What Is A Subtropical Climate – Tips On Gardening In The Subtropics

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By Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

When we talk about gardening climates, we often use the terms tropical, subtropical or temperate zones. Tropical zones, of course, are the warm tropics around the equator where summer like weather is year round. Temperate zones are cooler climates with four seasons – winter, spring, summer and autumn. So exactly what is a subtropical climate? Continue reading for the answer, as well as a list of plants that grow in the subtropics.

What is a Subtropical Climate?

Subtropical climates are defined as the areas adjacent to the tropics. These areas are usually located 20-40 degrees north or south of the equator. Southern areas of the U.S., Spain, Portugal, the north and south tips of Africa, southern Australia, the Middle East, parts of South America and southeastern Asia are subtropical climates.

In these areas, summer is very long, hot and often rainy; winter is very mild, usually without frost or freezing temperatures.

Gardening in the Subtropics

Subtropical landscape or garden design borrows a lot of its flair from the tropics. Bold, bright colors, textures and shapes are common in subtropical garden beds. Dramatic hardy palms are used frequently in subtropical gardens to provide deep green color and unique texture. Flowering plants like hibiscus, bird of paradise and lilies have bright tropical feeling colors that nicely contrast evergreen palms, yucca or agave plants.

Subtropical plants are selected for their tropical appeal, but also for their hardiness. Plants in the some subtropical areas have to endure blazing heat, thick humidity, times of heavy rains or long periods of drought, and also temperatures that can drop as low as 0 F. While subtropical plants may have the exotic look of tropical plants, many of them also have the hardiness of temperate plants.

Below are some of the beautiful plants that grow in the subtropics:

Trees and Shrubs

Perennials and Annuals

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