Low Maintenance Summer Flowers with Mike Darcy

March 13, 2023

Growing summer flowers continues to be a gardening tradition and one that seems to increase every spring. I plant lots of containers for summer color and I have groups of pots on our deck as well as pots scattered throughout the garden. Sometimes I think that I have enough but then I visit a garden center and see another plant that I ‘need’ Can we ever have too many plants?

Elderly woman in garden picking dahlias in the garden

With the increasingly warm summers, my plant palette is continuing to change to accommodate these new conditions. Most areas of my garden receive some of the very hot afternoon sun and I have had to adjust as to what I am planting. This has been quite an interesting challenge, and, in the process, I have been introduced to some new plants.

The following is a listing, there are many others, that I have found seem to thrive in our summers and give color throughout the spring, summer, and into the fall.


Pink Rudbeckia Flowers
Often referred to as Gloriosa Daisy or Black-Eyed Susan, many Rudbeckia’s are perennials and will return each year. They thrive in a full sun location and will generally flower all summer. Flower colors range from yellow to orange with a raised brown ‘cone’ in the center. They make good cut flowers and cutting also encourages them to re-bloom. This is a diverse group and plant height varies with specific varieties.


Closeup of yellow Sunflower
Just by their name, sunflower, indicates they like the sun. Sunflowers are traditionally tall growing plants with some reaching 10 ft or more. Give them plenty of space to grow. However, there are many new varieties available that are shorter growing. Tall growing varieties will probably need to be staked. Sunflowers are excellent for attracting birds. They are also an easy plant to grow from seed and ideal for young gardeners to grow because they germinate quickly and are fast growing.


Yellow, red, pink and orange zinnias
There are few summer annuals that are as popular or as easy to grow as zinnias. Often considered as an old-fashioned flower because they have been a popular flower in gardens for so many years. Easy to grow from seed or set out nursery plants. Zinnias thrive in the heat, and the flowers come in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes. Plant growth is also variable with some types reaching up to four feet and others barely reaching twelve inches. Cut old flowers stems to encourage continuous flowering.


Orange marigolds growing
The marigold is another summer flower that would also be called an old-fashioned flower. Like zinnias, marigolds are also easy to grow from seed and blooming plants are available from garden centers. The flower color range is not as broad as the zinnia and flowers tend to be yellow, orange, and rust. Marigolds do have a pungent scent; I like the quote by the 17th Century English herbalist John Parkinson who said the flower was “pleasant to the eye and not to any other sense.”


Close up of black and blue salvia plant
There are many salvias available and not all are low maintenance but Salvia guaranitica ‘Black & Blue’ is one that is readily available and very easy to grow. Stems of blue flowers appear in spring and continue into the fall. Excellent in containers and the flowers are a hummingbird magnet. Remove stems of old flowers for continuous bloom. I have had plants bloom through October. This is a perennial and if the winter is not too severe, the roots will form dahlia-like tubers and will survive. Buy bedding plants of this one.


Close up of Pink Dahlia
Beginning in early spring, dahlia tubers will be available in garden centers. Starting tubers indoors can give you a head start for spring planting. When planting tubers outdoors, wait until the soil temperature is about 60 degrees F, usually mid-April through May, a soil thermometer can give you this information. Tall growing dahlias often need to be staked and do this at time of planting so as not to damage the tuber later in the season. Tomato cages will also work for supporting tall dahlias. Dahlia plants are usually available in late May and June. Dahlias like a sunny location and give superb late summer and fall color. While they can be planted in full sun, I have found they do well with some shade from the hot afternoon summer sun.


White, pink, orange, and yellow Portulaca flowers
A fleshy leafed low growing plant that loves the sun and blooms continuously all summer. Portulaca might have the look of being delicate, but it is a tough and easy to grow summer annual. Use this as a ground cover or let it spill over a pot or hanging basket. There is a wide range of flower color to choose from. The flowers are small and look like a rose, hence the common name of ‘moss rose’.

This listing of summer flowering plants is just the tip of the iceberg as to what we can grow in the summer months. The plants mentioned here should be easy to find and easy to grow. Many gardeners like to experiment with some new plants each year and hopefully there will be some mentioned here that will be new to you. All should give summer color with some continuing to bloom until the first frost.


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