Three Big Bloomers for Summer
Funny thing about trees and shrubs: Most of them do best when planted in either spring or fall. In fact, I can’t in good faith recommend that you even consider planting most trees – and to a lesser extent, most shrubs -- this time of year. Better to just wait until fall.
But there are three notable exceptions – all deciduous -- and they are among my favorite plants because not only do they bloom like crazy in the intense heat of summer, they actually do best when planted in the heat of summer. And the three I speak of are Crape Myrtle, Vitex – also known as the Chaste Tree – and Desert Willow.
These three big bloomers can take all the insufferable heat and blazing sun nature throws their way, and they respond by flowering more and more, as if to say, “Is that all you’ve got?” They also root rapidly in the warm soils of summer, which is why the best time to plant them is now.
Crape Myrtles are familiar to just about everyone, but not everyone is aware that they are available in a broad range of sizes. Not so long ago nearly all Crape Myrtles were sold as multi-trunk trees with a height of roughly 20 feet. Those trees are still available and hugely popular, but so are the shrub forms which range in height from less than two feet to around eight feet, which means you can plant a Crape Myrtle just about anywhere so long as it receives full sun.
Vitex (Chaste Tree)
Vitex is another sun lover, and it’s a pollinator magnet throughout the summer and into the fall. Most varieties grow as multi-stemmed shrubs to around ten-feet tall and wide, but they can be pruned annually for a more compact look. And you can choose plants with white, pink, or blue flowers. This is definitely an underused plant.
Desert willow is a small deciduous tree native to west Texas. As the name suggests, it loves the heat. (However, it’s not a willow; it’s so named because the leaves resemble those of willows.)Large, fragrant, orchid-like flowers occur in showy clusters at the tips of the branches and on new wood from late spring to fall. It’s easy to grow but must have a well-drained site and must not be overwatered. It can be pruned to a tree or shrub, and because it blooms on new wood, the more it’s pruned, the more it flowers.