular shade annual impatiens. The blooms are ideal for a sunny container garden, and it can be grown as a houseplant in a bright spot indoors. The best part about SunPatiens is that it blooms all season long and can even take on frost!

Licorice Plant

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Licorice plant has a soft color and texture, making it a great backdrop to more colorful counterparts in a garden or container. This trailing vine acts as a wonderful “spiller” in a container garden, and its fuzzy leaves protect the plant from pests. In the hot summer sun, this plant may actually give off the smell of licorice, hence its name.

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