GardenDishes

dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Hot plants for hot spots: plants that THRIVE instead of just SURVIVE the heat!

I’m looking for plants for the west side of the house.  I have already planted some variegated boxwoods and I’m looking to fill in the rest of the beds with something that would spread (groundcover?) and hopefully give white flowers.  I tried Azaleas, and only 2 out of 20 survived.  (I also realize now that Azaleas do not spread outward.)  The white flowers are not a requisite, but I would prefer them.  Do you have any suggestions for me?  Thank you!       Mrs. Palmer, Houston

me@8 in my Easter dress in front of 'Pride of Mobil' azaleas on the north side of our home in Athens, TX

Sounds like you learned your lesson quickly and jumped off that expensive merry-go-round of planting the right plant in the wrong spot.  You are wise to re-evaluate and take another tack.  While azaleas remain the icon shrub of the Deep South, if not OVER-used, they are at least  MIS-used and AB-used.  Like any other plant, azaleas have specific requirements and, depending on the variety, will usually require lots of water and lots of afternoon shade.  A western exposure location in Houston will most likely be an inhospitable home unless you have shade trees or you choose an azalea that specifically enjoys hot summer sun.   Few do.  If foregoing them completely smacks of being listed as a Dixie-ppointment, check the Azalea Society’s website for the best variety to tuck a token azalea into your landscape.

MYTH: any plant for any place....

Making a house call by email, I’ll go on your suggestion that a groundcover is a better solution to fill in under the variegated boxwoods.  Whether you choose white blooms to blend in with the striking white in the shrubs or a contrasting color, you’ll probably want a different shape for your new plants to show-off the rounded boxwood. Technically a purple blooming shrub, prostrate rosemary‘s grayish evergreen foliage will bring out the white variagation in your boxwood.  As an added plus, you can use it in the kitchen all year.  

A native, perennial color plant might be an even better choice to get white blooms and low growth habit beneath your boxwoods.  Here are a few of the best for your area.

HIT: use native plants that THRIVE instead of just SURVIVE!

  • white trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis alba):  listed as a TEXAS SUPERSTAR and can remain evergreen in Houston; deer don’t seem to bother it either, although when they are hungry, their tastes broaden like a college student’s
  • gaura (Gaura lindheimeri):  nicknamed twirling butterflies, they bloom sporadically spring through fall
  • white blue sage (Salvia farinacea ‘White Porcelain’):  stands up to  heat with spikey blooms
  • rain lily (Zephyranthes candida):  evergreen beauties that love low spots, but also shine anywhere they receive regular irrigation
  • blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum): gorgeous, prolific daisy-like little white blooms make this one of my personal favorites; perfect in pots also

The right plant for the right place prevents money and time wasted replacing deadbeats in your landscape.   Do your homework, pick the plant that will be happy in the conditions offered, and then watch everyone THRIVE instead of just SURVIVE their place in the sun!

rain lily blooms peak above the grassy evergreen foliage
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3 thoughts on “Hot plants for hot spots: plants that THRIVE instead of just SURVIVE the heat!

  1. Thank you, Eileen. My hair had lowered a couple inches by this point in my life. I grew up close enough to Dallas to borrow those “big hahr” do’s for most of the 60’s!

  2. Eileen Panatier on said:

    What a cutie-pie you were! And you still have the same beautiful face! I love your informative and timely wisdom. I think we’ll all be thinking in terms of more native, drought, heat-resistant plants after these past few summers. Just praying for the trees.

  3. Dig those gloves Cherie–remember when??? I love the idea of growing prostate rosemary. Is it readily available? And how does it do in cold temperatures? Will it survive frost or snow?

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