Okay. What was I thinking? Why did I even try a plant that I admired in ICELAND last summer? Calendulas, commonly called pot marigolds, do not like South Carolina’s July heat. And I am the one who agonizes over plants for sale at nurseries that clearly will not grow down here. I want to stand (albeit masked and socially distanced) in front of the zone 7 plants and stop people from buying it by yelling “Thou Shalt Not Kill!” because they will be sending those poor plants to their death.
I do like to push the envelope, but one thing you must consider as a gardener down here is the heat tolerance of a plant as well as its cold hardiness. It is easier to throw a sheet over a plant in the winter when there is a frost than it is to fit it out with its own personal air conditioning unit in the summer. Fortunately, growers are becoming more aware of heat tolerance and putting it on labels, especially with Global Warming. Sorry if I offend anyone, but as a gardener, I see the warming trend up close and personal. Pollen season in February? That is a dead giveaway. I am careful to make certain that plants can tolerate zone 9 conditions although we are "supposed" to be a zone 8B.
Right now due to the heat, I am gardening in the morning and one hour is about my limit. My plants look as wilted as I am and since the nights are so warm they do not have a chance to recover. I hate to water nearly every day, but sometimes it is necessary – just for my perennial garden though, the lawn can tough it out with one inch per week which is what is recommended for Southern turfgrass.
So what to do with your perennials that are beginning to look scruffy or tatty (as the Brits say)? When my plants begin to get leggy, stop blooming abundantly, and the leaves lose their freshness, I cut them back. Of course, I feel bad doing it. I can imagine the plants saying “Mom, why are you doing that to us?” But…it is for their own good. Just like a tidy hair cut, they look better and they will feel better. Some will start to regrow right away and others will wait until cooler weather
It would be ideal if we could buy our plants in the autumn and that is recommended for climates with temperate winters and hot summers. Plants would then have a chance to get growing and develop their roots in milder temps. Alas, the nursery industry is not tuned into our unique climate. There is also a psychological reason why nurseries don’t carry stock in the fall. Everyone gets jazzed up to plant things in the spring and in the fall, they are ready to stop weeding and temporarily take a break from their garden. When I lived up north, I have to admit that I was ready for that first frost to clean up the Hosta leaves. Putting the garden to bed was strangely satisfying.
So…. Get out there early, hydrate, wear sunblock, and do all those good things. And do not listen to your plants when they whine and whinge while you trim them back. Mother knows best.