Once you catch the gardening bug and start going plant crazy, you will quickly start to notice nuances of how your plants react to their placement in the garden. Plants will thrive if they are planted in a location that meets their needs. If a plant is located in an area that does not meet its needs, it will proceed to communicate this to you by having stunted growth, wilted, diseased, or discolored foliage, and little to no production or blooms.
Plants are sensitive to factors such as the amount and availability of water, the hours of sunlight they receive in the day, the type of soil or growing medium, the soil pH and availability of certain nutrients, and temperature. When picking a plant for your garden, generally people will tell you to pick plants that will survive in the cold temperatures of your region, but what about regional heat zones? Plants can be sensitive to spikes in the thermometer just as they can be sensitive to the dips.
Here’s some examples — in the produce category, peppers will clearly let you know when they are unhappy with outside temperatures. If they are planted outside in the spring and temperatures are still cool, they’ll look noticeably unhappy in comparison to your cool-season crops. However, once the thermometer starts rising and the average outside temperature picks up, your peppers will suddenly spring back to life and start sending out new growth, blossoms and eventually produce peppers. Fruit such as pomegranate and apricots also prefer hot dry summers and will produce the best fruit in these areas. In the flower category you’ll find that lavender (which originated in the Mediterranean region) also thrive in summer heat.
Do you need help determining your average low and high temperatures based on your region? You may have already seen this hardiness zone map produced by the USDA which details the average minimum temperatures:
Now there is also a map produced by the American Horticultural Society that details the average number of days each year that the temperature is above 86° F or 30° C in your region:
Another thing to keep in mind is little “microclimates” that may exist in your yard, and how existing materials or structures can affect the plants in the area. For example, if you live North of the equator, the South-side of your home or structure can radiate heat back to any plants in this location (based on the positioning of the sun and existing tree canopies). Materials such as brick, metal, wood, and asphalt can also radiate extra heat to plants nearby as well.
Pay attention throughout the year to these little “microclimates” and choose your plants for the space accordingly. The soil on South-side of your home may warm much sooner in the Spring than other locations of your yard. You’ll want to avoid planting anything in this area that prefers to warm up slowly in the beginning of the year.
What is your favorite HEAT LOVING plant? I’m always looking for new options!