Summer Bedding Plants
Even during the oppressive heat of summer, your Florida landscape can still be home to a variety of bedding plants.
Before you jump right into planting, think about the specific growing conditions in your landscape. For example, consider how much sun or shade your yard receives and how well drained the site might be. Those with coastal landscapes will want to look for plants that can tolerate high winds and at least some level of salt (be it from sea spray or irrigation from wells that contain high levels of salt).
After you've taken into account your site conditions, think about colors and forms of the plants. Limit the varieties and colors you choose to create a cohesive look and prevent visual confusion.
Annuals are plants that will last one season, and there are lots of warm-season annuals that you can use to bring color into your garden as the temperature rises. Gardeners love using annuals in the landscape because they allow you to change out plants and try new configurations year after year.
If you like plants with cool-colored blooms, try torenia, also called the wishbone flower. This plant will do well in the shade or the sun. Flowers resemble snapdragons and can be white, yellow, pink, violet, or purple, depending on the cultivar.
For eye-catching color, try the new 'Cora' and 'Nirvana' series vincas. They have big flowers, and are resistant to heat, drought, and pests.
Zinnias have long-lasting flowers that are ideal for a cutting garden, and this heat-loving flower comes in pretty much every color except blue.
And if you're looking for standout foliage, coleus and caladiums provide non-stop summer color to your sun or shade garden.
When other plants are fading in the heat, perennials like Pentas lanceolata truly shine. These attractive plants produce red, pink, or white flowers throughout the summer and are a great source of food for hummingbirds and butterflies.
Scarlet salvia is a native of the Southeast, including Florida. Its striking red flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. This Florida-Friendly perennial looks especially attractive as a border or in mass plantings.
Lantana exhibits outstanding heat tolerance, and can stand up to wind and salt as well, making it a good choice for people who live near the coast. Nectar-laden blossoms make it a natural choice for butterfly gardens. That said, many species, including the common Lantana camara, are highly invasive, so choose one of the several "safe" lantanas for your landscape.
Melampodium is a tough, drought-tolerant plant that produces a mound of small yellow flowers throughout the summer. Several varieties are available, such as the compact ‘Million Gold’, ‘Lemon Delight’, and ‘ Derby ’ which top out at about ten inches. ‘Showstar’ and ‘Medallion’ are taller varieties that reach 24 to 36 inches tall. Melampodium is impressively resistant to both disease and insect, and they are self cleaning, so deadheading is not needed.
Make sure you select healthy plants to start out with; look for unblemished leaves, good green color, and lots of flower buds.
Once you select the right plants for your area you'll want to make sure you start out with a properly prepared planting bed. For best results, clear a section of your landscape for the bed by removing grass and weeds. A few weeks before you plant, till at least 6 inches down to loosen the soil and add plenty of organic matter—like compost—to enrich the soil helping it retain more moisture and nutrients. Fertilize your flower beds before you plant or at planting time with a controlled-release complete fertilizer.
Before taking the plants out of the containers, make sure you water the pots, then gently loosen and spread the roots of your plants out. Once they are in the ground, add mulch to help retain moisture and keep weeds down. A border around your planting bed will help keep your grass from invading the area.
Many annuals, like marigolds, coleus, and annual salvia, will require deadheading—removing old blooms—to keep them blooming and looking neat. Others, like vinca, wax begonias, portulaca, and impatiens will continue to flower without removing spent blooms. Tender annuals are damaged by cold weather so you can leave them in your landscape until the first frost or freeze, or pull them out and replace them with hardier cool-season annuals to give your landscape some winter color.
For more information on growing summer bedding plants that are right for your area, contact your local county Extension office.