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Valley Landscapers Choose Their Favorite Summer Bloomers

Discover colorful plants that thrive in the summer.

By John Roark

As the hottest weather of the year settles in, Valley gardens tend to lose their luster. But triple-digit temperatures don’t have to mean a moratorium on color. “People are often surprised that summer gardens can be so vibrant,” says landscape designer Katie Coates. “There are lots of colors to be had; you just need to know where to find them.”

Here, four Valley landscapers share their favorite Sonoran summer stunners.


Landscape Designer

In Arizona, bright colors, including yellow, red, orange, raspberry and pink, are easy to find in blooming native and desert-adapted shrubs and vines. But in plants that like full sun exposure, blues and purples are a little harder to come by. I am partial to the Sweet Memories sky flower for its deep blue-violet cascading flowers and bright lime-green foliage. It is a great choice for homeowners who desire a more lush or tropical element that attracts pollinators. Sky flower also makes a wonderful living screen or larger background shrub to provide privacy and soften a hardscape.

Plant name: Sky flower (Duranta erecta ‘Sweet Memories)

Type: Medium to large shrub

Size: 15’H by 8’W

Elevation: Low to middle

Soil: Average to well-drained

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water needs: Requires frequent irrigation, especially in summer

Blooms: Blue-violet spikes outlined in white; spring through fall, followed by orange-yellow berries. The leaves and fruit of sky flower are poisonous, so use care when planting in locations with children and pets.

Maintenance: Prune in early spring and as needed to maintain desired shape and size.


Landscape Designer
The tangerine beauty crossvine is an easy-to-grow shrub that has been a staple of my landscape designs for almost a decade. I love this perennial because, in addition to the blanket of fragrant orange flowers it produces, it will attach itself to almost any surface, from a wall to a trellis or arch, it will even creep over boulders. It’s a real knockout. 

Another favorite, the Alexandra bougainvillea is a gorgeous deep fuchsia/purple. In addition to its showy color, it doesn’t go wild like other bougainvillea, such as the Barbara Karst (Bougainvillea ‘Barbara Karst’), but stays compact and has a high concentration of blooms without a lot of debris. It brings a lot of show-stopping color that lasts through the summer months into early winter.

Plant name: Tangerine beauty crossvine (Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’)

Type: Evergreen climber
Size: Vines can reach 30’L 
Elevation: Low and medium
Soil: Well-drained
Light: Full sun
Water needs: Low
Blooms: Orange trumpet-shaped flowers; spring through summer
Maintenance: Prune right after flowering as necessary.

Plant name: Bougainvillea Alexandra (Bougainvillea spectabilis ‘Alexandra’)

Type: Perennial shrub
Size: 8’H by 8’W
Elevation: Low and medium
Soil: Well-drained
Light: Full sun
Water needs: Occasional 
Blooms: Deep fuchsia; early spring through late winter
Maintenance: Prune as necessary to maintain desired size.


Landscape Designer
Because of its lilac-colored flowers and deep green leaves, the blue hibiscus is a favorite of mine. This shrub brings major impact to a yard; it catches your eye and rewards it as you move through the landscape. As a high-impact focal plant, it is bright in the same way that bougainvillea is—very commanding with a lot of vibrant color. It is used frequently as a hedge, but I love it in its natural form.

Plant name: Blue Hibiscus (Alyogyne huegelii)

Type: Shrub
Size: 8’H by 6’W
Elevation: All
Soil: Well-drained
Light: Full sun
Water needs: Every other day once established; daily in summer months
Blooms: Lilac purple; spring through summer 
Maintenance: Prune regularly to maintain desired size.


Maintenance Manager
My favorite color accent for summer gardens is Lindheimer’s beeblossom. Available in white or pink, this sun-loving perennial produces flowers on long reedlike stems. Even in a slight breeze the flowers dance, creating movement in the garden. Beeblossom also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. This plant received the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, which recognizes plants that are proven performers. 

Plant name: Lindheimer’s beeblossom (Oenothera lindheimeri)

Type: Perennial
Size: 12″-24″H by 12″-24″W
Elevation: All
Soil: Sandy, well-drained
Light: Full sun
Water needs: Frequently in the first season; low water thereafter.
Blooms: White or pink; late spring through fall
Maintenance: Do not deadhead. For best results, do not trim during winter months; cut back midspring to just above ground level.


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