As our communities were preparing for the big events at Darlington Raceway this weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing some late bloomers that stand ready to greet our visitors just in time for the Southern 500.
As we put on our smiling faces for the influx of NASCAR fans into the Pee Dee, so do the late-summer- and fall-blooming beauties of our gardens and landscapes.
There are three plants that make my list of favorites because they are easy to grow and drought tolerant, and also put on a great show as summer’s days turn shorter and shorter.
Two of them are natives of Mexico and they both have purple flowers. The first is Mexican bush sage ( Salvia leucantha ). The flowers are actually white, and around each one is a fuzzy bright purple bract that is quite striking.
The tall plants explode with color this time of year, and wave in the breeze just like the flags at the raceway.
Garden sages, including Mexican bush sage, are the subject of an excellent fact sheet from the Clemson Extension Home and Garden Information Center at https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/salvia/.
The second purple late-bloomer from south of the border is Mexican petunia (Ruellia brittoniana). It is not really a petunia, but the flower sure looks like one. This drought-tolerant plant can grow up to five feet tall and makes a great summer hedge. It is so vigorous that some people consider it to be invasive, with a few plants expanding to fill a garden bed in a couple years.
So, keep your Mexican petunia in bounds by growing it in a big pot, a raised bed or a planting area surrounded by concrete.
Another great plant for summer’s end is the tall sedum (also known as stonecrop, Sedum “Autumn Joy”).
To me it looks like “pink broccoli” and is a favorite nectar plant of pollinators, like honeybees and some butterflies. The pale pink flowers blend well with just about any other flower color in your garden.
The many varieties of stonecrops are all easy to propagate (make more of) by rooting cuttings or dividing clumps and are readily found in local nurseries. I hope you will race out to a garden center and try adding them to your landscape soon!