There is a saying among gardeners in our area: if you can garden in Oklahoma, you can garden anywhere.

Oklahoma conditions are some of the most challenging in the country for having a successful garden and beautiful landscape. Our harsh weather conditions and diverse soil composition make it difficult to choose which plants will work best in our landscape. However, you can find help through the Oklahoma Proven program.

Oklahoma Proven is a plant evaluation and marketing program coordinated by the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Oklahoma State University. The goal of the program is to test and select plants that tolerate the varied and difficult environmental conditions found throughout Oklahoma. Using well-adapted plants should lead you to greater gardening success and more environmentally-friendly gardens.

Each year horticulturists and landscape professionals choose a tree, shrub, perennial and annual that are recommended to bring you success in your garden. The program was started in 1999, and you can find each year’s selections back to the first year at

So which plants do best in our hot Oklahoma sun?

One of the best annual flowers is the petunia, and there is none better or more beautiful than the Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum®, Petunia. Selected as the 2018 annual, Supertunia Vista Bubblegum is a vigorous petunia that requires very little care once established.

Unlike some others, Vista Bubblegum is a self-deadheading variety that blooms continuously until the first killing frosts. With its bright bubblegum pink flowers, Vista Bubblegum is a mounding, trailing form 18-24 inches high and just as wide that looks spectacular spilling over the edge of a container or retaining wall or spreading out in a flower bed.

For the most vigorous plants, fertilize them with a slow release fertilizer at planting and follow up throughout the summer with a water-soluble fertilizer applied when watering. Even though no dead-heading is needed, Vista Bubblegum responds well to a light trimming in early July.

If you love the bright yellow color of summer, then choose the Giant Coneflower, Rudbeckia maxima, for your landscape. Native to Oklahoma, it is tolerant of moist soils and is quite drought tolerant once established.

Giant coneflower has silvery-blue foliage, and flowers have bright yellow ray flowers that dangle from a large, upright, dark brown cone on stems that reach 5-6 feet high. Giant coneflower blooms in early summer, but deadheading the spent blossoms will encourage another flush of blooms in late summer.

For best effect, plant these in masses in mixed borders, meadows, native gardens and open woods. An added benefit to this coneflower is that it attracts butterflies and later in the summer, finches and birds; it is a perennial, so will return each year to bring beauty to your garden.

Some of us want to have a vine on a trellis in our landscape, and if that is your preference, then the Crossvine is the plant for you. Bignonia capreolata is a true beauty, especially in the spring when ‘Tangerine Beauty’ is covered in orange, trumpet-shaped flowers.

This semi-evergreen vine can climb by twining its branches around a structure, or can use its adhesive tendrils to cling to a wall, easily reaching heights of 30’ or more. As temperatures cool in the fall, the leaves have a purple cast and are evergreen during a mild winter or in a protected spot. Beauty is not the only reason for using Crossvine; it is also a tough plant, tolerant of heat and drought once established.

There are many more plants well-suited to the summer sun; Blanket flower (gaillardia) produces lovely red and yellow flowers that bloom all summer and attract butterflies, and is deer resistant. Perennial salvia can really take the heat, are deer resistant and come in a wide variety of colors. Other perennials to try are coreopsis, varieties of sedum, purple coneflowers and black-eyed Susan — all tolerate heat and sun.

You can find more examples at your local nursery or on the Oklahoma Proven website,

If you have shade in your yard, do not worry. Next week we will look at Oklahoma Proven plants that do well in the shade. Until then, remember that although Oklahoma certainly offers challenges to the gardener, there are plenty of options for plants that will make your landscape beautiful.


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