Some sensible summer month plants for absentee owners

PRACTICAL PLANTING: To give colour and perfume for summer.

THIS week’s column is written especially for the many property owners arriving for a summer in Spain if their penthouse, apartment terrace or villa terraces look bare and uninteresting. We look at what can be purchased to immediately brighten up your living area for the next two months.

The most practical way of looking at plants for absentee owners who only visit for the summer months, and do not have a fully planted garden looked after by a gardener, is to see an investment in colourful plants at the beginning of your stay as the equivalent of buying cut flowers for the next eight to 12 weeks. So focus on buying colourful and perfumed plants that can be given away or allowed to die at the end of the summer.

The following are some practical suggestions based on those that will flower continuously during the time you are in Spain and in some cases add a magic touch of perfume for al fresco cooking and siestas. We have also added in some herbs for their attractive leaf colour, perfumes and in some cases flowers and a useful addition to cooking flavours.

1. Small shrubs in pots:

• Hibiscus

• Fuchsia (semi shade)

• Lantana

• Gardenia

2. Climbing shrubs in pots:

• Dipladenia – Mandevilla

• Bougainvillea – purple

• Jasmine – officinale common white.

• Plumbago.

3. Annuals:

• Petunias

• Busy Lizzies – Impatiens (semi shade)

• Cinerarias Pericallis

• Portulacas

• French marigold – Tagetes

4. Perennials:

• Argyranthemums

• Euryops

• Gazanias

• Geraniums/pelargoniums.

• Carnations.

• Bigonias.

• Verbena

5. Herbs:

• Mint

• Basil

• Curry plant

• Lavender

• Rosemary

• Sage

• Marjoram

• Parsley

• Stevia

Care of Plants:

a. Potting:

Buy pots at least twice the size of the pots in which the plants came from the garden centre and fill with a dampened high quality general potting compost. Tap the bottom of pot to loosen plant, remove and plant in pot to same level. If your intention is to give the plants to a keen gardening friend when you leave you could plant the plants without taking them out of the pots so that the roots would be intact when passing them on and you would still have your terracotta pots to plant up for the next summer. 

b. Position:

Generally all the above will survive in full sun or semi shade with the exception of fuchsias, begonias and busy lizzies which definitely need semi shade. Use your awning or blind to keep the midday sun off your plants to stop them drying out too quickly.

c.   Watering:

All potted plants in full sun at the height of the summer need daily watering. Annuals may need to be watered twice a day.

d. Feeding:

Feed once a week with a proprietary liquid feed suitable for flowering plants.

e. Dead heading:

Dead head regularly to stimulate a continuous show of flowers.

f. Use of gels:

Water absorbing/retaining gels such as TerraCottem are very useful for the absentee gardener. Firstly the crystal and jelly like gels material can be worked into the bottom half of the soil in pots. This ensures a reservoir of moisture where plants need it most, alongside the expanding root ball. The reservoir means that you have a day or two grace should you forget to water. There are also gels for placing on the surface of the soil of pots but we prefer the former.

Enjoy a colourful summer stay.

© Dick Handscombe –


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