What is a Microclimate?

A microclimate is the local climate difference of a small area within the surrounding area and can offer different growing conditions in the larger USDA Hardiness Zone. The conditions of microclimates are determined by plant orientation and exposure to heat, light, water, and wind. For example, inland urban areas are typically warmer than surrounding rural areas since the buildings and pavement reflect and generate additional heat. Though the urban and rural areas are in the same USDA growing zone, city gardeners may successfully grow plants recommended for a warmer zone because of the additional heat. Other microclimates include courtyards, rooftops, hills, valleys, and areas near structures and bodies of water.  

The USDA Hardiness Zone map divides North America into 11 separate zones. The zones are defined by an area’s average winter temperature so that each zone averages a 10 degree warmer, or colder, winter than the nearby zones. USDA Hardiness Zones provide a general guideline for selecting and growing plants in your region, but do not consider the unique features of your landscape.

Increase the gardening potential in your yard by identifying and/or creating miniature zones, or microclimates.

Try growing outside your zone with microclimates. Try these options with the Southern Living® Plant Collection:

    * Heat things up a bit and break wind by planting near structures. Courtyards, buildings, and fences absorb and reflect heat at the same time as protect plants from wind damage.

    * Bring out the compass for more or less sun. If you’re living in the deep south, it’s best to grow plants on the east side of your property as this will give full sun plants the right amount of light without the threat of afternoon heat exhaustion. 

    * Where there’s a downward slope, there’s a rain puddle. Use your accidental pond to your advantage by adding water loving plants.