There’s a saying among gardeners in our area, if you can garden in Oklahoma, you can garden anywhere.
Conditions in Oklahoma are some of the toughest in the country to have a successful garden and beautiful landscape. Our harsh weather conditions and diverse soil composition make it difficult to decide which plants will perform best in our landscape. However, you can find help through the Oklahoma Proven program.
Oklahoma Proven is a plant assessment and marketing program coordinated by Oklahoma State University’s Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. The goal of the program is to test and select plants that are tolerant of the varied and difficult environmental conditions found throughout Oklahoma. Using well-adapted plants should result in greater horticultural success and greener gardens.
Each year, gardeners and landscape professionals select a tree, shrub, perennial, or annual recommended for your success in your garden. The program began in 1999, and you can find each year’s selection back to year one at oklahomaproven.org.
So which plants thrive best in our hot Oklahoma sun?
One of the best annual flowers is the petunia and there is none better or more beautiful than the Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum®, Petunia. Selected as the 2018 Annual, Supertunia Vista Bubblegum is a vigorous petunia that requires very little care once established.
Unlike some others, Vista Bubblegum is a self-dying strain that blooms continuously until the first deadly frost. With its bright bubblegum pink flowers, Vista Bubblegum is a hilly, trailing form 18 to 24 inches tall and just as wide that looks spectacular sloshing over the edge of a container or retaining wall, or sprawling out in a flower bed.
For the most vigorous plants, fertilize them at planting with a slow-release fertilizer and follow throughout the summer with a water-soluble fertilizer applied when watering. While no deadhead is needed, Vista Bubblegum responds well to a light pruning in early July.
If you love the bright yellow color of summer, then choose the giant coneflower, Rudbeckia maxima, for your landscape. Native to Oklahoma, it tolerates moist soil and is fairly drought tolerant once established.
Giant coneflower has silvery-blue foliage and flowers have bright yellow ray florets that dangle from a large, erect, dark brown cone on stalks that grow 5-6 feet tall. Giant coneflowers bloom in early summer, but the death of the faded flowers will encourage another blooming frenzy in late summer.
For best effect, plant these en masse in mixed borders, meadows, native gardens and open woodland. An added benefit of this coneflower is that it attracts butterflies and finches and birds later in the summer; It is a perennial plant that returns year after year to bring beauty to your garden.
Some of us like to have a vine on a trellis in our landscape and if that is what you prefer then the Crossvine is the plant for you. Bignonia capreolata is a true beauty, especially in spring when ‘Tangerine Beauty’ is covered in orange, trumpet-shaped flowers.
This semi-evergreen vine can climb by twining its branches around a structure or can cling to a wall with its clinging tendrils and easily reach a height of 30 feet or more. As temperatures cool in fall, the leaves have a purplish tinge and are evergreen in a mild winter or in a sheltered spot. Beauty isn’t the only reason to use Crossvine; It’s also a hardy plant that tolerates heat and drought once established.
There are many other plants that do well in the summer sun; Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) produces beautiful red and yellow flowers that bloom all summer and attract butterflies, and is deer resistant. Perennial sage can really take the heat, is deer resistant, and comes in a wide variety of colors. Other perennials to try are coreopsis, sedum varieties, purple coneflower and black-eyed susan – all tolerate heat and sun.
You can find more examples at your local nursery or on the Oklahoma Proven website, oklahomaproven.org.
If you have shade in your yard, don’t worry. Next week we’ll be looking at Oklahoma Proven plants that do well in shade. Until then, remember that while Oklahoma certainly presents challenges for the gardener, there are many opportunities for plants that will add beauty to your landscape.