pbs Digest, Vol 18, Issue 21

ConroeJoe@aol.com ConroeJoe@aol.com
Wed, 14 Jul 2004 15:01:00 PDT
In a message dated 7/14/2004 11:09:13 AM Central Daylight Time, 
pbs-hornig@usadatanet.net (Ellen) writes:

> The point is: this is not a straightforward "hardiness" question.  If I
> take a plant from the western Plains, one that is hardy down to -30F or so,
> and attempt to grow it in my eastern garden, it will not thrive, will it? 
> It's adapted to a hot, dry summer, wind, and alkaline soil.  It will
> probably rot. 


Talk about a good question, and a difficult one!

I can't address the issue in a general way (and will sidestep the alkaline 
soil part), but I can report that I used to grow some  western plant in 
northeast Pennsylvania.  They were high altitude cacti (4,000 ft. plus), and they were 
able to take the cold if kept dry in winter--some didn't even need dry in 
winter (not many).  As far as summer went, they thought they had a long spring 
that just sort of turned back into winter.  

Kniphofias do pretty well here in Texas, hot wet summer, cool wet winter.  
I've wondered about them, and don't grow many, but so far K. rooperi and K. 
caulescens and a few others are happy campers.  

I can't say much about western USA plants, but I have found that South 
African plants from wet areas (seepages, streamsides, bogs, river banks, etc.), even 
if they are only seasonally wet, do fine here in Texas if the frost and 
insects don't get them.  On the other hand, I grew half a dozen Protea species 
(fybos habitat) from seed one winter; they loved winter here only to die by 
midsummer of their first year.  

I've been experimenting with Drakensberg species, actually lots of plants 
from higher elevations (thank you Silverhill Seeds), and the only good 
rule-of-thumb I've been able to devise is the one regarding plants from wet places.  No 
matter where they derive from, zone 7, 8, 9 and 10 plants are worth trying 
here in greater Houston area if they are naturally found in wet areas.  Heat does 
not seem to be a major problem--where warranted some plants do better in 
shade.  Zone 10 plants often behave as perennials, growing back each season (e.g., 
bananas).  I have not tried plants that come from areas of long and cold 
winters (except for cacti).  

Plants from wet areas seem to be opportunists around the world.  It makes 
sense because flooded conditions may come early or late in different years, or 
not at all, and waterlogged soils surely select for plants resistant to certain 
root pathogens or low oxygen soils.  

As I reread this note I see that I've stressed "wet areas."  However, there 
are many upland plants that do fine in southeast Texas as long as they have 
good drainage--but I don't have a rule-of-thumb developed for them.  


Conroe Joe

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