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Tagawa’s Annuals Experts Share Their Favorite Flowers for Colorado’s Hot Summers

Do you have a sunny spot in your garden that is more than just sunny?  Maybe it’s downright roasting?  In these challenging locations, choosing plants that lap up the sun may not be enough.  You might need to focus on plants that actually thrive in the heat.

I asked some of the Tagawa folks who spend every working hour surrounded by thousands of sun-loving flowers what they take home to plant in their garden hot spots.  They all had answers at the ready.  Here are some of their favorites.

What flower makes Susan feel guilty?

This one surprised me a bit ’cause I’ve never grown it myself.  Susan loves flowering vinca.  She says she has pangs of guilt when she plants it out on a hot, unwelcoming berm at her home, where it doesn’t get any pampering.

I’ve always thought that flowering vinca looks so well-mannered… almost delicate.  The beautiful blossoms are simple and elegant, certainly not what you’d call rugged.  But Susan says don’t let that fool you.  She says flowering vinca is almost a glutton for punishment.  It’s routinely covered with masses of flowers in pink, white, rose or lavender with contrasting “eyes” or centers.

Flowering vinca has a mounding habit, demands good drainage and never needs deadheading.  No trimming off the faded flowers!  To top it all off:  it’s deer resistant.  All of those excellent traits in one rough-and-ready plant.  No wonder Susan feels guilty about not showing it a little TLC!

“Caliente” means “hot!”

I’ve had great luck with Caliente” geraniums in a corner of my garden that gets a lot of morning sun and hen holds onto the heat all day.  It turns out that Calientes are one of the heat-loving flowers that Lynn of our Annuals Department recommends, too.

Lynn says she loves Calientes because they’re so easy to grow… real “work horses” in a garden.  Calientes have a mounded, semi-trailing habit.  That makes them ideal for containers or hanging baskets, but also well-suited for growing in beds.

Regular feeding and deadheading (removing the fading flowers), along with deep watering, should keep Calientes blooming all summer.  There are definitely a few of these heading for that heat trap near my front door.

Nancy gardens at high-altitude with “zonals”

Nancy says “zonal” geraniums are her go-to flower for hot, challenging spots at her high-altitude weekend garden.  Zonals are the bold, big-flowered plants that dominate the geranium displays throughout Tagawa Gardens.  They get their name from the strip or dark zone on their leaves.

Zonals are grown from cuttings rather than seeds and are known for their reliability and overall robust nature.  Nancy says she’s especially fond of the plants that flower white with a pink splash.

Like the Caliente geraniums, all zonals perform best with regular consistent deadheading, which pushes the plants to continue putting on more flowers.

Budworms are occasionally a problem on geraniums.  The tiny caterpillars chew into the base of unopened flowers, leaving holes that become obvious when the flower blooms.  Budworms are easily controlled “with the organic pesticide Bt, sold as “Dipel.”

Kristi is a big fan of “fan flowers”

Fan flowers, or scaevolas, aren’t one of the best-known annuals, but Kristi thinks they deserve more attention.  She says she loves their trailing habit and the fan-shaped flowers because they’re so different.  And their heat tolerance?  “They can take everything,” she says.

Scaevolas don’t get much taller than six to eight inches.  Rather than growing up, they grow out, extending long graceful stems over the edge of a container or hanging basket.  The flowers are soft shades of pink, blue and white.  They’re drought-tolerant, too.  No wonder Kristi’s crazy about this plant!

And Patty loves lantana!

Lantana is one of those flowers that is especially good as a supporting player or “spiller” in an overflowing mixed container.  What looks like lantana’s small, round blossom is actually a cluster of several tiny trumpet-shaped flowers.  Part of the beauty of lantana is that the colors seem to slide and blend within that larger cluster.

In addition to being beautiful, lantana is one tough plant!  It requires good drainage, but can definitely stand up to our hot Colorado sun.  It can be grown on the dry side but should get a thorough watering once the top layer of soil has dried out.

Lantana comes is a variety of multi-colored combinations within each flower cluster, including mixtures of yellow, orange, rose and pink.  There’s nothing else quite like it!

And there are so many more…

The folks in Tagawa’s Annuals Department have lots of other suggestions for heat-tolerant flowers, including angelonia, zinnias, pentas, marigolds, and salvias.  If you have a hot gardening spot that could use some help, take a few pictures and bring ’em in.  Our Annuals experts will be happy to help!