By Justin Hancock, Costa Farms Horticulturist
Photographs courtesy of Costa Farms
It’s summer – the hot season. While that’s great for going to the beach, it can be hard on our gardens, especially hanging baskets. Check out these six hearty, heat-loving plants to give your hanging baskets a summer makeover.
Every summer we test dozens of hanging baskets in our 2-acre Trial Garden in Miami. These plants are subjected to South Florida’s summer heat, intense humidity, and periods of heavy tropical rain. While the individual varieties that stand out vary from year to year, there are certain plant types that always seem to rise to the top.
I’d never thought about caladiums in hanging baskets until I came to Costa Farms, but when I saw them in our Trial Garden, I was smitten. These heat-loving tropicals show off fantastically variegated foliage and the newer ones hold up well to wind and rain so they stay looking great throughout the season. You can find compact caladium varieties (perfect for hanging baskets) that tolerate both full sun and full shade.
While old-fashioned varieties of lantana were too big for baskets, newer selections (such as the Lucky, Little Lucky, and Bandito series) bring the same heat-loving, drought-tolerant qualities as their old-school cousins. Lantana’s multi-color blooms always reminded me of a summer party, so it’s perfect for adding big interest to your favorite outdoor spaces. Plus, lantana is a natural for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. Lantana likes full sun.
Portulaca (also called purslane) is a drought-tolerant annual succulent that practically smothers itself in blooms all summer long, no matter how hot and dry the weather gets. The blooms look like cheery little buttercups and appear in warm shades of pink, salmon, orange, yellow, gold, and white. Newer varieties have much larger – and more – flowers than their cousins of previous generations (the ones I grew up calling moss roses). Portulaca loves full sun.
If you’re not familiar with scaevola (also called fan flower), you’re not alone. This easy-care, no-fuss, drought-tolerant Australian native has almost inexplicably flown under the radar of many gardeners. Its thick, succulent foliage is a lovely accent to the charming blue, purple, pink, or white blooms. And once it starts blooming, it doesn’t stop. Scaevola likes full sun or part shade.
Charming vinca is about as carefree as it gets when it comes to landscape beds and borders, container gardens, and window boxes. The same goes for hanging baskets. Like lantana, the classic varieties are a little too big for baskets, but newer selections have a trailing habit, allowing them to spill gracefully over the sides and put the color where you can see it best. There’s a practically endless array of colors, too – from pure white to lavender-purple to rich red. Vinca likes full sun or part shade.
Looking for something a little different? Try wishbone flower (also called Torenia). It’s a fun plant that bears lots of flowers reminiscent of pansies, and in many of the same colors, including blues and purples, pinks, white, and even yellow. Bicolor varieties bring in some intriguing combinations, as well. No matter how hot it gets in our Trial Garden, this plant doesn’t bat an eye if we keep it well watered. Wishbone flower likes sun, part sun, and shade.
For more great ideas for summer plantings, visit Costa Farms.
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