Chicago is in a unique part of the world that gets freezing cold during the winter but scorching hot during the summer. As such, finding plants that can withstand these extreme temperatures may seem tricky. Fortunately, there are plenty from which to choose. Below are five annuals that are hardy enough to survive the sweltering Chicago summers.
Cannas is a tropical plant that will require full sun in your garden, but it makes an incredible statement. The bright orange-red flowers stand as high as six feet tall and, like daylilies, they grow in clumps. If you plan to utilize cannas to bring some unique interest to your flower garden, remember that you’ll need to store the root clumps in the winter months to keep them alive.
Coleus is common in Chicago-area gardens because of its hardiness, texture, and colorful eye appeal. It ranges from a bright almost neon yellow-green to dark burgundy and royal purple in color, and because it is shade-tolerant, it’s perfect for ground cover. It’s important to note that coleus will produce flowers late in the season, but because they are far less impactful than the foliage, most gardeners simply pluck them off to redirect energy and nutrients back into the leaves.
Believe it or not, the common dahlia is also incredibly heat tolerant and perfect for Chicagoland flower beds. They come in dozens of different varieties, too. Some grow as tall as five feet, and the aptly-named “dinner plate” dahlia’s massive bloom is a sight to behold. Dahlias grow best in super fertile soil, so ideally, you’ll want to add compost to their beds. Remember to give them space as they need plenty of air to thrive, too. Plant them six to 18 inches apart, giving more space to the taller varieties and less space to the “dwarf” varieties.
Geraniums are always a great idea because they absolutely thrive in hot, dry conditions. Certain varieties, such as Regal geraniums, fare much better in the Chicago climate than others. The good news is that geraniums are incredibly easy to take care of, so they’re perfect for beginners. Immediately after planting, water them well – early in the morning – then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering them again. To get the most color out of your geranium spreads, pinch off any wilted or withered blooms.
Last, but most certainly not least, marigolds can be a welcome addition to any backyard. They thrive in the heat, and they’re exceptionally tolerant of neglect, too, which makes them ideal for those who want pops of color without an exceptional amount of work. They produce blooms that range from light yellow to bright orange in hue for a period of about three months, and they can be planted almost anywhere – along the edges of your house or building, in between vegetables, or even in containers.
Though Chicago’s climate can be harsh at times, there are plenty of annuals that can absolutely thrive in the heat of summer. Whether you prefer simple blooms like marigolds, the beautiful complexity of a dahlia, or even the striking foliage produced by coleus, it’s possible to design a beautiful garden with dozens of different heat-tolerant annuals.
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