Adaptable Plants for Sites with Mixed Conditions

Fine Gardening – Issue 218

There is no longer any uncertainty according to scientists—climate change is real and advancing at an alarming rate. Gardening methods have changed over the many years that humans have cultivated plants, but this may very well be the most significant period ever in which environmental conditions impact gardening techniques.

This means that adaptability of plants will become even more important. Imagine a site that was prairie 200 years ago but was then farmed for 100 years and later stripped of soil to make way for a subdivision. That type of human alteration of the physical environment will have created challenging conditions for plant growth, durability, and health. Combine that with extremes in heat, drought, flooding, and other climate-driven changes, and it will be the durability of the plant, not necessarily its indigenous history, that will determine its survivability, ecological potential, and worth in the garden.

Within home gardens, lighting and soil conditions may change over time as the space expands or ages, with ecological events also contributing to potential conditional changes. All of these factors make it more important than ever to think about the resilience of plants. The shrubs and perennials featured here have all passed the test for me either by thriving in both sun and shade or with a variety of different soil types and moisture levels.