Summer blooming perennial

Malvaviscus, Not Hibiscus

As temperatures continue to hover in the 90s, I continue to focus on plants that perform well in heat and humidity. One of the best August performers in the Mary Snoddy garden is Turk’s Turban.

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii has several common names that describe its appearance. “Lazy Hibiscus” and “Turk’s Turban” describe its bloom, which looks very much like a Hibiscus that has not yet opened or a tightly wrapped Arabian turban.

This southeastern native is one of the most undemanding perennials you can grow. While it prefers partial shade, it will grow and bloom well in full-sun, although its leaves may be smaller with more light.  The blooms start appearing in the hottest part of the summer and continue to frost. The ‘arboreus’ part of the Latin name means ‘tree-like.’ The plant average height is 2-4 feet in height, so it is more shrub-like than tree-like. It my Zone 7 garden, it dies to the ground with a couple of hard freezes.

Dead top growth should be removed in winter since new growth will pop up the next season. Sometimes they seem slow to emerge in the spring. Don’t give up – These plants are stalwart. They will thrive in any soil, from sand to clay, acidic or alkaline, wet or dry. Malvaviscus leaves are fuzzy to touch, which helps with their marvelous heat tolerance. Once established, they are drought tolerant also.

Red blooms pop against the medium green foliage, attracting attention from hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. White bloom or variegated foliage varieties are available, too. If left alone, the plants reseed to form handsome colonies. Cuttings root easily when treated with hormone. The plants will root themselves if limbs lay against the soil. You can help with this layered rooting by scratching a stem surface a bit then holding the wounded area against the soil with a brick or rock. Check for roots after twelve weeks. Rooted sections can be cut away from the mother plant and transplanted to another location. Established clumps can be divided with a shovel, but this requires a sharp shovel and a strong foot to push it with.

The Turk’s Turban in my garden is more than 40 years old. It is located in a roadside bed where it gets heat from the street and also from an asphalt driveway. It receives no supplemental irrigation whatsoever and receives shade about two hours during mid-day. It has grown to be a clump 5 feet by 8 feet. The hummingbirds thank us every day. And our deer ignore it completely.

 This is truly a “plant it and forget it” star.

The tightly wrapped petals look like a turk’s turban, hence the common name.

The tightly wrapped petals look like a turk’s turban, hence the common name.

Turk’s Turban mingles with Sedum in a baking-hot roadside garden.

Turk’s Turban mingles with Sedum in a baking-hot roadside garden.

Crocosmias Glow In The Heat

When the “feels like” temperatures are in triple digits, many annuals and perennials slow down or even stop blooming. This makes us appreciate those stalwarts that bloom through the hottest days of the year. One of these is Crocosmia (pronounced Crow-KAHZ-mee-ah).

Crocosmia leaves resemble gladiola or Siberian Iris. The blooms occur at the topmost part of a wiry stem. They last a long time as cut flowers. Blooms are most often red (‘Lucifer’ cultivar) or orange, occasionally yellow. Hummingbirds flock to all shades. They look especially great when paired with blue Salvia.

Crocosmia, sometimes called Montbretia, is a type of bulb known as a corm. Corms are much smaller than true bulbs like tulips or daffodils. They create a new bulb each year to sustain them through cold weather. These storage units stack themselves on top of each other, gradually developing into a loose chain, like a sleeve of Ritz crackers, only much smaller. The bond joining the corms is not strong, so they break apart when gardeners attempt to dig them up to relocate them. The corms left behind sprout into new plants, leading gardeners believe that they spread to the point of invasiveness.

Crocosmias are hardy in zones 6 to 10. They look best when planted in groups of 10 or more. Blooming is heaviest when the clumps of bulbs are divided every three years or so. Because they reproduce readily, many gardeners will be happy to share their divisions. They should be planted in full sun to light shade, in slightly acidic soil. Crocosmias are not browsed by deer or rabbits, and are usually ignored by slugs. A winner!

Orange Crocosmia glow when backlit by sunshine.

Orange Crocosmia glow when backlit by sunshine.

Long-blooming Purple Coneflowers

Most perennials have shorter bloom periods than summer annuals. One that flowers for a lengthy time is Echinacea purpurea, Purple Coneflower.  In upstate South Carolina, the first blooms open in late spring (just after Mother’s Day) and continue all the way to frost. Purple was the original color of this prairie native that has been adapted to garden use. Hybridization expanded color choices to rose, orange-red, yellow, pink, magenta,  white and green. The Latin name came from the Greek word echinos, meaning hedgehog, a reference to the spiky orange central cone. The coarse leaves are a bit rough.

Coneflowers prefer full sun. They are heat resistant and will tolerate moderate drought. They are adaptable to various soil types and will grow in zones 3 to 9. They rarely need fertilizer. Cultivars vary in height but average 3-4 feet with a 2-3 foot spread.

Bumblebees and butterflies flock to the flowers. Blooms are long lasting, either on the plant or as cut flowers. Deadheading keeps the plant neater and forces fresh buds to form. I stop deadheading in autumn and allow the spent flowers to remain through winter, offering a seed treat to finches and other birds.  Any uneaten seed self-sow for new plants in the spring but the seeds of cultivars may not be like their parent plants. Seedlings are easily transplanted. Cut dead leaves and stems to ground level in late winter before spring growth begins.

Deer ignore coneflowers but rabbits find them tasty. They are rarely damaged by insects or diseases, but may show occasional damage from aphids, Japanese beetles, powdery mildew or bacterial leaf spots. I have experienced an occasional problem with “aster yellows” but promptly removed the affected plants to avoid a spread to neighboring plants. My two favorite cultivars are ‘Magnus’ which has large, light purple blooms and ‘Kim’s Knee High’ which is only a foot tall. Both look best when planted in masses rather than as single plants.

A bumblebee busy on a ‘Magnus’ coneflower bloom.

A bumblebee busy on a ‘Magnus’ coneflower bloom.

A group planting.

A group planting.

Note the weird green buds inside the purple circle. These deformed blooms are a symptom of Aster Yellows. Remove and destroy the plant to prevent the spread. Aster yellows is a bacteria-like organism called a phytoplasma. It is spread by leafhoppers.

Note the weird green buds inside the purple circle. These deformed blooms are a symptom of Aster Yellows. Remove and destroy the plant to prevent the spread. Aster yellows is a bacteria-like organism called a phytoplasma. It is spread by leafhoppers.

Copy of Champion Rose Campion

My apologies for the tardiness of this post. Evidently I included so many high-res photos in my first attempt that email programs kicked it to the curb. Who knew?  Anyway, better late than not at all. MNS

Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria) is an old fashioned passalong plant that is heat resistant and has beautiful spring and summer flowers. Most have magenta blooms, but there are also pink, white and blush forms available. When it is not in bloom, the gray felted leaves are easy to confuse with Lamb’s Ears (see the photo for a comparison).

 The word “Lychnis” (pronounced LICK-niss) means “lamp” in Greek. Folklore says that the woolly leaves were sometimes rolled tightly and used as lamp wicks. A few people use the common name “Dusty Miller,” but there are multiple other plants that share that common name. Let’s stick with Rose Campion. Those soft gray leaves mean that it looks wonderful with pastels and makes a good peace-making divider between hot colors that might otherwise clash. I would avoid pairing it with pale lemony yellows, but it looks fine against school-bus yellow. The leaves look fantastic when paired with pink or red companions. They also look good against burgundy foliage.

Rose Campion forms a basal leaf rosette that mimics Verbascum. Thin bloom stems shoot up to 30”or more and erupt in small, velvety 5-petaled flowers. If you plan to pair yours with red or purple flowers, it is worth seeking out the white or blush colors.  I learned from sad experience that magenta clashes like thunder with red Amaryllis. (Plans are underway for a relocation of the Amaryllis.)  All colors bloom longer if deadheaded. I tend to leave those in the Mary Snoddy garden ungroomed so they spread seeds around. They reseed readily if left unmulched, which makes them a great passalong gift. The plants are easy to move when small. Space them a foot apart in full sun, zones 4-8.

Due to its fuzzy gray coat, Rose Campion rarely needs any supplemental watering. Mine are used as an edging, planted in full baking sun next to an asphalt driveway. They are never irrigated.  If plants receive too much water or if the leaves stay damp too long in periods of high humidity, they may rot. Locating them in an area with good air circulation helps. They tolerate clay and prefer poor soil. Too rich a soil makes their stems weak, so blooms flop. They are not bothered by insects or diseases. The deer have not damaged mine – yet.

Lambs Ears between Rose Campions.

Lambs Ears between Rose Campions.

Rose Campion paired with pink-blooming Limemound Spirea and purple Iris ensata

Rose Campion paired with pink-blooming Limemound Spirea and purple Iris ensata

Magenta Rose Campion

Magenta Rose Campion

Champion Rose Campion

My apologies for the tardiness of this post. Evidently I included so many high-res photos in my first attempt that email programs kicked it to the curb. Who knew?  Anyway, better late than not at all. MNS

Rose Campion (Lychnis coronaria) is an old fashioned passalong plant that is heat resistant and has beautiful spring and summer flowers. Most have magenta blooms, but there are also pink, white and blush forms available. When it is not in bloom, the gray felted leaves are easy to confuse with Lamb’s Ears (see the photo for a comparison).

 The word “Lychnis” (pronounced LICK-niss) means “lamp” in Greek. Folklore says that the woolly leaves were sometimes rolled tightly and used as lamp wicks. A few people use the common name “Dusty Miller,” but there are multiple other plants that share that common name. Let’s stick with Rose Campion. Those soft gray leaves mean that it looks wonderful with pastels and makes a good peace-making divider between hot colors that might otherwise clash. I would avoid pairing it with pale lemony yellows, but it looks fine against school-bus yellow. The leaves look fantastic when paired with pink or red companions. They also look good against burgundy foliage.

Rose Campion forms a basal leaf rosette that mimics Verbascum. Thin bloom stems shoot up to 30”or more and erupt in small, velvety 5-petaled flowers. If you plan to pair yours with red or purple flowers, it is worth seeking out the white or blush colors.  I learned from sad experience that magenta clashes like thunder with red Amaryllis. (Plans are underway for a relocation of the Amaryllis.)  All colors bloom longer if deadheaded. I tend to leave those in the Mary Snoddy garden ungroomed so they spread seeds around. They reseed readily if left unmulched, which makes them a great passalong gift. The plants are easy to move when small. Space them a foot apart in full sun, zones 4-8.

Due to its fuzzy gray coat, Rose Campion rarely needs any supplemental watering. Mine are used as an edging, planted in full baking sun next to an asphalt driveway. They are never irrigated.  If plants receive too much water or if the leaves stay damp too long in periods of high humidity, they may rot. Locating them in an area with good air circulation helps. They tolerate clay and prefer poor soil. Too rich a soil makes their stems weak, so blooms flop. They are not bothered by insects or diseases. The deer have not damaged mine – yet.

Lambs Ears between Rose Campions.

Lambs Ears between Rose Campions.

Rose Campion paired with pink-blooming Limemound Spirea and purple Iris ensata

Rose Campion paired with pink-blooming Limemound Spirea and purple Iris ensata

Magenta Rose Campion

Magenta Rose Campion