Growing Conditions

Success in the garden involves numerous factors. Some you can control, some you can’t. Rain, wind, and sun exposure are beyond your control. Choosing the right plant for the growing conditions is the difference between failure and success.

“Growing conditions” covers a lot of ground. Every plant has different needs related to light, moisture, temperature, and soil. The better the match between conditions and plant needs, the happier the plant will be. Some varieties are very exacting, but most will tolerate some variance.

Knowing your USDA Hardiness Zone is the first step, especially for permanent plantings. Tea olives and camellias thrive here in my Georgia (Zone 7b) garden but can’t survive Kentucky (Zone 6) winters. Bluegrass, lilacs, and carnations won’t grow here in Athens but thrive in Lexington.

Sun exposure is the primary consideration. Full sun is at least six hours a day, but vegetables and other sun-lovers need eight- to ten-hours. Full shade means less than four hours of direct sun. Morning sun is easier to take than hot afternoon sun.

I bought two 12-packs of a single variety of coleus earlier this year. After edging a bed in the front of the house, I put the leftovers in several pots and grouped them with my orchids. The front gets at least six hours a day of hot, afternoon sun. The pots get an hour or two of morning sun.

Three months later, the coleus in pots look nothing like those basking in the hot afternoon sun every day. I moved a couple of pots around to the front for these pictures. In the pic above, the potted coleus fill most of the photo with the others in the top right corner.

The pots are more obvious in the above picture. The difference still isn’t as clear as I’d hoped. So I pinched the tops from one of each for the picture below. The potting soil is much nicer than the red clay in the front, but the difference in sun exposure makes the bigger difference.

The potted coleus look like catalog photos for the variety. They plants are twice as tall with much larger leaves. The sun-bathers in the front stayed dense and compact to conserve water. The dark color is redder, and the contrasting color is more yellow too.

I got lucky with the coleus. Several impatiens (regular and New Guinea) wilted in more sun than they could handle. Next year I’ll try something different in those spots.