Plant Suggestions for Very Harsh, Hot Bed

zqueen(7a)April 28, 2013

I have a West facing, 6 ft wide x 29 ft long bed. My driveway is adjacent to one of the long sides. The other long side is abutted by my neighbor's mostly weedy lawn and a dying Eastern Red Cedar (read that as "not much shade"). The short westernmost side faces the roadway, with a small easement in between. There are no big trees across the road (all lost in the 2007 ice storm) so there's no chance of any mitigating shade. This poor bed started out with mugo pines and all have died but 2 and I don't expect them to last much longer. This poor bed endures incredible heat and direct sun that is not helped by regular watering.

I have tried all sorts of plants in that area, many natives, all full sun, and most have died, or if they don't die, they just look bad. Things that seem to be enduring at the moment are 3 Dynamite crepe myrtles, rain lily, 3 Blaze Little Bluestem grass, a Prarie Fire Carex. Three artemisia are surviving but don't look great. I have both dark and golden moneywort, both of which start out great but have burned up by midsummer. I've tried guara, gaillardia, Russian sage, blue flax. I could go on. I've just put a clump of black eyed Susan and a clump of coreopsis (both have done well in my back yard) to see how they will do.

I know this is a LONG message, but for those of you who have persevered through it, I would embrace any suggestions for smallish plants or ground cover plants that might survive. When the remaining mugos die, I'll have room for a shrubbier plant. Remember this is a long thin bed.

PS: Annuals? Fuhgeddaboudit!

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Lisa_H OK(7)

You regularly water this bed? Do you mulch? Long term I would look at amending the bed, mulching will help with that.

I have a similar type situation, beds at the end of my driveway, surrounded by concrete, and they get less water than most of my beds just because it is the furthest spot.

I grow autumn sage, walkers low nepeta, pink evening primrose, perennial lantana, iris orientalis, asclepias.

This post was edited by lisa_h on Mon, Apr 29, 13 at 11:05

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 4:54PM
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and then, there is plastic.

With our lovely spring we had so far, I was surprised at a really nice plant border while I was out bicycling. Of course, upon getting close, I realized it was a bed of plastic flowers. :)

Yep, from the distance they did look good!


    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 9:30PM
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sedums make a heat tolerant ground cover.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 9:50PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Ahhhh, I missed the part about not regularly watering. In the last couple of years very few non-established plants could have survived no watering.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 11:06PM
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faerybutterflye(7B OK)

Anything I could suggest would be similar to Lisa's suggestions. My mom has a simliar-sounding bed with well-established perennial lantana, that's worked as a great drought-resistant groundcover for her. But, I would have to say that I agree that very few non-established plants would have survived the heat & drought of the last few years without regular watering assistance. At some points, I was watering my beds 2 or 3 times a day to try to get my plants to hold on for me.

I personally don't have such a bed, but look into drought-resistant native varieties & perhaps consult your local extension cooperative. I linked to their website & you can search through their extension fact sheets. Xeriscaping sounds like something worth investigating. There's a lot of great info on the website that should be helpful to you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 12:03PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

No matter what you plant, you will have to water until the plants are well enough established to survive only on the rainfall that Mother Nature gives them. For many plants that means at least occasional watering for 2 or 3 years.

In 2011, which was the worst summer weather I've ever seen in my life, even native cactus plants in native soil on parts of our property that never are irrigated just shriveled up and died. In some places, those same plants had been in those locations since we bought this property in 1997 and had survived all kinds of weather. There is not much in the plant world that is 100% bulletproof. Even native plants cannot survive without some supplemental water in the roughest of years. They may be a lot more hardy and drought-tolerant than most poorly adapted non-natives, but they still need some care, especially if planted in poor soil.

Amending the soil well with the addition of organic matter before planting would help the soil to hold more moisture and would help the plant roots grow well, enabling them to establish well so they could survive in future years. I grow lots of the same plants you and others have mentioned here in west-facing beds with reflected heat and light from building walls and pavement and they do just fine. However, I amended the soil well before planting them and that makes a huge difference. I also water them occasionally, though certainly not excessively.

With gardening, it all starts with the soil. I have far from ideal soil, but I amended each planting area before planting ornamental plants into it, and that has made a huge difference. We grow lots of plants 200-300' from the house and almost never irrigate them, but in 2011 when we were over 100 degrees (often over 110 and even as hot as 115 or 116) for three straight months, I watered those plants at least once a week. Did I want to do it? No. It was a pain to hook together a bunch of water hoses and drag them to those areas, but it protected the $$$ invested in the plants. Those plants are still here, and I might have watered them once in the summer of 2012, but they otherwise have survived on what rainfall they get. In adjacent non-amended soil, most native plants withered and died in 2011 and then some of the survivors didn't make it through the summer of 2012.

I think if you would correct the soil by amending it, the plants would do fine. There are tons of plants that tolerate intense heat and sunlight even with low irrigation but you have to put them in well-amended soil to give them a fighting chance and you have to water them until they're well-established.

If you have rocky soil, dense clay or very fast-draining sandy soil, then the answer likely is that amending the soil will make a huge difference. If you have amended the soil or if it already is sandy loam or clayey loam with a good amount of organic matter in it, then I think the answer is to water the plants the first 2 or 3 years until they establish. After that, they only would need water during extreme heat like we had in the summer of 2012.

For more ideas about what will survive intense heat and sunlight, I'm going to link the website of High Country Gardens. Their specialty is plants for the difficult soils in their area. Usually their description for each plant tells you if the plants need well-drained soil or if they tolerate clay. Even the toughest plants they offer need specific soil conditions and they need to be watered in the beginning to help them establish, but they do offer a wide selection of waterwise plants, so maybe you'll get some ideas from looking at the plants they carry.


Here is a link that might be useful: High Country Gardens

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 12:37PM
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First, thank you all for the suggestions. I think there is a misunderstanding. I do have a sprinkler system that I used diligently and frequently during the last 2 horrific summers, so the plants were getting watered. I hand water, too, if the sprinkler coverage is uneven.

The soil is good, maybe a little dense and very "rooty" from the cedar tree, so I will add more compost this year. I always mulch, but I will put an especially deep layer on this year.

I've tried Angelina and Dragon's blood sedum and neither has thrived. I've recently read about Gold Moss sedum (Sedum acre), which is supposed to be quite tough, but on various forums, people have complained about its invasiveness. I really wonder if that would be a problem, given the harsh state of my bed. Has anyone had experience with it?

I love High Country Gardens and have been trying to change my landscaping to xeriscaping. I've tried dozens of plants from them but most of them have failed in that bed. I'm in Tulsa and live about a mile from the Extension Center, and I use their website a lot. I've got lists of natives and their xeriscape plant monograph, and I'm trying to introduce those plants, too.

Lisa, I envy you that bed. I have Walker's Low, autumn sage, and a primrose in my backyard, so I think I'll look for seedlings in autumn and try that. I've thought about lantana, but thought it might get too big. I may try it anyway; if anything might survive it's first season in that bed lantana might.

All of your suggestions have led me to amend and mulch more this season. I'll try a perennial lantana and maybe the Gold Moss sedum (unless someone tells me not to due to their experience with it), if I can find it. Anything else, I will plant in the fall, so that it has a head start on the summer. And, of course, I'll continue to water. In fact, I'm trying to switch some beds to soaker hoses.

Thank you, ladies, very much. (Moni, I won't go with plastic just yet!)

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 7:04PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Ooops, sorry, it was me who got everyone on the "not watering" track. :)

If you have a chance to use Back to Earth as part of your mulch and amendments, I would suggest it. Some years I use it as my mulch.

My bed on that side was built with wood chips as a base, and then I used amendments on top of that, so my soil there is pretty good.

I will tell you, that pic was probably taken in the spring :) My beds always look fantastic then, so I take pics. When it gets to be August and they look horrendous, I don't grab my I also spend a lot of time working on that end of the bed because it is such a tough spot. Last year I added the artemesia. Don't ask me how many plants I have killed or how much money I have spent on annuals for that area!

The perennial lantana was an accident...a happy one! I set up a lantana/penta grouping in that area two years ago and the lantana came back last year. I dug around it a little tonight and I noticed there were some green leaves at the bottom, so I guess it survived the winter again. Yay! I was afraid it would get too big too, but so far it hasn't. I let all the neighborhood leaves gather around it in the fall for some natural mulch/winter protection.

The pink evening primrose is invasive and it only blooms in the spring, but I still like it.

I'll try to get some better pics of that end of the garden in a few weeks when everything gets blooming.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 10:34PM
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I grow a few plants that, once established, tolerate sun and heat very well. Examples are:

Dicliptera suberecta aka King' s Crown - a Texas native with grey foliage and clusters of red-orange tubular flowers that hummers love.

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii aka Flame Acanthus - another Texas native that can get up to 5' tall and bears red-orange flowers up and down the upper portions of the stems. Also loved by hummers.

Caelsapinia gillesii aka Bird of Paradise shrub, look up photos on the web as flowers are hard to describe. A beautiful shrub that is drought, wind, and heat tolerant. Loved by hummers, butterflies, and bees.

For ground cover, Pussytoes are great, drought tolerant plants. The genus name is Antennaria, and you can get either pink or white flowering varieties. They are also a popular larval host for the American Lady butterfly.

I'll probably think of some more later.....


    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 7:50AM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

I took some pictures this morning of my bed. I will post them this evening.

I did have a thought....ornamental grass, NOT pampas grass, but more like a miscanthus. (see photo on the link below). I will warn you though that you will be committed to it once you have it. I can't dig mine up at all!! They are not a lot of work, you just have to shear them down in early spring. The link says they like moist ground...I don't know about that. It is a grass :) Mine does fine, but I do need to figure out how to separate it because the inside is dead.

I also have mums, echinacea, achillea moonshine (I think), russian sage, several own root/antique roses and more I can't remember.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ornamental Grass

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 12:16PM
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Susan, I've written down all your plants and will investigate. They sound fun and different for this area, at least where I live.

Lisa, I have a miscanthus in my back yard that is HUGE. I never thought it was going to get that big. Every spring when I cut it back, I'm looking for that dead middle of the plant, but so far, so good. When that does happen, I'll have to hire someone to dig it up, and I'm not even sure it will be salvageable. Speaking as a recent back surgery patient, I'm not sure you should dig it up yourself!! I've got Blaze Little blue stem and carex growing in that bed. The Blaze (from HCG) is doing well. The carex is so-so, but I'm going to give it another year; I just transplanted it last year, so it may do better now.

Faery, thanks for the lantana idea, which I am going to try this year,

Dawn, such great advice. You obviously know your stuff.

Mulberry, have you had experience with gold moss sedum? What varieties would you suggest? My angelina and dragon's blood do great in the back yard, but both have bit the dust in my driveway bed.

I'm off to go buy some Back to Nature.

Thank you again, Ladies.


    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 2:16PM
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Lisa, also, looking forward to your pictures. If any others of you have some good photos of the plants we're discussing, bring 'em on!


    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 2:18PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

redid the post ;) See below

This post was edited by lisa_h on Tue, Apr 30, 13 at 15:02

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 2:39PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Ack, I tried to edit and they all disappeared....grrr.

Let me see if I can do this in better order this time :)

May 2002

May 2006

there was lavender in this bed for a while until our floods killed it. :(

May 2007 (Good, rainy year!)

September 2007. You can see all the rain has devastated the nepeta

May 2008

June 2009

Hmmm....not sure where my newer photos are...but that should give you a good idea.


    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 3:01PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

The lantana "bed". You can see how big it has been for two years. This is the "leap" year, so it might get much bigger. I hope not!

The strappy foliage is iris orientalis

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 6:49PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

The end of my west side bed. You can see it is kinda patchy right now. I had to resow the evening primrose. I'm trying to blame the drought for the death of such an invasive plant...not my rather interesting knack of not being able to grow really easy plants!! I can't remember the name of the cactusy looking plant. It is new this year. It throws up pink flowers on a long stem. Hmmm, it doesn't show well here, it is RIGHT next to the nepeta.

It isn't coming up right now, but I have a small patch of belamcanda there too.

I can't plant anything very valuable down there...both sides get driven over, regularly!!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 7:00PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Last one, I promise!! Middle section of west side bed. Mums, evening primrose,more nepeta, daylilies, iris orientalis (I have lots of this!), "Maggie" rose, bearded irises

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 7:19PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Ohhh, I have some kinda of achillea in the west bed too. You can't see it in the pic yet, it is barely peaking out.

If you can't tell yet, I tend to gather plants and then just throw them in a spot There is not a planning bone in my gardening thumb. :)

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 7:28PM
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Susan...I like what I'm reading about Dicliptera suberecta! I think my little hummers would like that a great deal (providing there is at least the one little guy that visited me last year). Did you find your plant locally, or did you have to order it online?


    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 10:45AM
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faerybutterflye(7B OK)

Lisa, I had a deja-vu moment looking at the photos of your yard for a minute! I used to live in a neighborhood a few years back, with a very similar looking house & yard. I had to look thru all your pics to finally figure out that it wasn't the same one! I was thinking, "What a crazy coincidence! No way, it can't really be the same house I used to live right by!" LOL.

What a beautiful spread you have there...I can only hope that one day, I will have something so fantastic. :)

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 2:38PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

LOL, it might not be that big of a coincidence! Sharon lives just a few blocks from me and Mia used to!

I love my flowers, but boy, I bit off way more than I can really deal with....I just can't make myself send a bed back to grass though! My backyard is flower beds all along the perimeter as well.

When I put in my driveway beds I didn't realize how many people walked on my grass getting out of their car. It is very difficult parking and getting in and out of the car. Not great planning on my part....but I just drive into the garage :) One day someone will take out one of the beds and widen the driveway.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 5:10PM
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faerybutterflye(7B OK)

I used to live in Ardmore, is that where you are? I don't think it's the same house, closely examining the pics of the street, it looks a little different. But I used to walk by my old neighbor's yard all the time with my son & be green with envy! You have a beautiful yard, no matter where you're at! :)

    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 10:04AM
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I got it from Bustani before they closed their mail order business. I also recommend Almost Eden as a source. Their plants are nice sizes and healthy. Don't go crazy looking at their website!

Another reliable source is dogwooderitter on eBay. He operates from Arkansas so is very close to us.

Just Google both, you shouldn't have any problems finding them on the web.


    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 10:56AM
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Lisa, thanks for all the great photos.

I just had that bed amended with plenty of Back to Nature and mulched deeply. I also had several things taken out that were on their last leg. I'm going to put in a lantana, just to get some color and spread, probably just an annual this year--if any annual has a chance of making it, a lantana would. I don't want to commit to anything perennial (except if I can find gold moss sedum) because I want to see what happens to the mugos. I'm investigating all of everyone's suggestions and the website, too. I intend to do a lot of fall planting.

A primrose that I've had great luck with and is a minimal care plant and not invasive (at least for me) once established is Oenothera fremontii "Shimmer." Beautiful yellow flowers with silvery green leaves with some red on the stems. High Country Gardens has it.


    Bookmark   May 3, 2013 at 4:56PM
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Lisa_H OK(7)

Faery, I live in northwest OKC, so nope, it is not your former neighborhood :)

Thank you! I love it...I just kinda wish I had a gardener to weed it for me!

I have irises coming out of my ears right now. I have been hauling vases of flowers into the office. Peonies will be next. *sigh* this is my favorite part of the year.

Ann, you are welcome! If you are ever in OKC, let me know, you are welcome to stop by and check it out in person.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2013 at 1:34AM
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