July flowers to plant: best plants for July
Discover some of the best July flowers and plants including a graceful daylily and a dwarf, claret sunflower. Photographs Jason Ingram
Head gardener at West Dean Gardens Tom Brown and nurseryman Keith Wiley pick the best flowers for July, including a lily and echinacea. Here's what to plant to make sure your garden is looking colourful in July, along with tips on how to care for each plant. Why not also read our piece on the best summer flowers for even more inspiration?
The best flowers for the month of July
Daylilies have an army of devotees, and in conjunction with hostas, even have a society of their own (sometimes affectionately referred to as the Hems and Hos). They are very reliable summer flowering perennials, but I wonder if in part, their popularity is because they will readily produce new flower forms, patterns and colours, when raised from seed. Interesting and lovely as these are, I prefer the simplicity, grace and charm of some of the older cultivars, such as ‘Ariadne’, which holds its scented flowers well above the foliage. Uncommon but worth searching for. Height 1m in flower. Origin Garden origin (species east Asia). Conditions Well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H5, USDA 3a-9b†. Season of interest Summer.
As a general rule, the plants I like the most are those that exhibit a symmetry and beauty through the whole of their growing season. A beautiful flower is simply not enough, so I’m afraid a hybrid tea rose just doesn’t cut it for me. But with this plant I’m happy to bend the rules slightly. Because despite the rather ordinary basal foliage – which you can’t see in his image – this is a plant that has grace and form in spades. The flat heads of small flowers are an insect magnet with their colour accentuated in the upper flower stems. In flower, it is slightly reminiscent of a yellow Verbena bonariensis. Height 1-1.5m. Origin Eastern Asia. Conditions Well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H6, USDA 5a-8b. Season of interest Summer.
Lilium 'Red Velvet'
There are any number of lilies I would have loved to have included this month, but in the end that tricky decision was made for me when this one ended up looking especially lovely on the day the photographs were taken. It is an elegant hybrid Asiatic lily that has retained some of the charm of lily species, with up to
20 swept-back, Turk’s cap flowers of dark, rich red on each stem. It is sadly scentless but it is capable of growing up to 2m high when happy. Fabulous in a spot where the flowers can be backlit by sunlight. It prefers more alkaline conditions, so is less tall on my acidic soil. Height 1-2m. Origin Garden origin (species east Asia). Conditions Well-drained, preferably alkaline, soil; part shade. Hardiness RHS H6, USDA 3a-8b. Season of interest Summer.
Crocosmia masoniorum 'Rowallane yellow'
Of the many crocosmias I grow, this is the one I would be most lost without. I am clearly not alone in my affection for this plant as this is also one of the plants we are most asked about by visitors to our garden. Highly floriferous, it is both graceful and elegant in flower – which it does for a very long time – and also offers a good balance between leaf and flower. These are all attributes not always associated with many of the red cultivars with a similar flower shape and habit. Easy to grow it is equally as easy on the eye. AGM. Height 1.2m. Origin Garden origin (species from South Africa). Conditions Well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H4, USDA 5a-9b. Season of interest Summer.
Hoheria 'Glory of Amlwch'
Hoherias are small, flowering trees that make wonderful focal points among the massed ranks of flowering perennials that dominate our gardens at this time of year. For many years, they were considered slightly tender, but, given a sunny, well-drained spot they seem remarkably resilient. As they are also quick growing, I’ve used them as nurse trees, to protect slower growing plants beneath, and even as windbreaks. This cultivar makes a gently arching rounded small tree reliably covering itself in flowers. Height 5-6m. Origin Garden origin (species from New Zealand). Conditions Most well-drained soils; full sun to part shade.
Hardiness RHS H4, USDA 7a-10b. Season of interest Summer.
Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’
Although origanums are closely related to the herb marjoram, this is a purely ornamental low-growing plant for a sunny, well-drained site. The flowerheads strongly resemble miniature hop flowers and the floral bracts, which turn pink, last for months in the summer, long after the actual flowers have faded. Both of its parents are native to the Mediterranean area so it is not a fan of wet conditions, especially during its winter dormancy. Cold hardy and happy in the open garden in drier areas, it is also content to grow in containers in wetter climates. AGM. Height 15-20cm. Origin Garden origin (species from Mediterranean). Conditions Well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H4, USDA 6a-9b. Season of interest All summer.
Eucryphia Lucida 'Ballerina'
Eucryphia is another genus of useful summer-flowering small trees, nearly all with white flowers. Eucryphia lucida is normally an upright small tree with white flowers, in its native Tasmania, but two pink-flowered forms were found growing wild there by Ken Gillanders, who named them ‘Pink Cloud’ and ‘Ballerina’. I prefer the latter, which covers itself in scented flowers, prettily picotee-edged in pink, for most of the summer. Much admired here, its upright habit, small evergreen foliage and overall dimensions make it suitable for gardens of almost any size. AGM. Height 3-4m. Origin Tasmania. Conditions Well-drained soil; full sun to part shade. Hardiness RHS H4, USDA 7a-10b. Season of interest All summer.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was very sceptical when I heard that the RHS was trialling new Echinacea as I’d always dismissed the coloured cultivars as novelty and lacking in perenniality. How wrong I was. Five years after the trial began, many have not only survived but thrived at RHS Wisley, putting paid to my concerns about their garden worthiness. This one is particularly tasteful, delivering buttermilk flowers during July and high summer, which fade to leave a typical conehead as added interest. Try mixing with purple sedums and bronze grasses. Height 50cm-1m. Origin Garden origin (species from Eastern and Central North America). Conditions Best performance in reasonably deep soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H5, USDA 3a-8b. Season of interest June to August.
Helianthus annuus ‘Ms Mars’
Throughout the summer of 2015 I trialled more than 100 different forms of sunflower and became totally enamoured with the dwarf cultivars. These delivered stems that were long enough for cutting but which required no staking. One that stood out from the crowd was ‘Ms Mars’. Its distinct, pink and claret-coloured flowers are produced profusely on knee-high plants. Like all sunflowers, they give a much-needed boost of colour to our gardens when the heat of July and summer has drawn some of the vim and vigour out of our displays. Height 50cm-1m. Origin Garden origin (species from USA and Central America). Conditions Moist but well-drained soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H4, USDA 2a-11. Season of interest July to September.
Among the plethora of penstemons currently at our disposal, this classic cultivar is one that has stood the test of time, and rightly so. Tubular, dark-purple flowers appear throughout July and the summer and into the autumn and the intensity of the flowers contrast well with vibrant reds, such as Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ or Achillea millefolium ‘Red Velvet’. If your garden is in something of a cold spot, strike semi-ripe wood cuttings and overwinter in a frost-free place to ensure successive garden performance for years to come. AGM. Height 50cm-1m. Origin Garden origin (species from America and Mexico). Conditions Fertile, free-draining soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H3, USDA 6a-9b. Season of interest Summer until first frosts.
Nigella papillosa ‘Delft Blue’
Once you’ve tried growing Nigella papillosa cultivars you may not want to return to the more familiar Nigella damascena. The beauty of the papillosa nigellas plant lies both in their exaggerated flowers and their subsequent seedheads, which are simply stunning in their own right and look great in borders. The flowers are unusual with bicoloured blooms of white and deep blue on sturdy stems. Nigellas can be equally successful directly sown into a border or started off in modules and then planted out when the plants are large enough. Height 50cm. Origin Garden origin (species from Spain and North Africa). Conditions Reasonable soil; full sun. Hardiness RHS H3, USDA 2a-11. Season of interest June, July until August from a spring sowing.
Surely this plant is due a garden revival? It baffles me why people currently don’t grow it more often. Limonium is very tolerant of drier conditions and exposed sites, for those of us who struggle with such conditions. I first encountered sea lavender, many years ago, as a cut flower, and saw its potential to associate with a number of other garden plants. I now use it among roses at the front of the border throughout July, where its purple, firework-like flowers shroud the roses’ bare bases. As its blooms fade, they leave a graceful seedhead, which does not need to be hastily tidied away. Height 50cm-1m. Origin Asia, southeast and central Europe. Conditions Free-draining soil, tolerant of chalk in sun or partial shade. Hardiness RHS H7, USDA 3a-9b. Season of interest July and August.
Waterlily types of dahlia make great subjects for cutting and garden display in July: their long stems provide continuous blooms from summer right through to the first frosts. ‘Gwyneth’ provides a symphony of burnt orange, bronze and yellow tones in its flower, which I find really appealing. I would recommend cutting stems to a strong pair of buds just as they are freshly opening, a technique known as live-heading, to stay on top of your dahlias. This way you’ll improve the flowering performance, ensuring plenty of stems for cutting – and a well-presented garden plant as a result. Height 1.5m. Origin Garden origin (species from Mexico and Central America). Conditions Fertile, well-drained soil; sun. Hardiness RHS H3, USDA 7a-10b. Season of interest July until first frosts.
Originally bred for the Dutch cut flower trade, this is an excellent addition to a cutting garden or border. I adore the rich purple flowers that can work with most colours throughout July and the summer, offering a sultry foil to other plants. Alstroemerias are incredibly generous flowerers. To ensure rapid regrowth, pull the stems rather than cut them to stimulate growth. Alstroemerias will flower from early summer until the frosts but need a little protection with a bark mulch for their first winter. It’s well worth seeking out this cultivar – I’ve grown it and been happy with it for years. Height 1m. Origin Garden origin (species from South America). Conditions Organically rich, free-draining soil; sun. Hardiness RHS H4, USDA 5a-9b. Season of interest Early summer until first frosts.
Keith is a proponent of the ‘new naturalism’ movement in gardening and runs Wildside in Devon. He has written several books and lectures on both sides of the Atlantic.
Jason Ingram is an award winning garden photographer based in Bristol, UK. He travels widely shooting for magazines, book publishers and advertising agencies. He also works with top international garden designers and Landscape Architects on private projects worldwide.