Five hardy plants to beat the summer heat

Living Well | Jane Canaway | Posted on 02 December 2020

Keep your garden lush with these five great heat-tolerant plants for summer in Victoria.

A garden that looks gorgeous in all seasons is a high ideal but, for many of us, simply having a yard that doesn't look fried by mid-summer is a more realistic goal.

Top-dressing garden beds with compost and mulch in spring will help the soil retain moisture during a long hot summer, but choosing the right plants is key, too. 

The trick is to have good garden ‘bones’ that will offer core interest and structure, then decorate around this with seasonal colour – a bit like having a classic suit or little black dress that you can accessorise.

Here are five heat-loving plant ideas that will provide structure in your garden over summer. 

Crepe myrtle plant

Hardy crepe myrtle comes into its own in summer.

Triandra form seed heads

Look for ornamental grasses that are native to your area, such as Australia-wide favourite kangaroo grass. 


Five plants the will keep your garden lush in summer

To create shade

Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)

A small tree will cast enough shade to protect delicate plants, add vertical interest and, if planted on the north or west of your home, help keep your home cool, too. Hardy crepe myrtle (lagerstroemia indica) comes into its own in summer, covered with purple, pink or red papery flowers. By winter the leaves will be gone, revealing smooth marbled bark, and allowing light into your home. New cultivars offer a range of sizes and colours.

  • Size: Shrub to six metres
  • Position: Full sun 
  • Soil: Well drained
  • Care: Water regularly for the first two years.

To fill the mid-levels

White emu bush (Eremophila nivea)

Shrubs of about two metres are useful for screening and provide a bird-friendly backdrop. White emu bush (eremophila nivea) is rare in its native WA but widely available to buy, often as a grafted plant that will cope with any garden soil. Its silky silver-grey foliage contrasts beautifully with its purple flowers in spring and summer and provides year-round texture. Trim back in autumn to keep it compact.

  • Size: Shrub to two metres
  • Position: Full sun
  • Soil: Well drained
  • Care: Tolerates light frosts

For perennial interest

Sedum ‘autumn joy’

Perennial plants – those that die back in winter but re-emerge in spring – are in their element during summer. One that suits a range of garden styles is sedum ‘autumn joy’. From spring onwards it produces massed stems of fleshy silver-green, with large, rounded leaves.

The flower heads start forming at the tips in early summer and the densely packed buds start to open in early autumn, deepening from pale to deep pink. Even after they fade, they form striking shapes, especially in frost-affected areas. They’re a favourite of Dutch garden designer Piet Oudolf for their ability to “decay with dignity”.

  • Size: 60 centimetres
  • Position: Full sun
  • Soil: Well drained
  • Care: Cut back in late winter

As an informal border

Kangaroo grass (Themeda triandra)

As a soft, upright contrast between other shrubs or as an informal border, ornamental grasses are hard to beat. They offer gentle movement on windy days as well as texture, colour and seed heads to feed the birds.

Beware types that can become weedy, and go for a species native to your area, such as the Australia-wide favourite, kangaroo grass (themeda triandra). It has distinctive angular seed heads that ripen over summer and turn a warm, autumnal hue in March-April.

  • Size: 30 centimetres
  • Position: Full sun
  • Soil: Well drained
  • Care: Cut back in late autumn

For groundcovers

Brachyscome daisy

Repeated groundcovers can tie your garden design together. A reliable stalwart is Australia's brachyscome daisy (pictured below), which has many cultivars in shades of pink, purple, and blue – all loved by butterflies. The mounds of ferny foliage are topped with masses of flowers in spring and summer.

  • Size: 10 to 15 centimetres
  • Position: Full sun 
  • Soil: Well drained
  • Care: Trim after flowering to keep compact

Need some help at home?

Need a hand getting your backyard ready for summer? RACV Home Trades and Services can help you find the right tradie for the job.