July can be a difficult time to garden due to the hot weather. Don’t let that stop you from adding colorful flowers, delicious vegetables and herbs, or even shade shrubs to your garden beds. With the proper preparation and plenty of watering, you can take advantage of the summer heat and have a garden full of vibrant flowers, delicious vegetables, and hardy herbs in no time.
One advantage to planting in July is the opportunity to find bargains on perennials, shrubs and trees at the garden center as retailers try to reduce inventory (plants are outgrowing their pots and keeping things watered becomes a challenge). Anyone who wants to take advantage of the deals just needs to know that watering will be critical to get plants established and during dry spells – especially larger plants like shrubs and trees.
Annual Flowers to Plant in July
You can add instant color to your garden with flowering annuals. Planting annuals in July is no problem as long as you choose varieties of plants that naturally cope well with the heat. Potted flowering annuals or hanging plants are the perfect way to add spot color to a deck, patio, or even in a border planting.
These heat-tolerant annuals come in a variety of colors with bloom times from summer through to autumn. Portulaca are easy to grow and will add some vibrant hues to your flower bed.
Another versatile annual with a long blooming season, perfect for adding pops of color throughout the summer months. Petunias thrive in pots or hanging baskets.
Native to tropical regions, Lantana come in many colors and blends and the clusters of tiny blooms attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Lantana foliage has an interesting texture, and the plants are drought tolerant. Look for upright or trailing varieties depending on your needs.
Calendula (English Marigold)
These bright and beautiful flowers will bring an abundance of sunny blooms to your outdoor space from summer into fall. As an added bonus, calendula easily self-seeds to provide you with extra plants which can be enjoyed or shared with friends and family.
Cleome is an excellent choice for introducing texture and height to your outdoor space. With spidery poufs of flower heads that top tall stems, cleome brings a pleasant scent and soft color to gardens and large containers. This heat-tolerant bloomer will flower for months on end, providing a season-long buffet for hummingbirds.
Perennial Flowers to Plant in July
Perennials are reliable, low maintenance, and bring variety to your outdoor spaces as different plants come into and out of bloom. Keep in mind that perennial plants require some time to get established so flowering may be delayed or minimal following planting. You can expect more flowers in seasons to come.
Shade-loving perennial plants can be planted just about any time since plants in the shade aren’t stressed by direct sun. Of course, you’ll still want to monitor them for water as they could still be impacted by heat and drought conditions. The following perennial flowers thrive in full sun and are drought-tolerant once well-established.
Sedum (Sedum species)
Sedum are available in an incredible range of species and varieties with different growth habits, foliage textures, and bloom colors. All are drought tolerant and the flowers appeal to butterflies, bees, and other beneficial pollinating insects. Look for low, spreading varieties to use for edging or trailing through a rock garden or growing in pots. Taller varieties are perfect for sunny flower gardens or using multiple plants to create a border along a walk, fence, or the foundation of a house.
Coreopsis (Coreopsis species)
There are a number of popular Coreopsis species and, depending on your needs, you’ll find options for a low spreading plant to use in the foreground or edging a border to clumping species that produce tall flowers stems that can stand out in a mixed flower garden. The vibrant color is perfect for mixing with bright red, pink, and orange annuals to create a bold summer display with maximum color impact.
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias species)
A must-have plant for anyone looking to support pollinators. Butterfly weed attracts butterflies, bees, and an array of other beneficial insects. Once established, butterfly weed displays good drought tolerance. The orange flower clusters bloom over a long season from late summer into fall.
Blanket Flower (Gaillardia species)
During their peak bloom season, blanket flower plants are covered with a blanket of blooms. Numerous varieties have been introduced that range in colors from solid red to magical blends of red, orange, and yellow. Gaillardia readily reseeds itself so if you are interested in starting more plants simply avoid deadheading and allow the ball-like seed heads to mature. You can harvest seed for planting or allow it to disperse naturally.
Daylily (Hemerocallis species)
Daylilies are native to Asia and were brought to North America by the early settlers. The common orange daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) is the species first introduced and it is now naturalized throughout the U.S., growing wild along roadways, prairie, and many backyards. Over time literally thousands of colorful varieties have been developed, and more are introduced every year.
Vegetables to Plant in July
July is an ideal time to start seedlings to obtain cool-season vegetables for a fall harvest. Another option is to pick vegetable types that have a quick turnaround. In all cases, Northern gardeners, with short growing seasons, should look for varieties that will mature in the amount of time remaining before fall frosts are predicted.
Cool-Season Vegetables for a Fall Harvest
The warm temperatures of summer are ideal for getting broccoli seeds off to a good start, but you’ll want to time your planting so that development of the broccoli heads and harvesting occur when temperatures are 70°F (21°C) or below.
Start turnips from seed to enjoy a sweet crop in fall. Turnips don’t like extreme heat (it can make the roots woody) and while they like cool temperatures, they don’t like frost. Be sure to time your planting so that the turnips mature before your regions first frost date in the fall.
If you purchase cabbage seedlings and plant them in July, you should get heads forming in early fall that can be harvested before the hard frosts of late autumn set in. July is an especially good time for Northern gardeners to plant cabbage to ensure a harvest before freezing temperatures arrive.
Kale can be started in July, and up to six weeks before your first frost date in fall. Kale thrives in cool temperatures and can typically be harvested into early winter. A touch of frost actually makes kale leaves sweeter.
July is an ideal time to plant cauliflower seedlings for harvest in late fall. Heads can be harvested when they reach 6-8” (15-20cm).
Fast Growing Vegetables for Late Season Planting
There’s plenty of time to enjoy a second harvest of leaf lettuce. Experiment with green and red leaf varieties mixed with some smooth buttercrunch or oak leaf types. Pick leaves as needed through the growing season.
Spinach is easy to grow and super-nutritious. Spinach leaves can be enjoyed at the “baby” leaf stage or allowed to mature. That means you can harvest leaves right up to the point when growth ceases due to freezing weather.
Arugula’s spicy peppery flavor is a great way to add a kick to a basic leafy green salad. Harvest arugula leaves in the “baby” stage for milder flavor.
Peas grow best in temperatures below 80°F (26°C). It’s okay to start pea seeds when the weather is hot, but try to schedule your planting so that the plants will be growing and developing during cooler temperatures. This will result in more vigorous plants with a better harvest. This may mean waiting a few weeks to start seeds if your end-of-summer forecast is exceptionally hot.
Radishes grow best in cooler temperatures between 50-70°F (10-21°C). They have a relatively short growing season, so if you’re having an exceptionally hot July, or you are a Southern gardener, it might be best to start your crop in August.
Best Herbs to Plant in July
There are several hardy perennial herbs that can be planted in the summer heat; they will survive the summer months and provide a steady bounty of herbs through the growing season. They require little input, just occasional watering and pruning to keep them healthy and thriving. As an added bonus, perennial herbs return every season, so there’s no need to replant each year.
Serious herb growers who already have a thriving annual herb garden will find July a great time for your next round of succession planting. This ensures that your garden will be continuously producing fresh herbs all summer long and into the fall months.
This fragrant herb does well in warm temperatures and will add flavor to salads, sauces, and more. Be sure to give basil plenty of sunlight and water, but not too much fertilizer as this can cause a bitter taste.
Chives prefer cooler temperatures but can handle heat if given regular waterings. Chives are a tasty enhancement to many culinary creations, such as potatoes, eggs, soups and salads. The leaves can be snipped off as needed throughout the growing season.
Mint has many varieties that do well during the summer months including spearmint, peppermint, chocolate mint and pineapple mint. Plant mint near walkways or in pots otherwise they may take over your garden beds due to their vigorous growth habit.
Cilantro (also known as Coriander) grows quickly from seed so sow several seeds every few weeks for continual harvests throughout the season (this process is called succession planting). The leaves should be harvested before flowers appear since cilantro turns bitter once flowering begins; alternatively allow some plants go into flower so you can collect coriander seeds which taste similar yet slightly different than cilantro leaves & stems.
Thyme prefers drier soils making it ideal for warmer climates where rainfall isn’t always consistent; just make sure not to let its roots dry out completely between watering sessions. Thyme appreciates some supplemental moisture during dry spells, but soggy conditions can lead to root rot. Enjoy adding this delicious Mediterranean herb on roasted vegetables and meats alike.
Can You Plant Shrubs in July?
July isn’t the best time to put in shrubs for the garden but it’s not out of the question with a little extra TLC (and lots of extra water) through the heat. While trees may not fare well if planted in summer months (better to wait until fall at this point), there are still several shrub options worth considering. When selecting plants, it’s important to consider your local climate; some species may do better in cooler temperatures while others prefer warmer ones. Be sure to select a variety that will thrive in your area.
Shrubs to Plant in July
Frankly, July isn’t considered the best time for planting shrubs. It’s very easy for newly planted shrubs to wither in hot, dry conditions. Keeping new shrubs well-watered is the key to success when planting shrubs in July. Shrubs planted in partial shade will experience less stress than those planted in full sun. Here are a few shrubs that might adapt better than most to the challenges of being planted in July.
Boxwood (Buxus species)
Boxwood is a versatile evergreen shrub and a long-standing favorite for home landscaping. Boxwoods are one of the best selections for creating a hedge and their evergreen foliage provides a refreshing touch of greenery in winter landscapes. Boxwoods are so tolerant of pruning that they are a popular choice for creating whimsical garden topiaries or formal, box hedges.
Holly (Ilex species)
Hollies are another group of evergreen shrubs that are a tried-and-true choice for planting around the foundation of a house, fence, or in a mixed border. Species are available in a variety of foliage shapes and varying heights. There are even variegated varieties for added color and interest. Hollies create a beautiful backdrop for flowering plants or small deciduous shrubs and the evergreen foliage ensures you will still be enjoying greenery through the winter.
Hydrangea (Hydrangea species)
A classic deciduous shrub for home landscapes, hydrangeas are now available in more colors, shapes, and sizes than ever before. Plant several hydrangeas in a row to make a beautiful flowering hedge, or foundation planting. Northern gardeners may want to consider the Hydrangea paniculata species for its exceptional tolerance to cold.
Viburnum (Viburnum species)
There are many species of viburnum shrubs that are popular for landscaping. Each offers a beautiful variation on leaf shape, foliage texture, and flower forms. Several produce fragrant flowers, and most produce small berry-like fruits that provide a nutritious food source for birds.
Rhododendron (Rhododendron species)
The appearance of rhododendron flowers is always a sure sign that spring has arrived! Shrubs planted July will not flower until next season, but that gives them plenty of time to get established and focus energy on root development. Rhododendrons are broad-leaf evergreens, so they provide a welcome touch of green in the winter landscape.
It’s important to prepare the soil before planting shrubs. Add organic matter such as compost or manure to help improve drainage and fertility levels. After you have selected a spot for your new shrub, dig a hole twice the width of its root ball but only slightly deeper than its original depth (the soil will settle naturally over time). Water regularly until your tree or shrub is well established, especially during dry spells. Mulching around the base can help conserve moisture and prevent weeds from growing nearby.
Once planted, be sure to prune out any dead or damaged branches, and this is a good time shape the shrub to encourage a healthy growth pattern. If you are intending to create a hedge, it will be best to give your shrubs a full growing season before doing any aggressive trimming.
Gardening in July can be challenging due to the hot weather, but with the right plant selections it is possible to expand your garden or add some mid-season color. For more July gardening insights check out our Essential Summer Gardening Tips article.