Now that we have experienced one of the hottest summers on record, we can step back and look at the plants that we have and assess which ones have held out and which ones died out quickly. My own observations have been that many of the “old standbys” such as begonias, impatiens and petunias (especially “wave” petunias) are still looking good. The plants that are in the ground as opposed to those in containers are doing the best.
The flowering annual vinca is a favorite with folks who live in Arizona because it tolerates extremely hot and dry weather. Vinca is a flower that looks a lot like impatiens except they like totally opposite conditions; hot, sunny and dry. They also grow slower than impatiens which is a good thing because they never need to be cut back and they fill out an area at a nice, steady pace. Vinca color choices originally were only white or purple but now there are many more such as red, pink and coral. Vinca, once established, almost never need to be watered.
Hibiscus trees and shrubs, as well as vining mandevilla and gardenia trees do real well in the ground or in large pots, as they too love it hot and sunny. The real problem with these non-perennials is that if you keep them over winter, indoors, they have a hard time recovering in the early spring as our spring weather is usually too cool and a long time coming. It is usually late May before we can safely put them outside and then we get a cold spell that delays them even more.
The best advice for keeping these blooming plants through the winter months is to:
1.) Cut them severely back in the late fall, just before a hard frost.
2.) Place them in a cool room with plenty of light (not in the dark) and keep them on the very dry side. Only water thoroughly every six to eight weeks and never allow them to sit in water. Bright light with very cool temperatures is what you want.
3.) Bring them out of dormancy in early April simply by watering them and moving them to a warmer spot. You may need to cut them back at this time to remove spindly, stretched out stems.
4.) Be calm and understand that these plants will take awhile to really get to blooming.
The best plants that I see out there right now are the grasses. Most perennial grasses are very late to really grow tall and to look their best, but they are now on their way. For an early, decorative grass, most people go for the red Pennisetum, variety: Rubrum. This annual variety grows fast and early and does very well in large containers. In fact, we planted several large containers with only one grass in each and for awhile, I thought they looked bad and floppy. Then I went away for a week and when I came back, I saw much improvement. Now they are outstanding/perfect…anyone would want one to place by their front door. The biggest mistake you could make with one of these is to not use a big enough pot.