There are lots of challenging conditions in landscaping and gardening. One of the most challenging is extreme heat. This condition can be created in areas surrounded by concrete and asphalt or buildings reflecting heat off their south or west sides. This condition is hard to mitigate. Trees can sometimes be planted as a long-term solution, and irrigation can be installed in some situations. Mulch is always helpful in reducing evaporation, but keep in mind that rock is hotter than wood mulch and may add to the problem. The best solution is often to install plants that are adapted to these conditions.
Plants that like hot areas can be divided into two groups, those that need lots of water and those that don’t. Plants that can handle the heat with irrigation include boxwoods, some junipers, Rose of Sharon’s, crape myrtles, and even spireas for shrubs. Irises, black-eyes Susans, garden phlox, daylilies, and salvia are good perennial choices. Dwarf crabapples will probably be the best trees for these spaces.
If there is no irrigation because a sidewalk or drive makes it impossible, there are still some plants that will thrive. All new plants need to be watered if there isn’t sufficient rainfall, but once established, the following list of plants will take care of themselves.
Groundcovers such as sedums and creeping thyme grow well here. Perennials such as catmint, coreopsis, Russian Sage, Agastache, Goldenrod, and Echinacea also thrive in hot, dry areas. Grasses are native to our area and need very little care except for a fall cleanup in conditions such as these. Shrubs include yuccas, many of which are more attractive than the old-fashioned Adam’s needle, some junipers, and sumac varieties such as Tiger Eye. Small trees include Staghorn Sumac. These will all thrive in areas with high heat and very little irrigation after their first year. This list is not complete, and there are other plants that work here.