May is a good time to plant the heat-tolerant, summer-blooming perennials.
Gold Star esperanza has yellow bell-shaped flowers. They have begun blooming now and will bloom until Thanksgiving. I specify the Gold Star selection because it has superior blooming characteristics compared to the old-fashioned selections. The blooms are large, and they show up on the plants when they are as small as 1 foot tall. That is how you recognize Gold Star at the nursery. They are blooming even in small containers. The old fashioned selections have to grow to about 8 feet tall before they have a few flowers on top of the plant. Esperanza is very drought tolerant and pest free. Deer do not eat esperanza but hummingbirds like the blooms as a source of nectar. Grow esperanza in full sun. Most winters it freezes back to the ground.
Pride of Barbados, or Poinciana, is also very drought tolerant. It has a layered airy look that produces glow-in-the-dark orange and yellow clusters of blooms. Butterflies and hummingbirds like Poinciana, but unfortunately, so do deer. Grow Poinciana in full sun. Once established, it does not require irrigation. Poinciana is often used as a parking lot shrub because of its heat tolerance.
Firebush has small red flowers that cover the shrub after mid-June. Before the flowers begin blooming, the foliage is an attractive maroon green. Firebush works well as a sunny parking lot shrub, along with esperanza and Poinciana, but also is an outstanding container plant. In a 10- to 15-gallon container, it grows to 3 feet tall in a disciplined round shape. In addition to the colorful foliage and blooms, firebush is one of hummingbirds’ favorite plants for nectar. Put firebush in a container on your patio, and the hummingbirds will find it. In the ground, firebush grows back to 6 feet tall after freezing back each winter. Deer will eat firebush.
Duranta is also called Brazilian sky flower. It grows to 6 feet tall each summer, often dying back in the winter. The weeping branches are covered with purple or white crinkly blooms across their length. Sometimes butterflies will be so thick on the flowers it will be hard to recognize the plant. Duranta is eaten by the deer, but it is not one of their favorite foods.
Dr. Calvin Finch is Director of Water Conservation and Technology at the Texas A&M University.
You can ask Calvin question and hear his answers on the air as he co-hosts the Gardening South Texas
on the air at KLUP (AM 930) Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 to 2:00pm.