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Planting for Full Sun: Heat & Drought-Tolerant Plants for Iowa

Maintaining gardens during Iowa's hot, dry summers can be daunting; thankfully, there are a variety of drought-tolerant plants that can help you create a vibrant and resilient garden, even in the most challenging conditions! This guide will introduce you to some of the best plants for Bettendorf's hot summers, providing practical tips and recommendations to ensure your garden not only survives but thrives this summer.

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Understanding Heat & Drought-Tolerant Plants

Iowa gardeners often face challenges such as prolonged periods of drought, intense heat, and depleted soil conditions, so selecting plants that are naturally adapted to these conditions is a surefire way to create a sustainable and low-maintenance garden. Heat and drought-tolerant plants can withstand high temperatures and require minimal water, making them essential additions to Iowan gardens. Incorporating these plants into your garden design can significantly reduce water consumption and increase your garden's resilience. 


Plant Selection and Care Tips

Choosing the right flowers is crucial for creating a super sun garden. Here are some hardy, sun-loving plants for hot climates that are perfect for Iowa's full sun and hot, dry summers:

Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus): This plant is known for its balloon-like buds that open into star-shaped flowers. It thrives in well-draining soil and full sun, requiring minimal watering once established.

Calamint (Calamintha nepeta): Calamint is a hardy perennial with mint-scented leaves and small, tubular flowers. It is deer-resistant and an absolute magnet for bees. It also prefers full sun and well-draining soil, making it ideal for hot, dry areas.


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Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia): With its silvery foliage and tall, purple spiky flowers, Russian sage is a standout in any garden. It's extremely drought-tolerant, flourishes in full sun, and is also deer-resistant!

Windflower (Anemone): Windflowers produce delicate, poppy-like blooms and are remarkably resilient. They prefer full sun to partial shade and well-draining soil.

Goldenrod (Solidago): Goldenrod is a tough plant that can handle drought and poor soil. Known for its bright yellow flowers, it's perfect for adding a splash of color to your garden.

Showy Stonecrop (Sedum) (Hylotelephium spectabile): This succulent-like plant has thick leaves and clusters of star-shaped flowers. It's exceptionally drought-tolerant and thrives in full sun blooming into the fall..

New York Aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii): Asters provide late-season color with their vibrant blooms. They are also incredibly hardy, drought-tolerant, and prefer full sun.


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Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): Yarrow is a versatile perennial with fern-like leaves and clusters of tiny flowers. It's very drought-tolerant and grows well in full sun.

Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.): Coreopsis, or tickseed, produces bright, daisy-like flowers. It's a low-maintenance plant that thrives in hot, dry conditions.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea): This native wildflower is known for its large, cone-shaped flowers. It's extremely drought-tolerant and perfect for full sun. Great pollinator plant for butterflies and winter seed-source for birds! 

To ensure the success of these plants in your garden, consider the following growing and maintenance tips:


  • Planting: Choose a location with full sun and well-draining soil, amending the soil with compost as needed to improve drainage and fertility.


  • Watering: Water your plants deeply and infrequently to encourage deep root growth and mulch around their bases to retain moisture and reduce soil temperature.


  • Maintenance: Fertilize sparingly, as too much fertilizer can reduce drought tolerance, and prune dead or damaged foliage regularly to promote new growth. We recommend and top-dressing of Espoma FlowerTone every spring and BioTone plant starter at planting. 


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Designing Your Super Sun Garden

Designing a garden that thrives in hot, dry conditions requires careful planning. Here are some tips for creating a drought-resistant garden this summer:


  • Sunlight Exposure: Choose a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily to ensure your sun-loving plants get the light they need to thrive.


  • Soil Type: Ensure your soil is well-draining. If it's heavy with clay, consider amending it with compost and spreading mulch to protect the soil from the sun's rays.


  • Water Availability: Group plants with similar water needs together to make watering more efficient. We also recommend installing a drip irrigation system to help you further conserve water.


  • Companion Planting: Combine plants that complement each other's growth habits and water requirements. For example, pair taller plants with shorter groundcovers to create a layered effect.


  • Layout Arrangements: Plan your garden layout to maximize space and visual appeal, using a mix of textures and colors to create interest and ensure year-round beauty.


  • Experimentation: Don't be afraid to get creative with different plant combinations. Gardening is an ongoing process, so let your imagination run wild and experiment with your garden's layout. Who knows: you might just stumble upon some surprising—and stunning—results!

Incorporating heat and drought-tolerant plants into your garden is the key to success in Iowa's challenging climate. These plants reduce water consumption and increase resilience, ensuring your garden remains vibrant during even the hottest months. By selecting the right plants and following our expert tips, you can create a super sun garden that stands out in Bettendorf and across the Quad Cities! 

If you're ready to transform your garden, start exploring the best plants for Bettendorf's hot summers right here at Wallace's. We're packed with the perfect plants, tools, and accessories you'll need to get your garden growing greener any time of the year. Happy gardening!

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