Enticing August Plants

Picture of Clematis Virginian. Photo by Kit Flynn.


By Kit Flynn

I’m frequently asked why I go through this exercise every month. The answers are twofold: (1) Ask me what blooms in a particular month and I can draw a blank; and (2) It helps me to plan for the future as my aim is to have something of interest in the garden twelve months of the year. By going through this exercise, I learned which months need more blooming plants.

The plants are tired. I’m tired. Fall is still far away, although it’s getting dark earlier and the sun is lower in the sky. True fall for me falls sometime in November when I can cheerfully sleep with the windows wide open while donning an occasional sweater. However, for the plants, there is some relief in September when nighttime temperatures retreat a little, giving the plants a chance to relax.

Crapemyrtles are the real stars of the August garden. This is the most misplanted plant in the Triangle (see The Abused Crapemyrtle in The Local Reporter) as it’s rarely treated for the spectacular specimen tree it is. A crapemyrtle must be sited so it can be allowed to spread its wings; they look horrible scrunched under power lines or against a structure of any type, including small trees. Give them room, thereby allowing them to do their own thing.

Refraining from committing “crape murder,” plant this small tree correctly to have magnificent blooms that appear no matter how hot and humid the weather. Crapemyrtles come in different sizes and shapes, so provided there’s a sunny unoccupied space in the garden, everyone can have one.

The Begonia grandis are spectacular. I have white ones (‘Alba’) and pink ones (‘Heron’s Pirouette’); both varieties perform well, although I slightly prefer ‘Heron’s Pirouette’. While most begonias require a gardening zone with warmer winters, B. grandis is very hardy in zone 7a. Granted, it’s a lavish seeder but it seems to know where it is needed. It’s also easy to pull out – an important consideration for any enthusiastic seeder.

The powdery mildew has settled in on some of my Phlox, namely ‘John Fanick’ and ‘Roger Poore’ so I suggest investing in varieties resistant to this unsightly fungal disease. ‘Delta Snow’ and ‘Jeana’ are good bets and other suggestions on the Mt. Cuba website.

At the risk of getting boring in my adoration of Euscaphus japonica, I cannot think of a more enticing small tree. Obviously, I’m on a campaign for everyone to acquire one despite their being difficult to find, as they are not easy to propagate. In July, red heart-shaped seedpods form only to split open in August, displaying large black seeds that must undergo a vigorous hot-and-cold process if they are to germinate. In the ten years (or more) that I have had this tree, I’ve only had two germinations.

Picture of Lantanta camara. Photo by Kit Flynn.

Lantana camara ‘Miss Huff’ blooms sporadically In June and July but come August, it’s a mass of flowers – and a plant you should have, provided you have a sunny spot. I’m not partial to the color orange but the blooms change colors, thereby becoming intriguing. The only rule to follow if planting this shrub that deer shun, is to refrain from cutting off the dead branches until new growth appears in the following late spring.

Rarely do gardeners grow hostas for their flowers but there is one exception: ‘Branching Out’, a Plant Delights introduction, is truly spectacular for its August flowers. Early blooming hostas tend to fade out of the gardening scene by July so not only does the late flowering ‘Branching Out’ maintain the look of a decent hosta for most of the summer, its mass of August flowers always takes me by surprise. This hosta is a keeper, provided you can protect it from the deer.

For about ten days in August, the native Clematis virginiana dominates the landscape. I first fell in love with pictures of the huge growing C. terniflora, aka Sweet Autumn Clematis (also called C. paniculata). Fortunately, I read up on it before planting it (beware as it is widely available); due to its extreme seedy nature, once it’s established, it is extremely difficult to get rid of it. Instead, I chose the native C. virginiana that spends the first half of summer climbing over a dormant tall camellia sasanqua, before putting on a massive August show.

If you plant this clematis, realize that it needs to be trained upwards on a larger structure; otherwise, it becomes heaping blob on the ground. Regardless, never plant Sweet Autumn Clematis, a clematis that is dangerous because it is so beautiful.

This exercise teaches me that I should actively seek out more plants that bloom in August, a tall order considering that our months of July and August are both hot and humid. What plants will I choose? I’ll describe some next week.

After being an active member of the Durham County Extension Master Gardeners for 13 years, Kit Flynn now holds emeritus status. For five years she was the gardening correspondent for “Senior Correspondent” and shared “The Absentee Gardener” column with fellow Master Gardener Lise Jenkins. She has given numerous presentations on various gardening topics to Triangle organizations and can be reached at howyourgardengrows@icloud.com.
Share This Article

Scroll down to make a comment.

Be the first to comment on "Enticing August Plants"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.