Healthy and Beautiful Gardens - Plant hardiness and climate zones
Friday, October 11th, 2013
Issue 41, Volume 17.
First, Iíd like to bring up a term that is applied to plants and that is called plant hardiness. You may see or hear someone state that a plant is hardy to, oh say, 30 degrees, what that means is that below that temperature the plant will sustain damage, and may even die. Many plants will lose their top growth (leaves, etc.) and die down to the soil level, but may come back in the spring from the roots. No guarantees on that one.
Iíve heard people use the word "hardy" in regards to a plantís ability to withstand heat. That is incorrect. Drought tolerance would be more appropriate for that description – and while Iím on that topic, let me mention that drought tolerance does not mean drought proof. It means it will survive with little water for a period of time, and these plants typically can take quite a bit of heat as well.
Most plant labels will tell you whether a plant requires sun, shade or partial/sun – pay attention to those. As an example here, I grow a large variety of succulents and I have found that many "Echeverias" or what you may know as hens and chicks cannot take frost – they die back, look black, and Iíve also found that some will get tip burn in full sun – so Iíve had to adjust where I place some of these – and if thatís not confusing enough, some of them can take frost or are hardy.
When we are discussing a plants ability to withstand heat and/or frost what we want to find out is what zones the plant will thrive in. There are two different charts and Fallbrook is a different zone, and hence, can grow some more of the plants than Anza can, which is a colder zone.
Basically, southwest Riverside County, including Temecula, Murrieta, and parts east are zone 18 and 19, far east (Warner Springs and out) would be Zone 7. Fallbrook, for the most part, is zone 23, with some areas zone 21.
When you buy plants, make sure to check the label to see exactly what zone they will grow best in.
There are many factors that come into play with the differing zones from thermal belts (areas of warmth) to ocean influence, butif you just understand what Iíve spoken of here today you should be able to choose your plants more wisely, and have them survive better in your gardens as a result.
Now that you know "the rules" Iím going to show you how to "bend them a little"! There are areas around every property, even your house, that contain something called "micro-climates" that means small areas of differing temperatures.
If you remember that cold air flows "downward", you would know that if you live on a hill, for example, it will be warmer up at the top than down at the bottom. Another point is that if we take a plant, say a Meyer lemon tree, and its "borderline" in my climate zone – what I am going to do with it is put it in a warmer "micro climate" on my property to make sure it gets as much warmth as possible and can thereby survive the colder months. In the winter the sun is lower in the sky, it is in the Southern hemisphere, so you will want to plant that lemon tree next to a wall or even a large boulder, something called "mass" that will absorb the suns rays during the day and then give them off just enough at night to save that lemon tree! In other words, plant it in front of a "south facing" mass.
We can use this same strategy in reverse as well.
Let's suppose we have a plant that "iffy" in our climate zone for heat. What I do is place it in a semi-shady area, or a "north facing" area so that its not inundated by the heat during the summer months when the sun is straight over us.
Obviously, you will also need to make sure these plants are well mulched and watered more in the summer as well.
Iím trying to simplify this for you but there are many factors that also come into play with the differing zones from "thermal belts" (areas of warmth) to ocean influence, but if you just understand what Iíve spoken of here today you should be able to choose your plants more wisely, and have them survive better in your gardens as a result.
Remember, this is a great time to pick out plants and get them in the ground, so use your new knowledge at the nursery next time you are there, try to do some investigating first to know exactly what plants you want rather than impulse buy – we know how that works!
As always, if you have questions or would prefer a professional consultation, donít hesitate to call or email me. Until next week – happy gardening!
Country Gardens Landscape Design
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