And we thought the summer in 2010 was bad? It was nothing compared to our summer in Dallas in 2011. With no rain, pure blue skies with no clouds and countless days surpassing 100-plus degrees, the conditions were just inhumane.
With all the heat, pest and diseases moved on to milder climates. It was just too hot here! Still, there were a number of top-performing varieties, including these top 10:
1. Scaevola ‘Surdiva Blue’ (Suntory Flowers)
Wow! Blue flowers are hard to find in the middle of a Texas summer, much less one that really performs. This cultivar does equally well in containers and in the landscape. Dark foliage was covered in dark blue, fan-shaped flowers. Scaevola is drought tolerant and has shown this with our record breaking summer.
2. Gomphrena ‘Balboa’ (EuroAmerican/Proven Selections)
All gomphrenas work well in Dallas, but ‘Balboa’ adds nice silver-colored foliage to the landscape with an added bonus of soft pink firework-like flowers. ‘Balboa’ only reaches about 18 inches in height, making it useful for both containers and the landscape.
3. Otomeria ‘Pink’ (Danziger)
A new breakthrough in genetics from the continent of Africa, otomeria has flowers that look like a cross between penta and phlox. ‘Pink’ has performed very well in containers, handling both our summer drought and extreme heat.
4. Angelonia ‘Serena Blue’ (PanAmerican Seed)
‘Serena Blue’ is one of our best performing angelonia to date and adds a much-needed color to the Serena series of angelonia. ‘Serena Blue’ has dark green glossy foliage that reaches 24 inches in height and is covered in spikes of blue-purple flowers. It worked well in both containers and in the landscape.
5. Gaillardia Galya series (Danziger)
Gaillardia pulchella is a Texas native that blooms all summer long. It has light green airy foliage that is covered in multiple colors depending on the cultivar. Galya performed well, both in landscape and container trials. It looks amazing when planted in mass. You truly get the effect of the plant. Plant it and you will love it!
6. Begonia ‘Whopper’ (Ball Horticultural Company)
There’s no joke with the name ‘Whopper.’ This Begonia is a whopping big beast! ‘Whopper’ is one quarter larger than ‘Big’ and much more vigorous. The rose and red colors performed equally. ‘Whopper’ performed well in the landscape but looked even better in containers. Make sure to place it in shade to part-shade or it will burn in Texas summers.
7. Zinnia Zahara Double series (PanAmerican)
We have been a fan of the Zahara series for years, but if possible we love the double flowered version even more. The flowers of the new Double series are bolder and do not fade in our north Texas heat like we have seen in other series of zinnia. ‘Double Zahara’ reached 18 inches in height and flowered all summer long. No dead heading was required.
8. Caladium ‘Summer Pink,’ ‘Highlighter’ & ‘Iceberg’ (Abbot IPCO and Classic Caladiums)
Texans love caladiums. New ‘Summer Pink’ (fancy leaf) has some of the largest leaves we’ve seen in a caladium – almost colocasia size. It has bold white leaves with splashes of pink throughout and reaches 2 feet in height. ‘Highlighter’ (strap leaf) is a whole new color in caladiums – lime green fading to chartreuse in the center on 18-inch-tall plants. ‘Iceberg’ (strap leaf) has dark green leaves splashed with light yellow and white with dark red central veins. It performs well in the landscape or in containers, reaching 18 inches.
9. Marigold ‘Bonanza Deep Orange’ (PanAmerican Seed)
Marigolds are another garden standby, but the problem in our climate is they come in only two colors: “sorta yellow” and “sorta maybe orange.” Finally, with ‘Bonanza Deep Orange’ we have a true dark orange, almost fire-colored marigold that reaches 16 inches in height. This adds a new dimension to marigolds, and the future of this crop will be fun to see.
10. Lantana ‘Lucky Pot of Gold’ and ‘Lucky Pure Gold’ (Ball FloraPlant)
Lantana and north Texas go together like peanut butter and jelly. Few plants can handle our heat and drought like this genus. These two cultivars have stood out in our trials for plant size and flower power. ‘Lucky Pot of Gold’ is great as a border at 6 to 8 inches in height. It’s covered in deep pure gold yellow flowers. ‘Lucky Pure Gold’ is a “tame” version of the old standby ‘New Gold,’ which does not produce wild spikes of new growth that travel in all directions. ‘Lucky Pure Gold’ reaches 24 inches in height and is covered in gold yellow flowers. This would be a great addition to any landscape, but make sure to use it in the foreground.