For The Answer
SUMMER HEAT LOVING PLANTS
We can have blooms 12 months of the year in San Antonio. To accomplish this desirable goal we need to select the right plants. It will be seriously hot for the next four months so your plant selection has to include plants that thrive in the heat.
Esperanza is also called Texas Bells or Tecoma stans. As you would derive from the name, the blooms are shaped like miniature bells. The showiest selections are bright yellow but there is also an orange version. Esperanza likes full sun. Most years it freezes back to the ground and then grows to 6 or 7 feet tall. If we have a mild winter like last year, and in some sheltered parts of the city (downtown and Riverwalk), the stems may not die back and the plants will reach 10 or more feet tall. There is an initial heavy flush of bloom at this time of year and steady production of blooms through October. To keep the plants at maximum bloom, prune off the spent flowers to prevent seed production. My radio colleague Dr. Jerry Parsons is advocating he complete cutback of the plants after the initial summer flush of blooms for gardeners that would prefer to have a lower growing source of yellow flowers in the garden. The new selection “Gold Star” is a blooming machine whether you let it grow tall or prune it several times per summer.
Esperanza is a spectacular source of yellow blooms all summer in full sun and it has other characteristics that add to its appeal. Esperanza is an all-star xeiscape plant; it will bloom no matter how hot and dry the summer is. Hummingbirds and butterflies like the flowers as a nectar source and it does not seem to have any disease or insect pests. The biggest pest in many neighborhoods is deer. In my neighborhood the deer do not eat the Texas Bells.
The deer will eat Poinciana, also called Pride of Barbados, but otherwise it is nearly as desirable as Esperanza as a summer bloomer for full sun in San Antonio. The blooms are glow-in-the-dark orange. It is another favorite of the butterflies and hummingbirds. Both Poinciana and Esperanza are available in 3- to 10-gallon containers at area nurseries.
Are your children home for the summer or do your grandchildren visit from time to time? Let them plant sunflowers by seed. The mammoth selections are available in seed packets at every nursery or just use some of your birdseed. The plants germinate within a few days and grow very quickly. Plant sunflowers in full sun. Once the bloom declines the cardinals and doves will eat the seeds from the head.
Purslane and moss roses are tiny when compared to the sunflowers but they are just as tolerant of the sun and heat. Use transplants or seed for low growing (4 inches tall) flowers of pink, white, yellow, red, and orange. They look great in hanging baskets or other containers.
Another good container plant for the summer patio is Firebush. Firebush has small red tubular blooms that cover the plant. They are a favorite hummingbird nectar source. When planted in a container, firebush is dwarfed, depending on the size of the container. A 3- to 5-gallon container will support a plant about 2 feet tall and just as wide.
Firebush is an excellent xeriscape plant when grown in the soil. In a container, however, you will have to water it every two days, about the same frequency as the hibiscus.
Firespike has a name similar to firebush and is almost as popular with the hummingbirds, but it grows best in shade rather than full sun. The red blooms grow on tall spikes above attractive shiny green leaves. Use firespike in a container or in the garden.
Another heat lover that will tolerate shade and is a hummingbird favorite is Penta. The clusters of red, white, violet or pink flowers produce color all summer in the garden or in a container.
Summer in San Antonio is hot but it can be colorful if you utilize flowers that prosper in the heat.