Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hot Flowers for Hot Days

It's been stinking hot the last few weeks. Steady temps in the mid-90's are only occasionally interrupted by afternoon thunderstorms (sometimes violent ones). Luckily summer flowers are busting out all over and they've got hot hues to rival the hot temperatures.

Here are some of my favorite flowers blooming now in North Georgia and further north. While all of these grow in North Georgia, many of them were also observed during my trip to North Carolina for the recent Cullowhee conference.

First up are the amazing summer lilies: turk's cap lily (Lilium superbum) and Carolina lily (Lilium michauxii). These lilies are similar looking, but there are differences that can help you separate them.

Turk's cap (Lilium superbum)
Strong stem on Lilium superbum

Carolina lily (Lilium michauxii) is a smaller plant

Swamp hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus)
The native hibiscus are all very showy but none quite as much as the statuesque swamp hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus). Thick stems are more than 6 feet tall and support large, deeply lobed leaves and flowers that are 5 inches wide.

It's hard to believe that stems this size are not woody plant stems, but the plant does die back to the ground each winter. I leave the stems up all winter in the hope that bees will hibernate in them.

Monarda didyma, Lumpkin County

Another hot red flower is scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma). On the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, we found these blooming in moist ditches and open, wet woodlands. They obviously appreciate a moist environment. While they look great alone, when we found them with tall American bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum), they were even more spectacular.

One of my favorite mid-summer flowers is the orangey-red flower of the plumleaf azalea (Rhododendron prunifolium). Native to a limited range in Georgia and Alabama, this species grows very well in gardens too. The hummingbirds love it as do the large Eastern tiger swallowtail butterflies.

Plumleaf azalea (Rhododendron prunifolium)
Sometimes plants have a second flush of blooms. Currently reblooming in my area are coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) and butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa).

Roadside populations of Asclepias tuberosa can be vibrant orange
So if you need some hot flowers for your summer garden, give some of these a try.


  1. The Carolina Lily is stunning! Do you know if those are available at the GNPS plant sale? The turks cap that I am familiar with is one we had in Texas Malvaviscus arboreus so I was a little surprised when I learned about Lilium superbum. Then I realized they both have a similar common name but one is a rose mallow and the other a lily.

  2. Excellent images and a great link to the explanation of the difference between L. superbum and L. michauxii. Thank you!

    Jim Fowler, Greenville, South Carolina