The direction of a garden determines how much light plants will receive, with south-facing gardens having the most. The key to planting a successful south-facing garden is to choose plant varieties that will thrive in heat and dry conditions. Luckily, many plants prefer these conditions and will reward you with a healthy, long-lasting summer garden.
Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) is a sun-loving, fast-growing vine perfect for south-facing walls and fences. It starts easily from seed outdoors once temperatures reach a constant 80-degrees, but it can also be started indoors early for more prolific growth. Once planted in the ground passion flower can grow large quickly, but since they have a small root system it is possible to restrict their growth in a pot or hanging basket. They prefer well-drained soil with sand or gravel, but any garden soil that drains quickly is tolerable. The roots of passion flower rot quickly if kept wet and cold for too long, so they are difficult to overwinter in most places. Physically, passion flower is a handsome vine with exotic-looking flowers, often with ten large petals and a crown of thin, radiating smaller petals, often in a contrasting color.
Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundiflora) is a warm season annual plant native to Mexico and Central America. They have a robust growth habit and will quickly grow into large bushes up to six-feet in height, with lobed 3-inch long leaves and an abundance of simple, zinnia-shaped flowers with a vivid orange coloring. Mexican sunflower can bloom twice in one year, with the first blush coming in June and a second generation arriving just before the first frost. It is best propagated by seed in late spring after all danger of frost has passed, along a south-facing wall in well-draining soil. It prefers full, constant sun and, although drought tolerant, it prefers to be watered deeply once or twice a week.
Native to the Mediterranean, lavender is one of the best plants to grow in a south-facing garden. Lavender comes in many varieties, but they universally love heat, poor soil and dry conditions once established. Popular mainly for their fragrant flowers, lavender foliage is also a handsome addition to a sunny garden for its silvery leaves and upright habit. Two of the best varieties are French lavender (Lavandula stoechas) and Spanish lavender (Lavandula toechas subsp. pedunculata), which are both well-suited to the constant sunlight and dry conditions characteristic of a south-facing garden.
Sun Loving Herbs
Although herbs are generally relegated to the vegetable patch, many types are attractive enough to hold their own in a south-facing flower garden. Rosemary, thyme and sage are three excellent choices for ornamental growth for their diverse range of looks, as well as their hardiness. Rosemary is a widely grown herb with bluish-green leaves and dainty blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean. Cold hardy and drought tolerant, rosemary is a reliable plant in the hot conditions of a south-facing garden, where it will maintain its handsome appearance even under the hottest conditions. Thyme comes in both creeping and upright varieties, with small dark-green leaves and tiny flowers, making it a good addition along walkways and between stepping stones. Sage is a diverse group of plants, some grown for purely ornamental purposes with brightly-colored flowers and others bred with fragrance and flashy foliage the main concern. It truly thrives in the sun and overwinters nicely in south-facing gardens.
- "The Sunny Border: Sun-Loving Perennials for Season-Long Color"; C.Colston Burrell; 2002
- "Great Natives for Tough Places"; Niall Dunne; 2009
- Photo Credit herb garden image by Steve Lovegrove from Fotolia.com passion flower image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com lavender image by Alistair Dick from Fotolia.com