Zinnia: Adorning the garden with their large daisy like flowers, zinnias come in a range of vibrant colours and look best mass planted in garden beds. They grow 60-75cm tall, but there are more compact forms like Zinnia linearis and Zinnia Thumbelina, which only reach 20cm tall. Try planting in pots, troughs or along garden edges. They also make fabulous, long-lasting cut flowers and by continually picking the flowers, you encourage the plant to keep on bloomin’!
Grow it: Sow seeds or plant seedlings in full sun and well-drained soil and water regularly. Once established, they are tough as old boots.
Petunia: Annual petunias are favourites, much loved for their reliable brilliant colour display over many months. They look gorgeous in gardens, pots and hanging baskets. You can find them in a multitude of colours and even different growth habits – from uprights to trailing varieties. Look for the compact Surfinia series, which can spread up to 50cm and is covered from top to toe in large colourful blooms – ideal for groundcovers or mass plantings. You can also find calibrachoas at your local nursery, which have the same spreading habit as their petunia relatives, but the flowers are smaller and also available in myriad dark and pastel colours, along with single and double flowering forms.
Grow it: Petunias and calibrachoas need plenty of sun and well-drained soil. They are remarkably tough but prefer an occasional deep watering during hot dry weather and frequent liquid feeds.
Hibiscus: With their glossy, luxuriant foliage and masses of large flowers in nearly all the colours of the rainbow, hibiscus are perfect for evoking a tropical summer holiday in your backyard. These large evergreen shrubs can reach 2-3m tall, but there are compact varieties such as Flamenco and Island Dream that have a tight bushy habit and grow less than 1.5m tall – ideal for container planting.
Grow it: Hibiscus love warmth and humidity and tolerate coastal conditions. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil. Prune in late winter to maintain a bushy shape and apply a rose fertiliser which is also great for hibiscus.
Salvia: Bold colour in hot spots? Salvia splendens is just the plant! The flowers sit like candles above the dark green foliage which can reach 35-40cm tall. Available in rich red, orange, salmon, white and burgundy, salvia looks fabulous mass planted in containers or garden beds. Try planting alongside tropical foliage plants such as cannas and elephant’s ears.
Grow it: Plant in well-drained soil in full sun – but they can tolerate part shade. Trim off spent flowers in late summer for an autumn flush.
Hydrangea: With large, mop-head flowers in soft pinks, blues, mauves and elegant white, hydrangeas are much loved for their beauty and lush green foliage throughout the summer months. Great for hedging, displaying in garden beds and fabulous in large partially shaded pots. The Endless Summer series will extend the flowering season.
Grow it: Plant in moist welldrained soils in partial shade. Mulch well and protect from hot dry winds. Prune only flowered stems. Water potted plants frequently in hot weather. Hydrangeas in the ground require deep watering during hot dry spells and frequent liquid feeds.
Plumbago: A cool contrast to summer, hardy blue or white plumbago makes the perfect informal hedge or sprawling screen. It can grow up to 2m, but regular pruning keeps it compact and promotes continual flowering in the warmer months. Grow both together for a patchwork planting or mass plant separately for a dramatic impact. For a deeper blue, look for the variety ‘Royal Cape’.
Grow it: Best in full sun, adaptable to most soils provided they are well drained. Once established, it is tolerant of drought and mild frost. Prune back hard in late winter to control size and shape.