Plants That Perform In the Hot Summer Sun

We have had some very hot weather here in the Pacific Northwest and in some cases, previous high temperature records have been broken. Not only have we had very hot and sunny days, but there has been no recent rain and the ground is very dry. It is not unusual for us not to have rain in the summer months, but with no rain and high heat, plants can suffer. The diversity of plants always continues to amaze me with some being able to thrive in the hot sun, while others wilt, and the leaves burn.

Most gardeners have their favorite plants for sunny locations and much of the information on these plants is probably trial and error. I have certainly had my share of plants that I thought would perform well in a sunny location, only to find out that I was mistaken and they either died or the leaves became scorched. A helpful hint, that I have mentioned in previous articles, is adding Black Gold® Natural & Organic Just Coir over the soil surface. Coir has high water-holding capacity which is a helpful addition to summer plants growing in containers.

The following is a listing of plants that seem to thrive in the sun and provide summer color with flowers and/or foliage,

Raspberry Ice Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea ‘Raspberry Ice’ is a tender flowering shrub that grows well as a tender perennial or perennial where hardy.

One of my favorites is Bougainvillea ‘Raspberry Ice’. While Bougainvillea is mostly known as a tall and fast-growing vine, ‘Raspberry Ice’ has a low-mounded spreading form which makes it ideal for pots and hanging baskets. With variegated foliage, this plant is attractive even when not in flower with the typical purple flowers, actually bracts. Bougainvillea is a tropical plant and will not survive our winters and I treat it as a summer annual.

Tall Zinnias

What’s not to like about Zinnias (Zinnia elegans hybrids). An old-fashioned flower that continues to be popular in gardens of today. The color range is vast with colors of red, yellow, cream, white, pink, purple, and shades of all of these. The plants have a wide range of height, some are low growing, others tall, and many in-between. They bloom all summer, and the flowers are excellent for cutting.

Tall zinnias are easy to grow and beautiful.

Perennial Coreopsis

There are two new Coreopsis in my garden this year and both have been blooming since I bought them in early June. This easy-to-grow member of the sunflower family has flowers and foliage that are quite diverse. Coreopsis ‘Lightning Bug’ has fern-like foliage and small flowers that cover the plant. Coreopsis ‘SuperStar’ has larger flowers and foliage. With their vibrant flowers, a grouping of either provides a bright spot of color in the garden.

Coreopsis ‘Superstar’ is a favorite of mine. (Image by Mike Darcy)

Cigar Plant

With hundreds of small flowers on a single plant, cigar plant (Cuphea ignea) is known not only for the prolific flowers it provides all summer, but the flowers are also known as a hummingbird magnet. Sometimes call the cigar plant because the flowers are orange-red with a white tip and a dark rink at the end. For a plant that gives continuous color, it’s hard to beat Cuphea!


The large bold leaves of a Canna can give a garden a tropical look. With the leaves varying from solid green to different variegations, they can provide color when the plant is not in bloom. Two that I particularly like are ‘Striata’ and ‘Cleopatra’, both of which have outstanding foliage. The impressive Canna ‘Striata’ (syn. ‘Bengal Tiger’) has yellow-striped variegated leaves with a narrow maroon margin and bright orange flowers. ‘Cleopatra’ has leaves that may be partially a dark chocolate color and green or all green or almost all dark chocolate. The flowers are equally variable and can be red, yellow, and often of combination of both colors. It is a very eye-catching plant in the garden.

Canna ‘Striata’ has impressive stripes leaves and colorful flowers.

These are just some sun-loving plants that perform well in Pacific Northwest gardens. All will grow beautifully in garden soil fortified with Black Gold Garden Soil.  The natural and organic amendment adds needed organic matter to enrich soils and encourage strong root growth and plant development.

I find it interesting to try some new plants every year to test their summer sunworthiness. Many of these plants are available at garden centers and can still be planted. The plants will probably be larger than they would have been in the spring and can provide some instant color in the garden. Try one that is new to you!


Happy Gardening!

What Basil Grows Well in Florida Heat?

What Basil Grows Well in Florida Heat?

“How can I grow basil in South Florida? Every time I try the sun either burns it or I get it in too much shade.” Question from Deborah of Moore Haven, Florida

Answer: If you find that traditional Italian large-leaf basil (Ocimum basilicum) burns and blooms quickly in your Florida heat, there are other basils available that are better adapted to high heat. Here are my top four selections.

Basils Tolerant of High Heat

  1. African Blue Basil (Ocimum ‘African Blue’): Expect a slightly stronger flavor from this darker-leaved, heavy-flowering basil. It’s beautiful, bees love it, it tolerates heat, and tastes good.
  2. Pesto Perpetuo Basil (Ocimum × africanum ‘Pesto Perpetuo’): Here’s another beautiful, flavorful basil that will never disappoint. It has pretty variegated leaves that taste great, and the heat-tolerant plant grows upright and never flowers. It looks good in a flower bed or herb garden.
  3. Lemon Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Mrs. Burns’ Lemon’): The lemony basil leaves taste so good in salads, and the plants take heat.
  4. Siam Queen Thai Basil (Ocimum ‘Siam Queen’): The award-winning ‘Siam Queen’ has delicious, licorice-flavored leaves that complement East Asian dishes. The plants are low-growing and beautiful.

I encourage you to watch the video below for more basil-growing tips.

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

How Do I Grow Daffodils Down South?

“We moved to Jasper, TX from Jefferson City, MO and I am having trouble getting my favorite bulbs, daffodils, to grow.  What suggestions might you have?” Question from Betsy of Jasper, Texas

Answer: You moved from a USDA Hardiness Zone 6 location to a USDA Hardiness Zone 8 location. Many daffodils will not grow well in Zone 8 because they need chillier winters to complete their flowering cycle. Thankfully, there are some that will grow very well in your region. Choose from this list of varieties, and you should have daffodil success! Many of these are Tazetta-type Narcissus.

Daffodil ‘Avalanche’: This fragrant daffodil produces clusters of ivory flowers with small yellow cups and blooms from early to mid spring.

Daffodil ‘Carlton’: Prolific golden yellow flowers are produced by this daffodil in early spring

Daffodil ‘Erlicheer’: This unique variety produces fully double flowers of ivory and palest yellow in early to mid spring.

Daffodil ‘Falconette’: This early spring bloomer bears fantastic clusters of yellow blooms with dark-orange coronas.

Daffodil ‘Texas Star’: This delicate daffodil produces tiny yellow blossoms in early spring.

There are many other southern Narcissus and daffodil varieties to add to these. I suggest doing your bulb shopping at Brent & Becky’s Bulbs or The Southern Bulb Company. Both list preferred zones for their flowers.

Happy daffodil growing!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


What Shrub Rose is Heat- and Drought-Tolerant and Fragrant?

Rosa californica ‘Plena’

“I’m looking for a low-maintenance shrub rose that produces highly scented flowers that will thrive in Las Vegas, NV.” Question from Katherine of Las Vegas, Nevada

Answer: There are several fragrant shrub roses that can withstand high heat in your dry USDA Hardiness Zone 8-9 location. But, there are no classic, cultivated shrub roses that can withstand extended drought. There are, however, some native shrub roses that may fit the bill. I will give you a selection of heat-tolerant cultivated shrub roses, and a native, all with good fragrance. These roses will require watering in Las Vegas, but they are otherwise carefree. Rose fungal diseases are not problematic in dry climates.

Heat-Tolerant Shrub Roses

A classic floribunda shrub rose with good heat tolerance is ‘Angel Face’. It was bred in 1969, has deep lavender-pink flowers that are fully double, a citrus fragrance, and its leaves are a lustrous green.

‘Graham Thomas’ is another heat-tolerant shrub rose bred in 1983 that has golden blossoms with a strong sweet-tea fragrance. Another similar shrub rose is ‘Molineux’; its yellow, double flowers have a musky tea-rose scent.

The rugosa rose ‘Hansa’ is highly fragrant with an intense clove scent and well-adapted to sharply drained soils and heat. Its double flowers are a pretty purplish red. The white-flowered rugosa rose ‘Alba’ is also very pretty and fragrant. Both of these roses have spectacular, large, edible hips in fall, which are also very pretty. (Click here to read more about Rosa rugosa).

Southwest Native Shrub Rose

The semi-double California wild rose (Rosa californica ‘Plena’) is a spring-blooming shrub rose with pretty pink flowers. It can tolerate dry conditions better, and its flowers are lightly fragrant.

When planting roses in poor, dry soil, I recommend amending it with fertile amendments, such as Black Gold Garden Compost Blend and Peat Moss. Both products are OMRI Listed for organic gardening. Alfalfa meal is a natural fertilizer that also helps roses grow to their fullest.

Happy rose growing!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist