Tough August survivors for Foliage Follow-Up

Mexican honeysuckle adds leafy lushness in the dappled shade of live oaks and is flowering to boot. Its companions include Mexican weeping bamboo, Agave colorata, foxtail fern, and Pennisetum purpureum ‘Vertigo’.

These are “the bitter days in the garden,” according to West Texan Susan Tomlinson, who blogs at The Bicycle Garden. How right she is. Even with the heavy spring rains that ended the interminable Texas drought, our long, hot summer — measured in triple-digit temperatures and no rain since early July — has seemingly erased our gains. Leaves hang droopy and curled on trees and shrubs. Perennials are crispy. Even some of our stalwart agaves are sporting yellowed, sun-damaged leaves.

Shade-tolerant tough guys: inland sea oats and Mexican orchid tree

Still, most of us have survivors and even plants that thrive in the heat, right? Today is Foliage Follow-Up, a meme held on the day after Bloom Day in which we celebrate plants that offer far more than pretty flowers. They give leafy lushness or structure that lasts for months or even all year. Take a look around your August garden and share your hardiest survivors. What’s looking good? Let’s all plant more of those, shall we? And if you live where late summer is a delightful season, by all means, share your faves with us too. We heat-crisped Texans need something to get us through to October, when reasonable weather returns.

In my garden, aside from the shade-tolerant shrubs, grasses, and groundcovers pictured in the top two photos, I’m loving the eggplant-purple leaves of purple oxalis (Oxalis triangularis), which brightens a shady patio. It’s hardly flowering in this prolonged heat, but the leaves look good with a weekly watering.

Painted Fingernails bromeliad, a gift from Houstonites Laurin and Shawn at Ravenscourt Gardens, doesn’t mind the heat at all, so long as it has shade and a weekly watering. The hot-pink tips at the ends of its leaves explain its fun common name. This is a tender tropical in Austin’s climate, so I bring it indoors when it freezes. Also, to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in its water-holding leaves, I sprinkle organic mosquito bits over it every couple of weeks.

My little ‘Espresso’ mangave, a white-striped version of ‘Macho Mocha’ mangave, which I received as a pup from author/designer Scott Ogden a few years ago, is looking good this August. It even produced a few pups recently, which I shared with friends, after saving one particularly nice pup for Scott, who’d lost his original plant to the agave snout-nosed weevil. This is a good reason to share plants, right? If something bad happens to your original, hopefully you’ll have shared enough with others that you can get a division to get started with again.

So what leafy love is going on in your August garden? Please join me for Foliage Follow-Up, giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I really appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

18 Responses

  1. Melody McMahon says:

    Pam, one of the first things I learned from my fellow plant lover, Cheryl, was about “plant insurance”. Sharing plants with others makes it possible to be able to get a plant of yours back if yours doesn’t make it for some reason. I’ve found that most gardeners are generous with sharing their plants and their knowledge of gardening. We all prosper from sharing!

  2. Your purple Oxalis is thriving despite the heat, and the foliage is very interesting. Soon the temperatures will cool and the plants will bounce back. We have been having hot mid-August temperatures here as well on Long Island. Here is my Foliage Follow-Up link:

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Lee, your front garden must be quite spacious for that wonderful combo of weeping blue Atlas cedar, juniper, and heuchera. I’d grow a weeping blue Atlas too if I had space and the right conditions. What a “wow” plant. —Pam

  3. June says:

    Your gardens are lovely, and are a special enjoyment to me after living & gardening 16 years in the North Dallas area. I now live in the southern piedmont of North Carolina, where we have experienced extreme temperatures this summer, with very little rainfall in my exact area. The plant I am most impressed with, in my gardens, is clumping (not running) liriope – the variegated & the solid green. They haven’t faltered during the heat & drought. Some are in areas that I converted to rainwater retention pools last year, or rain gardens as they are currently referred to. Our recent storms and downpours have left the liriope masses standing in water for up to 36 hours. They just drink up the rainwater and love it. So… they seem to be happy in ALL conditions. The cleyera, an evergreen shrub, has done extremely well also. In your prolonged Austin heat, it would surely need some supplemental water, and probably a semi-shaded area. Thanks for your much-appreciated posts, and so many pictures.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Hi, June. Thanks for visiting! Liriope has long been a favorite in Austin gardens too, although our prolonged drought really took a toll on them. It’s a wonderful plant in the right conditions, and a good lawn alternative too (if you don’t need something you can walk on). —Pam

  4. Kris P says:

    That Oxalis provides a nice splash of color. I’m surprised to learn it handles heat so well. I’m going to have to look for it. I focused on the plants handling our current heatwave in stride even when water-starved:

    Thanks for hosting Pam!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Kris, the purple oxalis is the only one, of several varieties I’ve tried, that doesn’t go dormant in summer. It needs shade and water at least every week to 10 days, or else it will go dormant. I do love that eggplant purple foliage color! —Pam

  5. hoov says:

    Yes that’s the saying: if you want to keep a plant, give it away to a friend. Sweet how that works!

    Stay cool under the Death Star, and hope you get some lovely rain!

    Adenanthos foliage

    • Pam/Digging says:

      “Will it live? Hey, it’s an Agave! Why wouldn’t it?” Words to live by! I love your bouquet, Hoov, and yes, the foliage addition was key. Thanks for joining in this month. —Pam

  6. Alison says:

    I’ve been taking stock this summer of what is holding on with minimal watering. In fact, I may even have some plants still alive after our long, hot, dry summer with no watering. I’m going to plant more of those next year. Or I might not even wait till next year, I might start next month. My FF post is here:

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I love all your grasses and those castor bean seedpods, Alison. Grrr! about the raccoon trampling, though. I hope you guys get some much needed rain this fall. —Pam

  7. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Agaves with sunburn? It’s too hot! Oxalis triangularis, which grows here too, looks so delicate, you’d think it would shrivel in your heat. My contribution to FF is here:

  8. Evan says:

    I love sharing plants, and the insurance is a nice benefit of doing so. That first vignette is just gorgeous. I love the blue bottles, Mexican honeysuckle, and the dark grass. I’ve managed to stay ahead of watering for the most part, so I have more green than crispy foliage. It helps that almost all of my newest plants are drought-tolerant in my climate, and the ones that aren’t are in the few moist spots in my garden, and those are the ones I look at most. I try not to look at the ones that are suffering. Here’s my foliage post:

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’m a fan of ‘Frazzle Dazzle’ dyckia too, and it fills out over time into a wonderful spiky mass. I’m also really liking that copper spoons plant — such unusual coloring. Thanks for joining in, Evan! —Pam

  9. James Cude says:

    I’m glad you mentioned your agaves are getting sun damaged – I thought mine may be under some type of attack. The Mr Ripple looks the worst having sacrificed numerous lower leaves but even my whales tongue is suffering. I watered my cactus bed last weekend and all last summer it looked fine without a drop from me.

    I do have plenty of plants that thrive in the heat provided they get plenty of water. Graceful bamboo a clumper Bambusa Textilis Gracillis is an example. There are others that can go with less water like Esperanza but it seems everything wants some water this August to look it’s best.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Are you located here in Austin too, James? It’s been pretty brutal this July and August, despite the spring relief from all that rain. Maybe that flood/drought cycle is stressing the plants more than usual. I find that Whale’s Tongue appreciates some light shade in summer, as it’s native to much higher elevations. You might try putting some shade cloth over it, or consider relocating it to a morning-sun or dappled shade location to avoid future sun scorch. —Pam

  10. James cude says:

    I live about 10 M south of Blanco on 281 so N of San Antonio but SW of Austin. I think the excessive rain followed by not a drop is what has caused the stress. The Agaves put on lots of pups then most of them dried out this month. It just seems like it went from looking good to a wasting syndrome in the space of a week or two