Shouldn’t the summer garden announce the fact that it’s summer? Aren’t whites and blues false advertising? How about a pop of color that announces it is hot outside and we love it? Without a doubt, orange flowers are just the ticket to enliven the summer scene. There are some great tough plants out there for summer blooms that aren’t afraid to show their true colors in shades of this vibrant secondary color. Here are a few excellent herbaceous plants with orange blooms to start with.
This lily is a star with orange blooms on 6-foot-tall stems
Double-flowered tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium ‘Flore Pleno’, Zones 4–9) is tall and tough, and when it comes to orange it’s sensational. At 4 to 6 feet tall, it can remarkably stand up on its own “two legs” (no staking needed)—unlike many other lilies. This perennial bulb likes full sun and rich, well-drained soil. The bright orange flowers with the lovely freckles are produced in late June and into July in our part of the country. And if you just can’t get enough, you can easily spread this lily far and wide from the abundant bulblets that form along its stems.
A striking lantana that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds
If you’re looking for a powerhouse of color, look no further than ‘Dallas Red’ lantana (Lantana ‘Dallas Red’, Zones 8–11; not pictured). This selection grows to 3 feet tall and 4 feet wide with bright orange flowers that darken to nearly red all summer long. It is popular among butterflies, hummingbirds, and all gardeners who encounter it. ‘Dallas Red’ is happiest in full sun and fertile, moist, well-drained soil, and it is an excellent choice for containers as well as mixed borders.
Don’t overlook orange daylily for mass impact in drought and standing-water conditions
Often overlooked, old-fashioned double-flowering orange daylily (Hemerocallis fulva, Zones 3–9) is a stellar addition to the orange-blooming lineup. Sometimes called “ditch lilies” (because they can be found growing along roadsides), this species is truly beautiful and striking at 24 to 30 inches tall and wide. The orange with fully double flowers makes a great mass of blooms over several weeks in midsummer. This daylily is tough enough to tolerate drought and standing water in full sun to partial shade.
Butterfly weed is an orange-flowering delight for butterflies and gardeners alike
Another butterfly favorite, butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa, Zones 3–9) should never be left out of a summer color planting—just ask the pollinators. Blooming in late spring into the summer, it can often be encouraged to produce more orange blooms with deadheading or if the monarch butterfly larvae eat it to the ground. Plants grow up to 3 feet tall and wide and do best in full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. Butterfly weed is also tolerant of dry conditions.
Liven up the back of the border with the summer-long floral show of Mexican sunflower
Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia, annual) thrives in hot weather and blooms prolifically once the temperatures warm up and into fall. Its brilliant orange sunflowers are abundant on stems that can reach 3 to 6 feet tall—making this plant an excellent choice for the middle or back of the border. Plants do best in full sun and well-drained soil. The eye-catching flowers are also a pollinator magnet.
You’re sure to be wowed by blackberry lily’s freckled summer blooms
Small but mighty, blackberry lily (Iris domestica, Zones 5–10) makes up for its smaller size by number. The 2-inch flowers sit at the top of tall thin stems in groups in midsummer. The orange flowers have six gently freckled petals. Although not orange, the seed heads are pretty interesting too. Plants grow to 2 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide, and when in bloom the flower stems reach up to 4 feet tall. Place blackberry lily in full sun and well-drained soil for the best performance.
These orange bloomers are tough. They thrive in our hot, often too wet but sometimes too dry, humid, and buggy Southern climate, flowering when many other plants are taking a break. They keep pollinators happy and give gardeners that pop of color the summer needs.
—Shelley and Jason Powell own and manage Petals from the Past, a garden center in Jemison, Alabama.