Great Plants for Hot and Sunny Locations

By Kerry Ann Mendez

Some sun-loving plants do better with less: less water, less fertilizer, less attention from you. This elite group of plants can handle intense midday sun without slouching. The beautiful flowers elicit smiles from gardeners and pollinators alike. If you have gardens (especially those with sandy soil) that are exposed to blistering heat near south or west facing walls, stone patios, sidewalks, driveways, or retaining walls, then you need to enlist water-conservative selections.

Plants that can tolerate this type of abuse commonly share one or more of the following characteristics: small leaves, gray or silver foliage, succulent, waxy or "fuzzy" leaves, a deep tap root, extensive fibrous root system or large storage roots (i.e. Peony). But don't be unrealistic - even drought tolerant plants like these are going to need consistent watering the first season as their roots become established.

Below are a few gorgeous "desert-like" perennials that we recommend in these situations:

Yarrow (Achillea) - Most Yarrow have flat flowers that are ideal landing pads for butterflies. They also offer many flower colors, sport striking silver or green leaves and are deer resistant.

Carnation (Dianthus) - Available in many colors, the blooms of Dianthus can be single or multi-petalled and appear amid blue or green leaves. Some cultivars are more fragrant than others. Another deer resistant choice!

False Blue Indigo (Baptisia) - Available in many flower colors, Baptisia also offers attractive black seed heads and will be deer resistant.

Ice Plant (Delosperma) - These plants produce succulent leaves along with flowers in a variety of shades. Many varieties will serve as slow mat-like groundcovers and all are deer resistant.

Ornamental Grasses - Some showy choices include Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium, native), Fountain Grass (Pennisetum), Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis, native) and Blue Fescue (Festuca).