Four Great Summer Whites

The sweet scent of Southern Magnolia's large white flowers highlights many metro gardens in summer

The sweet scent of Southern magnolia’s large white flowers highlights many metro gardens in summer.

As a shrub Gardenia or cape jasmine is hard to beat for flowering and strong fragrance

As a shrub, gardenia or cape jasmine is hard to beat for flowering and strong fragrance.

White selection of Garden phlox can last for weeks in the heat of summer.

White selection of garden phlox can last for weeks in the heat of summer.

A new addition to my garden this year is white bee balm

A new addition to my garden this year is white bee balm.

White bee balm in my garden produce a prolific flower display

White bee balm in my garden produces a prolific flower display.

How can summer go by without writing about Southern magnolia? Their beautiful white flowers surrounded by glossy deep green leaves are an excellent addition to most landscapes. There are all sizes and shapes of these trees, so I suggest you buy a named selection that fits the size and shape you want. Also, they can be very successful in containers. “The browner the back of the leaves, the more cold hardy they are,” generally holds true in the selections. I have the selection “Little Gem” in my yard, and it is at least 20 feet tall and rather slender. It is about 10 feet wide, and it is 20 years old planted as a 6 foot tree. Remember the term “little” or “nana” means smaller than the parent.
While there are many selections of gardenia, I sill like the old fashioned one best. While they do fine here, they get big, but respond well to pruning after flowering. There are a number of types from a prostrate one, to upright ones, to those with single blooms, and those with tiny double blooms (which produce huge quantities of flowers). The downfall to these plants is they are subject to white flies and like the right soil (if you do not want yellow leaves).
I started several years ago with a single container of white garden phlox, and every year I am more impressed with their tolerance to the heat and their ability to keep on blooming in the heat of summer. Once the main flower head (like the one above) finishes blooming, side shoots put up more blooms, and I have had these bloom this way for several months.
New to my garden in the last two years is white bee balm. All I can say is wow. They are very easy to grow in decent soil and good drainage, and from the photos above you can see the plants are profuse, and the ones shown have been in bloom for two weeks and still look fresh.
Now there is one other good thing about all four of these fine white summer flowering plants, they can be added to the garden now. All of these transplant from containers easily, and if planted in bud can give your garden a nice touch of white this summer. All can be planted in sun or light shade.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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