Finding plants that can cope with – or even enjoy – a hot Australian summer can be a daunting task. If you ask for advice, nine times out of ten people will recommend succulents and cacti.
But there are some great summer stunners that offer more variety than that, and Jane takes us through a few options.
Plants with white, grey, bluish-grey or silver foliage or bark are, as a rule, very tolerant of heat and drought. The colour acts as a sunscreen reflecting sun and preventing water loss. Think lavender, salvias and sages.
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) – tall shrubby plant or there are lower-growing varieties – will grow in full or part sun and has wonderfully fragrant, feathery leaves.
Common everlasting (Chrysocephalum apiculatum) – a native everlasting daisy that grows as a groundcover with masses of bright yellow flowers through spring and summer. Great in a rockery or along the edges of a border. Tolerates hot, windy, salty spots.
Andean sage (Salvia discolor) – from Peru, it has silver on the backs of the leaves and soft, felty stems, caused by tiny little hairs that are another sign of heat tolerance. It has unusual-looking small, black flowers.
Hedge nettle (Stachys sp.) – related to lambs ears – this type of plant is called tomentose for the hairs that cause the woolly feel to the stems and leaves. The hairs trap the air and protect the plant from the sun and heat.
Dusty Miller (Jacobaea maritima) – an old-fashioned favourite, this low-growing shrub has yellow daisy flowers through spring and summer and its downy, silver leaves are highly ornamental.
Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum) –low carpet-forming groundcover with little white flowers all summer long. It spreads easily, putting down roots wherever the creeping stems touch the ground. Also good in a hanging basket.
Flat-leafed wattle (Acacia glaucoptera) – from WA, this mid-sized, shrubby wattle has flat, leathery leaves (technically they’re flattened stems or phyllodes) that carry mini yellow tennis-ball-shaped flowers. The new growth is also very attractive, with a reddish tinge.
Sea lavender (Limonium perezii) – great for cottage gardens, with leathery, blue-green leaves and long stems of long-lasting mauve and pink and white flowers that can be dried.
Narrow-leafed bird of paradise (Strelitzia juncea) – A strappy perennial that produces long, rolled-up cylindrical leaves and tall flower stems, each topped with a highly ornamental flower that looks like a brightly coloured bird’s head, earning it its common name.
Even if you live in an area with tough, adverse conditions, there will be a tough plant out there that will bring beauty to your patch.
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