By Keri Byrum
Selecting the right plants for our Gulf Coast climate is no easy task. Plants must be tough enough to endure months of hot and humid conditions, as well as an occasional freeze during the winter months. This can be daunting, but following the tips below can help you choose the best plants to sustain your garden and landscape.
Know your USDA cold-hardiness zone. Our region has a broad range of zones, extending from Zone 7 to Zone 10. It is important to select plant material that is cold-hardy for the region you live in. This helps guide you to plants that can tolerate your coldest temperatures. If you want to try something more tropical, just plan to protect it, or bring it inside on cold nights.
Avoid plants that need cold temperatures to flower and instead look for plants labeled “low chill.” This is especially important when shopping for fruit trees and berries: Our mild climate may not give more northern plants the amount of cold they need to induce flowering. Many newer varieties have been chosen specifically for our region, and low-chill helps you harvest the pears, peaches, apples, and other fruits you love.
Consider plants from warm, dry climates as winter annuals. I purchase many plants each fall knowing they do not permanently add to my garden but rather are seasonal plants I can enjoy during our dry winters.
Plants such as the Australian native kangaroo paw (Anigozanthos) flourish in the cooler seasons but just don’t do well in summer’s humidity. Does this mean you have to avoid them completely? Not at all. They delight you for months during our cooler, drier winters.
I recommend that new gardeners and residents invest in a good gardening book specific to the Gulf Coast. It can be mind-boggling to try to learn so many new plants and know which do well in our area. A guide specific to our region can save you much heartache and money.
Although the temperatures between the West Coast and our area may be similar, the humidity here makes all the difference. You may be surprised at how the plant palettes vary for these two climates. Embrace our tropical environment and consider plants such as the terrestrial nun’s orchid shown right.
With all the advice I’ve written here, I would say one other thing: Don’t be afraid to experiment! Trying new plants is half the fun, and you just might find a surprise this season.
Take a big step toward ensuring success in your garden. Stick with plants that are well adapted to your region’s climate.Learn More