Super plants for June

Orienpet lilies in bloom. Photo by Kit Flynn.


By Kit Flynn

June is such an active gardening month. The colors are incredibly vivid, contrasted to those in April and May when so many of our blooms are white. As I write this article, we are in the midst of a heat dome with no end in sight, forcing me to look back at all the photos I took at the beginning of the month – this heat-oppressed mind badly needs refreshment.

At the beginning of the month, the roses were nearly at the end of their spring blush, that exuberant burst of spring blooms that always brings me to the point of slavish devotion. The heat dome has halted rose production as the shrubs go into a temporary dormancy during excess temperatures. The next profusion of rose blooms will occur in September when night temperatures begin to moderate.

Apart from the roses, June produces some of my favorite plants. Chief among these are the gardenias – it always surprises me that I actually live in an area where gardenias can survive outdoors. This is a great year-round plant as the glossy green leaves look great throughout the year while their fragrant blooms enchant almost everyone. The two cultivars I have are ‘Crown Jewel’ and ‘Kleim’s Hardy’. These differ from one another in that ‘Kleim’s Hardy’ is a larger shrub with a plainer flower than ‘Crown Jewel.’

One of the most idiotic directions for planting gardenias comes from Southern Living. This magazine sometimes offers bad gardening suggestions, as many of its articles are clearly written by non-gardeners. Here, they tell you not to plant gardenias in the front of the house because the blooms will turn brown, giving the shrub an unattractive appearance.

Indeed, gardenias are not self-cleaning, with the spent blooms remaining on the shrub for about three weeks, during which time you can either shake them off or wait until they fall on their own. By moving gardenias to the backyard, as suggested in the article, you’ll miss their enticing aroma when they are in bloom; remember that for eleven months of the year this is a great looking plant, requiring very little maintenance. They make great foundation plants near the house’s base as they are preferable to the usual green meatballs so heavily used throughout the Triangle.

Daylilies – if you can grow them in our deer-infested area – shine during the month of June. Now there are early-blooming daylilies, mid-season daylilies, and late-blooming daylilies, so determine when you want your daylilies to bloom. For example, if you’re gone for the month of July, you might prefer the early-blooming daylilies when you’re home to enjoy them. Appearing at the end of July and extending into August, the late-blooming daylilies tend to be taller with a smaller color selection available. It’s your choice.

The echinacea is now blooming – something I relish as it took me years before I could grow it. The secret with echinacea is to choose a cultivar carefully, one that has been tested for at least a couple of years, and then to ignore it after planting it in a sunny area. I struggled with this plant for years until I came across E. ‘Pica Bella’ and E. ‘Fragrant Angel’. Not only do they look great together, they have also managed to overcome the echinacea curse that clung to my garden for years.

Seemingly impervious to the lack of rain we’ve experienced this month, the crinums play a dominant role in the garden. There’s so much to praise about crinums: They’re deer resistant and, if planted correctly, there is very little upkeep to maintaining them. Plant them in the sun, leave enough room so they can increase in width and try not to relocate them as they dislike any move. As with all bulbs, allow their foliage to wither away at the end of the growing season, a process that takes much of the winter.

Lilies, if you can grow this deer candy, offer so much to our gardens, provided you choose the right type of lily. Oriental lilies, beautiful as they are, dislike our warm nights, so you should avoid their enticement. Stick with the equally showy Orienpets (a marriage between the Orientals and Trumpets), the Trumpets and the Asiastic lilies. Again, like daylilies, lilies bloom at different times so it’s up to you to do your research. A lovely assortment can be found here.

Lilies offer height, drama and longevity in the garden. In my garden, they need staking, so be prepared. We now settle stakes around them when they first appear as a drooping lily stem will often break off. If a lily flops during its first year, it will continue to do so in consecutive years; alas, they do not get stronger stems the older they get. They do have another downside: Deer consider them a tasty meal. The upside is that they will increase in number, and they come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors.

If you want to grow the hardy banana, Musa basjoo, this is a great plant that makes a huge statement from June to the first frost. Cast aside your dreams of producing edible bananas – this tropical fruit takes a long time to develop. M. basjoo, the hardiest of all the bananas, thrives here but produces very seedy, inedible fruit – if it produces anything. In all my years of having this plant in my garden, it has produced just one banana.

Musa basjoo. Photo by Kith Flynn.

As with crinums, bananas produce offshoots called “pups” that can be removed from the mother plant and planted separately. Their large leaves are slightly unruly, lending a rather rowdy feature to the garden so it’s not a recommended plant for a tightly scripted garden.

All in all, June is a great month in the garden. However, most gardeners are wringing their hands due to the lack of rain. Clearly, it’s time for everyone to perform a rain dance.

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

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