'New' Plants Thrive Until Frost

By mid-August, many of the flowers you planted this spring are simply not looking good. They are limp, they are no longer blooming, they are not happy. This isn't your fault, says House & Garden magazine's Steve Orr.

It's not a matter of your failing to water or fertilize. This is simply the end of these plants' life cycles. They are ready to die and there's nothing you can do about it. Unfortunately, this leaves some unsightly holes in your garden. Weather will allow people in most parts of the country to continue grilling, entertaining, sitting outside and enjoying their gardens for at least six more weeks, if not longer. So those holes have to go.

It's not a waste of time to buy and put some new plants in the garden now. All of the following plants will be beautiful up until the first frost. You can also buy these plants earlier in the season and grow them all summer long if you choose. Many of them are just beginning to appear in garden centers, and some people have probably never seen these plants before.

Grow these for their colorful or patterned foliage:
'Purple Majesty' Millet
Malabar Spinach
'Hilo Beauty' Alocasia

These have long-blooming flowers:
Salvia 'Nymph series'
Verbena bonariensis

These heat-loving plants are called "tender perennials."

They are generally tropical or subtropical," Steve explained. "They would be perennials in their native habitat but in most of the U.S. we grow them as annuals since they can't take freezing temperatures."

If you want to take them inside at the end of the season and care for them as houseplants over the winter, you can pop them back in the ground next spring and they will grow successfully.

These plants grow quickly. They love humidity. They should not be confused with drought-tolerant plants - the other type of plants we tend to discuss this time of year. The plants all need regular watering to stand up to 90 temperatures. As a matter of fact, when it gets this hot outside, water them every day, even if the soil still feels a little damp. The plants will also benefit from fertilizer. Feed them with fish emulsion, a high-nitrogen organic fertilizer.

The plants are quite bold looking. You might want to keep them away from your more lady-like plantings like roses and sweet peas. However, many garden designers like to integrate these plants in with all sorts of plants. The key is to pay attention to color schemes and textures.

The easiest way to grow these plants is where they are most needed - in pots near the house, on a patio, porch or terrace. You can rip out the earlier annuals that are now tired and use the same soil and pot to get a whole new look for late summer and into autumn.

Find a nursery in your area that carries these plants at www.simplybeautifulgardens.com.