Top 5 plants for sun, shade, drought & pest control

With spring in full swing, many gardeners are looking for that plant that can endure the elements this season. But which should you invest in and which should be put out to pasture? P. Allen Smith, the CEO of Hortus Ltd., pinpoints the top five plants for specific conditions that green thumbs across the country may face in the garden:


They can take the heat and maybe a little neglect and keep on giving all summer long.  You can plant them right after the threat of frost has passed in your area and keep them going until the first cool snaps of fall. When watering this plants you should be careful not to water leaves and blossoms too much. The heat of the sun can cause standing water to develop disease and mildew. And even thought these plants can handle the heat, they still need constant watering.

1.    Calibrachoa Superbells Plum:

  • Often described as mini petunias.
  • The low growing, compact plant stays vigorous, blooms profusely without deadheading and doesn't need to be pinched back to keep it from becoming leggy.
  • Calibrachoa is especially suited for containers because it prefers soil a little on the dry side and doesn't need much fertilizer to bloom continuously. This makes it a must-have for busy gardeners who want plants that aren't fussy.

2.    Leucanthemum Broadway Lights:

  • Large lemon-yellow flowers are unique for a Shasta daisy, making Broadway Lights a sunny face in the garden.
  • The flowers transform to a buttery cream color and finally turn pure white.
  • Flowering begins in early summer and continues into the fall.
  • Depending on how the plant was produced, flowering the first year may be sporadic because normal flowering usually begins the second summer after the plant has received winter vernalization or exposure to cold.

3.    Osteospermum Lemon:

  • Creates perfect brushes of color. It is as if they are made of painted china.
  • This plant's heat tolerance makes it a particularly good choice for hot climates.

4.    Petunia Supertunia Vista Bubblegum:

  • Unlike other varieties of petunias that fade or grow leggy through the summer, Supertunia petunias are disease-resistant, self-cleaning and floriferous with sturdy stems so they remain attractive from spring until the first frost.
  • The plants grow upright, yet they also cascade.
  • SupertuniaRoyal Velvet is a deep purple that looks great in combination with orange, hot pink and chartreuse — Supertunia Vista Bubblegum produces medium pink blooms all summer, even during the heat and drought that hit in August.

5.    Phlox Intensia Neon Pink:

  • Holds up during the heat of summer; it can also handle a light frost so it will be one of the last blooms to fade in your fall garden.
  • Two colors that are really appealing are the Intensia Cabernet, a deep magenta, and Intensia Neon Pink, which is hot pink.


First, it's important to know what shade is.  It's not pitch black with no sun at all; it gets filtered or indirect sunlight.  Most shade plants actually do need some sunlight to perform.  These shade plants have proven to work well under low light conditions in Allen's shade garden both in containers and flower beds.  Slugs and snails can be a problem in moist shady spots.  One way to help with this is to use mulch, or if you have access to a sweet gum tree gather these up and spread them around tender plants like hostas that are susceptible to slugs and snails. Try organic approaches first!

1.    Heuchera Dolce Key Lime Pie and Cream Brule

  • The bright lime green foliage of this Heuchera helps to enliven darkened areas of the garden.
  • Dolce Key Lime Pie has better manners, staying as a compact mound of foliage while adding an electrifying accent without overwhelming its neighbors. In spring abundant spires of peach bell-shaped flowers appear, making the plant even more charming.

2.    Oxalis Charmed Wine:

  • Looks like a shamrock.
  • The vibrant leaves of CharmedWine are a brilliant burgundy and they are even more eye-catching when contrasted with the plant's white and chartreuse flowers.

3.    Lamium Pink Chablis:

  • Deer-resistant and heat tolerant as well

4.    Hosta:

  • Hostas are extremely popular.
  • They are easy-to-grow, shade-tolerant plants.
  • Leaves come in a wide range of shapes, colors, sizes and textures and may be solid in color or variegated in different combinations of blue, green, white and gold.
  • The plants are low maintenance.

5.    Old fashioned Caladiums/ Ferns:

  • It is a summer bulb that should be planted when the danger of frost is over and the soil temperature has reached 65 Fahrenheit.
  • Easy to plant and are beautiful as a ground cover or border, or in pots, hanging baskets and planters on your deck and inside your home.


Drought-tolerant plants can take low rainfall and neglect from gardeners and still bounce back to perform beautifully. When mixing potting soil in containers or preparing to plant in a flowerbed, mixing in a water-retentative polymer helps to take what moisture a plant receives and stretch it out.  The polymer absorbs the water and then as the plant needs it, it will draw the water out of the polymer and use it. 

1.    Chrysocephalum Yellow- Flambe-Strawflower:

  • Deadheading not necessary for continuous bloom. Plants will "bury their dead" (new flowers will quickly cover old flowers) so no deadheading necessary.
  • Heat tolerant
  • Drought tolerant

2.    Lantana Tiddly Winks Yellow:

  • Widely cultivated for their flowers in tropical and subtropical environments and (as an annual plant) in temperate climates.
  • Known as "ham and eggs" in Gulf Coast

3.    Phlox Intensia Neon Pink:

  • Holds up during the heat of summer. It can also handle a light frost so it will be one of the last blooms to fade in your fall garden.
  • Two colors that are really appealing are the Intensia Cabernet, a deep magenta, and Intensia Neon Pink, which is hot pink.
  • Also good for sun

4.    Euphorbia Diamond Frost:

  • Very delicate looking
  • Heat- and drought-tolerant Diamond Frost blooms constantly throughout the summer and into fall.

5.    Scaevola Whirlwind White

  • Whirlwind White has long trailing branches ideal for containers and hanging baskets.
  • The bright white flowers are clustered together on the stems to heighten their visual appeal.

Critter Resistant

We'll mostly stick to deer as far as critters go, but many gardeners also face the destruction from rabbits, neighbors' cats and squirrels. Try using a commercial product that's safe for pets and the environment.  These are normally made chock-full of pepper products, namely capsaicin, so you might want to use rubber gloves when handling it and you will need to reapply after a rain but dang if these don't seem to detour many pests from robbing your garden of good things to eat and look at.

1.    Cleome Senorita Rosalita:

  • The blooms explode out of the top of the stem in a beautiful burst of color.
  • The stalks are also less thorny or sticky and have a more compact form with a strong upright habit which means less staking.

2.    Gold Edge Thyme:

  • Easy to grow.
  • Thyme should be trimmed periodically and not overwatered. This keeps them tidy, fresh and healthy.
  • Cut them while they are actively growing and soon the scars will be completely hidden by new greenery.

3.    Lamb's Ear:

  • Best in full sun and well drained soil.
  • Adds texture and color to the perennial garden.

4.    Lavender:

  • Part of the mint family.
  • It is occasionally found growing wild, as garden escapees, well beyond their natural range.

5.    Plectranthus - Cuban Oregano:

  • This is not a true oregano, but is used in place of oregano in Carribbean cuisines.
  • It is fleshy, grey/green fuzzy leaves on a stocky trunk.
  • Most gringos grow this in a pot as an ornamental.
  • It is a very unusual and fragrant plant.

P. Allen Smith is the CEO of Hortus Ltd., a media production company responsible for two nationally syndicated half hour television programs, numerous magazine columns, a popular website, a best-selling series of garden-design-lifestyle books, lecture series, and news reports which air on stations around the country as well as on The Weather Channel.  He is also the principle in P. Allen Smith and Associates, a landscape design firm.