As home gardener needs change, the demand for certain attributes in the plants breeders develop are changing too. Easy-care and low maintenance have long been key features, but the demand to develop plants that need minimal attention from homeowners and still provide beautiful color and form is increasing.
Heat and drought tolerant plants are topping consumer lists of must-have features. “For consumers, heat tolerance really means longevity in the garden or on the patio,” says Mike Fernandez, Danziger market manager, North America. “That fact should be important to growers. These varieties provide a better value for the end user and make them feel like a successful gardener. When they feel like they have a green thumb, they purchase more plants. That’s a win for everyone.”
Testing is key, and location matters. Danziger’s trial gardens, in Mishmar HaShiv’a, Israel, provide the perfect environment for developing heat-tolerant varieties. Danziger varieties face extreme trial conditions. The trial gardens in Israel receive an average of 3,300 hours of sunshine a year and are exposed to hot temperatures and high humidity. August temperatures can peak at more than 100° F and humidity levels can reach 90 percent.
“Testing in this environment gives us the opportunity to see how the plants truly perform under heat stress,” added Fernandez. “Because the varieties are bred and tested in this location, they’re naturally heat tolerant. If the plants can handle the extreme heat conditions in Israel, we know it will do well in other areas of the world.”
While trials are going on in Israel, testing is also taking place in different regions of the U.S., in Europe, Asia and Central America. “It is really a global testing process,” adds Fernandez. “Varieties that don’t perform well in any area of the world are removed from the program.”
Here are a few varieties Fernandez considers standouts for heat tolerance:
The PHLOXSTAR™ Series stands up to tough heat and drought conditions. This annual phlox doesn’t cycle out of flower, providing season-long color. Its tidy, compact habit makes it perfect in landscapes, containers or hanging baskets. 2019 introductions include Red and White.
ALONIA™ Angelonia shows very good heat and humidity tolerance in trials. This early flowering angelonia is very floriferous, with large blossoms covering the plant all summer long. ALONIA™’s snapdragon-like flowers bring bees and butterflies to the garden. There are eight colors to choose from.
It’s tough to find an impatiens series that performs better in the sun and heat than SUN HARMONY™. This series features big, 2-inch blooms that stand out in the sunshine. Bright, bold blossoms in colors like Deep Orange, Magenta, and Violet, cover the plant from spring through fall. Perfect in landscapes or containers, SUN HARMONY™ is available in 12 colors.
The name Sunstrong™ may say it all. Sunstrong™ Erysimum loves the heat, providing beautiful bicolor blooms throughout the season. It’s a large, low-maintenance plant that consumers will love for its drought tolerance and ability to draw butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. “Sunstrong flowers without cooling, allowing growers to treat this Zone 5-9 perennial as an annual,” says Fernandez. “In trials around the globe, it flowers extremely well and the blooms last all summer long.”
The STREAM™ Lobularia series flowers from early spring through autumn even in hot conditions. STREAM™ is very floriferous with blooms adding a wonderful honey-like scent to the garden. This ideal filler plant is amazing in mixed containers, window boxes and hanging baskets.