Surviving the record-breaking heat – Digging Leave a comment

July 20, 2023

Heat waves are everywhere all at once right now, and Austin too is broiling in the hottest July on record, according to KXAN. That’s saying something because last summer was incredibly hot. I felt sure, after enduring Snowpocalypse, last summer’s oven-like temps, and then February’s Arbormageddon ice storm that Austin had somehow earned a respite from the weather gods’ wrath. Alas, no. And so we continue with 105, 107, even 109 F temps and no rain. No, this is not normal, y’all.

Some plants are faring better than others. Let’s celebrate those! Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’, I salute you for looking great no matter how hot, no matter how cold. It just keeps growing taller and taller, elevating its Koosh-ball head to about 12 feet high. Where it’ll top out is anyone’s guess.

Here’s that yucca from another angle. The Circle Garden’s ‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods got a little trim recently, and the variegated whale’s tongue agave in the stock tank is finally recovering its moonlight-yellow streaking, after pouting for a while following its rough transplant this spring. I’d hoped the silver ponyfoot in the tank would have covered the decomposed granite by now, but it’s struggling.

So last week I did the unthinkable: I planted a half-dozen 4-inch pots of native woolly stemodia in the tank. Oh yes, I did. I planted in July. Broke my own cardinal rule of Texas gardening. So of course I’m watering them every morning to get them established, and actually they look pretty happy. With any luck the stemodia will overtake the meh ponyfoot and silver up that tank by autumn. If you’re searching for some stemodia yourself, I found this batch at Barton Springs Nursery.

My tank watering brought to life one of the ‘Labuffarosea’ rain lily bulbs I’d planted in there and forgotten about. I love how these sweet pink flowers pop up after a rain (or, sometimes, hose watering) to grace the garden with their presence before going dormant again, until the next rainy day.

I also planted a native manfreda, or Texas tuberose, in a deck planter I’d been wanting to redo. This did not break my cardinal rule of not planting anything between May and October because it falls into my exception for succulents. I did risk stressing it a little by dividing the 3-gallon plant I picked up at Vivero Growers, but it doesn’t appear bothered by the heat or the separation. I filled around it — and am playing off the manfreda’s purple spots — with sprigs of purple heart that I snapped off a patch behind the pool. Gotta love a tough plant with good color like purple heart, even if it does try to take over when conditions are right.

Other heat-wave, don’t-care plants include ‘Fiercely Fabulous’ mangave. It’s blushing a little more than usual in the heat but seems pretty content.

‘Cream Spike’ agave is getting taller and pupping like crazy. I’ll need to repot this one sooner or later.

Up in the side yard, ‘Bright Edge’ yucca is a winner in heat or cold. Yarrow foliage looks pretty with it, although it doesn’t bloom much for me.

On the other side of the gate, Mediterranean fan palm is putting out new growth in its Comeback #2 following Snowpocalypse and then Arbormageddon. The variegated ‘Opal’ agave in the Corten saucer planter shrugs off the heat too. I rarely even remember to water that one.

Datura can get a little wilty in high summer, but it continues to unfurl salad-plate-sized, night-blooming flowers. The ivory buds, rolled up like a newspaper, wait for dusk, when they open their lemon-scented blossoms for sphinx moths and other night pollinators.

Wheeler’s sotol and woolly stemodia are summer performers in silvery green.

What a star!

While shopping for plants last week I found my book The Water-Saving Garden for sale in the gift shop at Barton Springs Nursery. Yay! Thanks for carrying it, BSN!

And I admired this beautiful succulent planter at Vivero Growers.

Succulents, sotols, yuccas, agaves, purple heart, and woolly stemodia are summer survivors and thrivers. It’s good to have a few plants like these in your corner come the summer from hell (redux).

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Digging Deeper

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All material © 2023 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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