This is an article about five of my favorite late summer perennials, you know, the colorful kind that can endure and thrive during the hottest time of year. My preference is for perennial plants that are easy to care for and are at their best when the weather is hot and humid.
What time of year are we aiming to tame? You know it as the dog days of summer, but it might be more appropriate to call it the sloth days. It’s when humans slow down but gardens don’t. Things outside get downright jungle-like. It’s so hot you’ve taken to inspecting your garden with binoculars from the air-conditioned comfort of your kitchen. A mob of mosquitoes has just carried off your neighbor’s cat, and the weeds have staged a coup on your once-promising vegetable garden.
August through early September offers a mixed bag of heat, drought, downpours, and gale-force winds. It’s the time that is toughest on gardens as well as on gardeners. Annuals and tropical plants make colorful additions, but of course, variety is key to any garden. Let’s plant some perennials that look great during the dog days, and while you are at it, attract butterflies, bees and even hummingbirds.
Here are five of my favorite perennials that look fresh in the midst of whatever the summer dishes out.
Candy lily (Pardancanda norrisii)
Not a lily at all, but a member of the iris family, this is truly a designer perennial. Its botanical name, Pardancanda, is a combination of its original parent plants: Belamcandaand Pardanthopsis. The plants were hybridized in 1967; crossing the red and yellow-flowered Belamcandawith the purple flowers of Pardanthopsis. Each flower on the candy lily blooms for only one day, but each stem has dozens of flowers. After blooming, petals of the flowers look like twisted candy wrappers.
Plants can grow to a height two feet to over four feet, with flower colors that range from orange and yellow to shades of pink, white or purple. Petals can be speckled, spotted, blotched, or unmarked. A new variety called ‘Soft Spot’ has blue flowers and reaches 33-inches tall, while the Dazzler series of candy lily reaches just 18”.
GROWING TIPS: you get a lot for your money when you buy candy lily. To keep it happy, it’s good to divide plants every other spring. They don’t miss a beat, though, and will bloom the same year they’re divided.