Enjoy Color in the Garden All Summer

A selection of these plants can carry your garden through the dog days of summer and help you welcome fall.

  • Mexican Sunflower

    Beloved by Butterflies

    Mexican sunflower. A tough plant for hot, dry climates, this annual typically reaches five to six feet tall and dominates the garden. Choose one of the dwarf selections, such as 'Fiesta del Sol' (two to three feet tall).

  • Colorful Zinnias

    Low-Budget Color

    Zinnias. This easy-to-grow annual provides a sea of color from early summer to the first hard frost. You can choose a winning cultivar from the Profusion series, or opt for an inexpensive packet of seeds of the mixed varieties. In Zone 6 and south, there's time to sow a fresh crop of zinnias in early August for bloom in late summer to mid-fall.

  • Zinnias on Steroids

    Profusion series zinnas. Regular garden zinnias come in a wide range of colors but are subject to disease and insect problems, especially powdery mildew. The narrow-leaf zinnia (Zinnia angustifolia) has high pest resistance but limited colors and small flowers. A cross between the two resulted in the Profusion series, which exhibits the best of both — excellent resistance to diseases and insects and more colors than its narrow-leaf parent. First to come out were Profusion White, then Cherry and Orange, then Apricot and Profusion Fire. These zinnias bloom profusely and robustly, even in the heat and humidity of the Deep South. They grow 2 feet tall and wide and don't need to be deadheaded.

  • Have Some Yellow

    Melampodium. Another heat-tolerant annual, this cheery bedding plant reseeds readily. You'll want one of the compact cultivars such as 'Million Gold', shown here, 'Derby' or 'Showstar' (slightly taller). Give this plant average soil and expect bloom from late spring to early fall.

  • Flashy Leaves

    Coleus. This colorful foliage plant comes in a multitude of eye-catching patterns and is no longer limited only to shade; plenty of newer varieties can handle sun. Coleus stays beautiful through the dog days of summer and lasts until frost. Better yet, take a few cuttings of your favorites this year, root them in a glass of water, pot them up and hold them over as houseplants for the winter. You'll have starts for next year's garden.

  • Flambe Yellow Proven Winners

    Color You Can Count On

    Chrysocephalum 'Flambe Yellow'. Born to bloom on hot, dry sites, this foot-tall annual produces nonstop clusters of tiny yellow blooms throughout the summer and keeps going till early fall. Plant in full sun, and give it good air circulation. Self-cleaning. USDA Hardiness Zones: 9 to 10

  • Sunny Yellow Flowers

    Black-eyed Susan. Although this tough plant is a biennial or short-lived perennial, and it's treated as an annual in many areas, it self-seeds freely, so you can get an enduring patch going with little trouble. Sun-loving and low-maintenance, black-eyed Susan is a no-brainer to grow from seed. Sow in spring or fall; germination typically occurs in one to three weeks, depending on soil temperature and moisture. The first year, flowering is sparse, but the second year's blooms will be robust and abundant. By midsummer garden centers typically sell small pots of the plant in bloom.

  • High-Voltage Plant

    Vinca, annual form. You can count on Catharanthus roseus for vivid color through the hottest days of summer and early fall; flowering is prolific, and the petals don't fade even in the most intense sun. The plant is compact, uniform and about a foot tall. (Don't confuse this plant with the woody vine, Vinca minor or V. major, which produces lavender-blue or white flowers in spring and spottily through the rest of the growing season.) 'Jaio Scarlet Eye', shown here, won an AAS bedding plant award. Vinca blooms about 10 weeks after seeding; even in midsummer, gardeners in southern climates have plenty of time for a good show from seed. Northern gardeners may be able to find pots of a colorful vinca at a local nursery.

  • Angel's Trumpets

    A Touch of the Tropics

    Angel's trumpet. Whether they're growing in the ground or in a container, the gigantic trumpet-shaped flowers and large leaves of Brugmansia add a dramatic, tropical look to the garden.

  • Stately Native

    Joe-pye weed. A stand of this tall perennial is an unforgettable sight in midsummer to fall: purplish-mauve flower clusters bloom at the top of stems that typically reach five to six feet tall. Shorter cultivars are available; you can also cut the plant back in early summer to gain a shorter, bushier plant. Butterflies and bees love this plant. USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 10

  • Prolific Bloomer

    Daylily. One of the easiest perennials to grow, daylilies can give you years of reliable color. Each bloom lasts for one day, but a stem can easily produce two dozen or more buds, and the plant continues to send up new scapes throughout its bloom cycle. There's an embarassment of variety among cultivars, and besides color, height, petal texture and other things, they vary in period of bloom. By selecting varieties from the early-, mid- and late-season bloomers, you can have daylilies in bloom from early summer to fall.

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