Heat can be an issue when it comes to garden plants.

Well, sure, the vegetables seem to lavish a hot spell, but a lot of our ornamentals languish when the mercury is high. Hotter warms and cooler colds seems to be the norm these days as everyone is beginning to sit up and take notice of the challenges of climate change.

Whether you believe it is real or not, our weather is warming, hence climate change. While that does not always portend hot temperatures — it does influence weather enough that wild swings are part and parcel of what we experience now. Abnormally dry May and June had nearly everyone dragging out the garden hoses to water thirsty plants.

Time has come to make it easier on yourself by choosing durable plants that are well-suited to the area you have in mind. First of all, we want to select the right plant for the right place. Let’s look at some suitable plants for this area that can take the heat, and a bit of drought as well.

Right now, many are looking to regenerate and spruce up annual planters or sunny beds. If you are seeking plants that can take the heat, here are some new varieties of five tough plants from Proven Winners that should be on your gardening radar:


If caladiums have not been on your garden list because you considered them to be a “Southern thing,” take a look at a new caladium, ‘Heart to Heart’ that is vigorous enough to perform well here. Use it to add a splash of the tropics to any garden.

Unlike traditional shade caladiums, the ‘Heart to Heart’ can handle full sun as easily as shade. Just be sure to keep their soil moist. There are 20 different options with a wide range of colors, sizes and leaf shapes to choose from. Come fall, lift, dry and store corms for next year.


Commonly called Egyptian star flower, pentas have a group of newcomers: Sunstar. These new pentas boast extra-large flower clusters nearly the size of hydrangea blooms atop well-branched plants. Expect excellent summer durability that can power through high heat and humidity, and make ideal bedding and container plants.

These medium-sized plants are well suited to planting in the middle of beds and can be thrillers and/or fillers in combination planters. Butterflies, bees and hummingbirds are all attracted to the brightly colored flowers, which will add another level of color and movement. Sunstar pentas come in four colors – red, rose, pink and lavender. Grow these annual plants in full sun.


This Australian native annual, also called fan flower, is as tough as they come. Fan flower has been grown for about 25 years in North America, but for a long time, the varieties available bloomed sparsely and had long, awkward branches.

Enter Whirlwind, which is a refined fan flower packed with color. Plants have a lovely form. They love heat, don’t mind low humidity or moderate drought, and don’t need much plant food to thrive. Look for Whirlwind ‘Starlight’ with blue and white bicolored blooms and the pollinators will thank you. Grow in full sun.


A new, fuller Diamond Snow euphorbia may look delicate, but is tough and durable taking the heat and delivering a reliable mound of color in upright containers or as a landscape plant, too. Like all our euphorbias, expect Diamond Snow to power through heat, humidity, and drought with ease. Grow this annual in part sun to sun.


Heat It Up is a wonderful new sunny gaillardia series from trials all across the U.S. and Canada. This variety comes in two colors — yellow and scarlet. Heat It Up Yellow produces bouquets of fresh sunshine yellow flowers, while Heat It Up Scarlet has orange-red flowers with slight yellow tips. Long blooming, this annual can last long into the fall even in hot, humid climates.

Very uniform in habit, the plants are vigorous, come into bloom early and don’t need to be deadheaded to bloom prolifically. Use in landscapes or in container plantings. They are attractive to pollinators, especially bees and butterflies. Grow in full sun.


One of the larger plants in this group of heat-tolerant plants, landscape-sized lantana features a range of color options. Luscious lantanas have large, densely-branched, mounded growth habits and can be expected to bloom non-stop all season without deadheading. This lantana does not set seed nor does it spread.

If low maintenance, heat and drought tolerance, long-blooming, pollinator-friendly, deer resistant flowers are on your list, then Luscious lantanas are your plants. Luscious Royale Red Zone has blooms that start out a red and orange bicolor, then transition to pure glowing red. It is also certified sterile and will not spread. Grow in full sun.

Lynette L. Walther is the GardenComm Gold medal winner for writing and a five-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Medal of Achievement, the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. She is a member of GardenComm and the National Garden Bureau. Her gardens are in Camden.