Summer Sizzlers — 10 Great Plants to Beat the Heat

July 2, 2012 | By | Comments (8)

How hot was it in Grumpy’s Alabama garden this week?


Yes, it’s been hotter ‘n’ Grumpy’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover all week. Ninety-four degrees at 10 in the morning? C’mon, give me a break! But as miserable as weather like this is for gardeners, it’s even worse for gardens. Weeks without rain and temps near 100 leave most plants looking like they took a quick dip in hot grease.  

Are there any plants that thrive in these conditions and will beautify your gardens all summer? Of course, they are! Here is the first of Grumpy’s 10 Great Summer Sizzlers. Plant ’em and be cool.

Russian sage_phixr
Sizzler #1 — Russian Sage

Native to western and central Asia, this clumping perennial combines handsome foliage with colorful summer flowers. Mature plants stand 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, with graceful, upright, whitish stems holding finely cut, aromatic, gray-green leaves. Sprays of small blue flowers appear continuously from late spring through summer, forming a soft haze above the foliage. Butterflies love the flowers.

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) has many uses in the garden. Its cool-colored flowers and foliage combine well with reds, oranges, and yellows; its fine-textured foliage is a good foil for plants with coarser leaves, such as purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, iris, aster, and sedum. But Grumpy thinks it’s most effective when planted in a mass, the way you see here.

Once established, Russian sage is very easy to grow for just about anybody. It’s cold-tolerant to Canada and heat-tolerant to Florida. It has no serious pests, not even deer. It needs little water or fertilizer. It’s not fussy about soil.

You just need to remember three things. First, plant it in full sun. Second, good drainage is a must. It won’t grow in heavy, wet soil. Finally, don’t prune it in fall. Wait until new growth begins in spring and then cut old stems nearly to the ground.

Fight the Flop

One problem people sometimes encounter with plain Russian sage is that it has a tendency to flop onto other plants. One way to counter this is to plant it in a mass by itself. Another is to plant an improved selection chosen for dense, upright growth that doesn’t flop. Grumpy recommends ‘Blue Spire,‘Filigran,’ ‘Little Spire,’ and ‘Lacey Blue.’ Click on the names for mail-order sources. Many garden centers also sell Russian sage.

Coming Up Next

Summer Sizzler #2 — Yucca.






  1. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Sure there are. They include angelonia, sun coleus, lantana, moss rose, Mexican heather, pentas, Madagascar periwinkle, gomphrena, verbena, salvia, and zinnias.

    July 9, 2012 at 3:08 pm
  2. Sherry

    Dear Grumpy,
    Are there any annuals I can place in containers that can take the afternoon sun in central FL?

    July 9, 2012 at 10:25 am
  3. Dee/reddirtramblings

    I seem to remember a summer from hell myself. Yeah, that’s too stinkin’ hot! I do love Russian sage. It’s a great plant. So is yucca. And, agave. Rudbeckia. I can think of some others, but I want to read yours.~~Dee

    July 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm
  4. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    You can certainly replant your annual bed now, as long as you water regularly. That’s the whole key. As for flowers that love summer heat, I’d say angelonia, lantana, Madagascar periwinkle (annual vinca), blanket flower (Gaillardia), pentas, gomphrena, moss rose (Portulaca), verbena, sun coleus, and zinnias.

    July 3, 2012 at 12:05 pm
  5. Allison

    Stupid question: Is there any sizzling plant that we can PLANT now? I know it’s ridiculous, but I’ve got an annual bed that just up and died when we went on vacation and it’s right by my front door. I can’t stand the empty deadness!

    July 3, 2012 at 11:49 am
  6. julianchandler

    Thanks for the tip about not pruning in the fall. This is my first year growing Russian sage, so I haven’t committed that particular sin yet and now that I know better, I (probably) won’t.
    And what a great series! I am always looking for plants that can stand up to the Oklahoma heat–generally around 100 degrees or higher in July and August.

    July 3, 2012 at 11:46 am
  7. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Great tip, Freda!

    July 3, 2012 at 11:44 am
  8. Freda Cameron

    Russian Sage is great!
    To prevent flopping, in early spring when the plant is about 10 inches tall, I trim the side shoots to be shorter than the central shoots. Those shorter stems help provide support. Yes, it delays blooming…here in 7b of North Carolina, mine start blooming the last week of June.

    July 2, 2012 at 8:30 am

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