As the mercury rises, most of us retire into the shade with a cool drink. However, plants in the landscape don’t have that luxury, and it can be tough to find heat-tolerant plants that can also thrive under low water conditions. If you’re looking for plants that provide foliage color, fragrance, and blooms – yet hold up under that hot summer sun – look no further, as we have three designer picks that thrive when others wilt.
Lavender hails from the Mediterranean, where so many of our favorite heat- and drought- tolerant plants originate, and Lavender allardii is one of the sturdiest varieties around. With thick, slightly serrated leaves imbued with fragrant oils, ‘Meerlo’ Lavender holds onto its moisture well, and thus has low water needs. That creamy-gold variegated foliage lights up the landscape, and harmonizes beautifully with the violet-blue bloom spikes come summer. Plant it in drifts with catmint and other blue-flowering perennials to highlight and contrast with the stunning foliage, or use it next to a pathway where you can enjoy the fragrance every time you walk past. It grows well in Sunset zones 4-24.
Another Mediterranean favorite, rosemary has thin leaves that are slightly curled at the edges to help hold moisture in, even when the temps grow high, making it an excellent choice for hot, dry gardens. Yet most varieties of rosemary grow too big for the average garden, become woody, and flop ungraciously on their neighbors. Not so with Chef’s Choice® Rosemary, a petite new variety reaching a polite 12 to 18 inches tall and wide. Growing in Sunset zones 4-24, it feeds pollinators and honeybees, is deer resistant, and has low water needs. Best of all, its high oil content and spicy flavor make it the ideal choice for a kitchen garden, since it can be used to flavor barbecue, roasted root vegetables, and more.
How can a plant that looks so lush be so tolerant of both heat and drought? This gorgeous addition to the ‘Wishes’ line of sages forms a neat ball of fresh green foliage topped with elegant spires of fuzzy, tubular magenta flowers emerging from deep purple bracts. 'Love and Wishes' Salvia grows in Sunset zones 16-24 (or used as an annual in cooler areas), this fast-growing plant is a hummingbird and pollinator magnet, blooming nearly nonstop from spring through frost. Unlike most heavy bloomers, it needs no pruning or deadheading to continue flowering and looking its best throughout the season. If you’re a fan of hot colors for your summer garden, try ‘Ember’s Wish’ Salvia, which has all of the great attributes of ‘Love and Wishes’, but comes in a vibrant coral color.