Hot child in the city: August Foliage Follow-Up

Surely August will be our last worst month here in central Texas. It can’t possibly remain blisteringly hot and humid through September, can it?

Yes, it can, and it probably will, but that’s why I love agaves, yuccas, prickly pear, and other tough plants. They breeze through a Texas summer looking as cool as an Austinite floating in spring-fed Barton Springs Pool. Here’s one of my current favorites, Agave applanata ‘Cream Spike’ (formerly Agave parryi ‘Cream Spike’), a pup given to me last fall by Bob Beyer of the blog Central Texas Gardening. Just look at those cream-and-lime-striped leaves and tidy, red teeth lining each crimson-spined leaf.

Agave x leopoldii is also a fine small agave for a sunny deck or patio. It needs some winter protection, but its coppery summer coloration — a little stressed from heat and drought — is especially lovely.

Out front, in the Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) lawn, lemony ‘Margaritaville’ yucca easily withstands summer’s heat.

For the first time, I’m experimenting with keeping tillandias — aka air plants — outside during the warm months. I’ve managed to keep the big one on the left alive indoors for a couple of years, and I’d hate to lose it. But they look so perfect in my new Tentacle Pots that I decided to take the chance. I hope they don’t burn up in Austin’s summer heat! They’re in filtered shade, and I’m misting them with distilled water once a week.

Since today is Foliage Follow-Up — a celebration of great foliage — let’s venture outside my own garden for a moment. I spotted this honor guard of ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon hollies at the “castle” house in South Austin. Its narrow, upright form and tidy, evergreen leaves make ‘Will Fleming’ a great screening plant for a tight space, or a striking vertical accent.

At the same house, in the hell strip outside a limestone wall, a zigzagging row of large, silver-blue agaves is eye-catching too — like campfires with tongues of blue flame. Atop the wall, prickly pear finds a crevice home. None of these plants minds the heat or the Death Star, and they make architectural additions to the summer garden.

This is my August post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is going on in your garden this month? Please join me in giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I’d 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.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.

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30 Responses

  1. I like your air plants and sea creatures! I hope you have cooler weather soon.

    I’m reporting on my rather shaggy backyard this month.

  2. If I had a greenhouse I would love to grow all of these plants. I just love the look. I do have air plants. I bet they will love it outside. I put mine outside every summer under the eave and they love it. Of course your area is much more dry but as long as they aren’t in the sun I bet they will love it. A friend of mine has hers in a green house which she never takes them out. During summer you can imagine how hot it is and she says she doesn’t water them. Crazy. They live and reproduce.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Humidity is perhaps the secret, Lisa. My sister has a tillandsia under a covered porch at her Houston house, and she never waters it. Of course, Houston has humidity to spare! —Pam

  3. I am always shocked to hear that there are plants you have to take in for the winter! Not how I think of Texas. Lots of foliage in my garden this month and not too many flowers. Here’s a link:

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Here in Austin (in-town) we generally have such mild winters — only a handful of light freezes, with perhaps 2 or 3 hard freezes lasting less than 24 hours — that we tend to push our zone, planting zone 9 plants instead of zone 8b. Those generally do very well and sometimes survive the winter with no intervention, like last year, when my garden didn’t receive a hard freeze at all. However, if you push it to plants that are zone 10 and don’t tolerate temps much below 40F, you must commit to bringing them inside in the winter. I don’t have a greenhouse or much windowsill space, so I do the winter dance of bringing in a dozen small pots every time a hard freeze is forecast, and then out they go again the next day. It’s a silly dance, but I can’t give up those beautiful potted succulents, especially when they do so well for 9 months of the year. —Pam

  4. Layanee says:

    Fat foliage rules the day in hot August. Here as well as the cannas are coming on strong with the heat.

  5. Cheryl Hawes says:

    Where did you find that darling green octopus? It looks great with Diana’s pots.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Cheryl, it was originally a faded blue. I have two of these iron octopi. I’d bought one on sale at The Great Outdoors a few years ago, and then I got another for Christmas as a gift. I spray painted them different colors and hung them with the tentacle pots for a fun display near the pool. —Pam

  6. Kris P says:

    I love that ‘Cream Spike’! I have one with that cultivar name but, after seeing yours, I think mine must be an entirely different species! I hope your death star dials it down next month. We’re in what we hope is the final day of a heatwave and, although it’s not nearly as miserable as the one that started our summer off (and blew out a dozen plants practically overnight), I still won’t be sorry to see it go. My foliage follow-up is all about bromeliads this month:

    • Pam/Digging says:

      You know, Kris, I looked up ‘Cream Spike’ before posting this, and I noticed that pictures of it online looked somewhat different. Now I’m wondering if the one Bob had (mine is a pup from his plant) was mislabeled and it’s a different cultivar. But sometimes agave pups can look pretty different from more mature specimens, so who knows.

      Hope you get some relief from heat soon. We’ve had a break with rain and cooler weather, and I’m sending rainy thoughts your way too! —Pam

  7. “running wild and looking pretty…”…oh Pam! Now that song is going to be in my head all day.

    I just noticed my Agave x leopoldii has colored up much like yours, I love the deep red tones. Oh how I wish I had fence that I could top with Opuntia! Next garden…

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Earworm! Where’s the latest Adele song when we need it? And yeah, that wall with the opuntia is fabulous — and if you used a spiny variety, it’d be a natural security system! —Pam

  8. Diana Studer says:

    heart-shaped leaves on my Dombeya

    And so hoping for more rain as our dams are half empty and the spring flowers are blooming already.

  9. Evan says:

    I was going to say I hope you get some relief from the heat soon, but saw your reply to Cindy’s comment. Glad you got some rain! I’m eagerly awaiting the return of the rainy season so I can start planting the areas I’ve been preparing this summer. Tillandsias are pretty drought tolerant, especially that big xerographica, but if you find they start to look too dry, you can soak them for 30 minutes or so in a bucket of water in place of or in addition to the weekly misting. Here’s my Foliage Follow-up:

  10. You have the perfect drought tolerant plants for your hot Texas temperatures and they are all looking fabulous! We have been suffering from a heat wave as well here on Long Island, with temperatures in the upper 90’s. It finally started to break today and hopefully with continue, along with some needed rain. Here is my Foliage Follow-Up post for August:

  11. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Fun foliage as always Pam. Your tentacle pots are gorgeous and the tillandsias look perfect in them. I’m pretty rough on my air plants and soak them with the hose a few times a week. They don’t seem to mind but then our water is fairly soft. Your heat loving agaves are stunning! My FFU post is here:

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I think the tillandsias will enjoy our stifling summertime humidity, so long as I keep them out of direct sun. (It’s good to know someone does!) —Pam

  12. I don’t know what is wrong with me, Pam, but somehow I always miss participating in this great meme. I’m writing myself a note to start next month. I began using tillandias last winter in my terrariums and love them. They are the easiest plants. Love your agaves. P. x

    • Pam/Digging says:

      You’re never too late to join, Pam. Usually people join in throughout the week, so feel free! I’d love to see your favorite foliage plants. —Pam

  13. rickii says:

    We were feeling so smug about our mild summer but now we’re getting blasted with skyrocketing temps. Oh well, it’s empathy-building for your battle with the Death Star.
    Here’s my foliar attempt to cool down:

    • Pam/Digging says:

      It always sounds so wrong to me to hear that Portland is broiling. Here’s to normal — and delightful — summer temps for you again soon, Ricki. —Pam

  14. Margaret says:

    I wish we could grow more of these around here – yuccas are one of the few that survive our winters, although I think that some agaves are hardy to zone 5, which is borderline where we are. I had several yuccas that were in dire need of some thinning out, which we did, and they look amazing now – so much better than the overgrown, crowded plants we started out with this spring.

    And I can’t imagine a plant needing “winter protection” in Texas! :)

    • Pam/Digging says:

      A few agaves are hardy for colder climates, as you point out, Margaret. For the rest, you can always have them in pots outside in the summer and bring them in for winter, as I do with several of mine. Many of us do indeed push our zone here in Central Texas, growing plants that require frost-free winters. Hence the in-and-out dance whenever freezes threaten. —Pam

  15. Laura Munoz says:

    The color of your pots contrasting with the plant foliage looks great. Can’t believe Austin got 12″+ of rain and just a week ago the temps were in the hundreds. It’s crazy.

    The Great Outdoors is such an asset. I purchased two feet pot from them that I moved with me (and thankful they weren’t damaged in the move). They have some quirky planters, which I like.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Yes, they have fun accessories, as well as a nice selection of succulents and cacti, usually, although I haven’t managed to make it down there in a while. I need another visit once the weather turns! —Pam