In Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado”, Nanki Poo declares that ‘the flowers that bloom in the spring Tra La breathe promise of merry sunshine — As we merrily dance and we sing Tra La we welcome the hope that they bring Tra La of a summer of roses and wine. And that's what we mean when we say that a thing Is welcome as flowers that bloom in the spring.” The Mikado/The flowers that bloom in the spring - Wikisource, the free online library
When we think of gardening, often we think of planting flowers to bloom in the spring! As days heat up, soil can become drier and more challenging for plant growth. Good news! there are many ways to keep your garden thriving during the hottest months of the year. Including flowering bushes and vines that can attract butterflies and hummingbirds from spring through fall. And vegetables that thrive in summer heat; others that love fall and winter chill.
Spring to Summer to Fall
Depending on where one lives, plants that deliver spring blossoms - like salvia, tulips, and daffodils - may die off in the summer. But other flowering plants, and also kitchen vegetables, can be staged for pretty productivity nearly all year. As seasons change, watch out for yellowing leaves, which you should remove. But don’t remove green leaves.
Hummingbirds & Butterflies
Diversify! If you may want hummingbirds and butterflies in your own garden, consider planting multiple regionally suitable species that bloom at different times to provide a continuous supply of nectar from March through late October. Best flowering plants for attracting hummingbirds where I live in Texas include Coral Honeysuckle, Trumpet Creeper, Turk's Cap, Cigar Plant, and Flame Acanthus. Check with your native plant shop!
In Houston, we see maybe a hundred different species of butterflies – from swallowtails to monarchs – nearly year-round. Each species lays eggs on specific host plants, and hatched caterpillars hatch eating the leaves of those plants until they grow into their chrysalis stage and then emerge as butterflies that nectar from a variety of flowers.
Monarchs rely on abundant milkweed and nectar sources throughout the breeding season. Learn what you can do to help create quality habitat in your area! During the monarch’s summer breeding season, adult butterflies live 2-5 weeks during which they mate and lay the eggs that become the next generation. Except for the final generation of the year, which does not become reproductive (in “reproductive diapause”); those butterflies are the ones that migrate to Mexico where they overwinter, and then become reproductive in February and March as they move north, laying eggs on milkweeds as they progress into the United States. Some of these butterflies can live as long as 9 months! Monarch Butterfly Biology (fs.fed.us)
If you want to see butterflies in your garden most of the year, try a range of plants that support all 4 stages of a butterfly’s life (egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), adult (butterfly) Good host plants for butterfly larva (here in this part of Texas) include dill, parsley, fennel, passionflower vines, tropical milkweed, Dutchman’s pipe vine. Good butterfly nectaring plants include some of those and others like purple coneflower, lantana, Mexican flame vine, pentas, salvia, verbena, many more. Creating a Butterfly Habitat Garden in Houston (buchanansplants.com). Check with your local native garden shop!
Choose your plants carefully. Many vegetables grow best during summer months. This is a great time to plant beans, celery, corn, peppers, squash, and zucchini which flourish in warm soil with extended sunlight. Keep in mind that insects and hummingbirds can pollinate your garden, helping your plants thrive.
Take advantage of the warm weather to start new projects. If your garden has a drainage issue that you’ve been meaning to tackle, the warmth of the summer months can be a good motivator to get outside and fix things up. If you’ve been dying to add a fence, a pond, or patio, do it now – and, make sure your plans follow local building codes.
Just like investing strategy, diversification along with culling dead plants & planting new ones suitable for the current environment can keep your flower and vegetable gardens productive most of the year.