Discover the incredible world of hardy plants that defy all odds, thriving in any environment. Whether you’re a busy gardener or residing in a harsh climate, this guide is your ticket to gardening success. Embrace the resilience of hardy plants and transform your green space into a flourishing oasis!
In this article, we will discover a hardy plant and review the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) hardiness ratings. We will also introduce different ways to protect your plants in winter because even a hardy plant needs a little extra help in winter.
What does hardiness mean?
In the gardening world, hardiness is a plant’s ability to withstand cold winter temperatures. For gardeners to evaluate the hardiness of garden plants, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has developed a system of hardiness ratings. Plants included in the RHS Plant Search and all AGM plants are given hardiness ratings.
The RHS introduced this hardiness system in 2012, replacing the previous H1-H4 ratings that came with the award. The hardiness rating should be interpreted as follows as a general guide to growing conditions:
Knowing other terms that describe hardiness and how they relate to the RHS definitions is helpful because not all plant websites or labels classify their plants using the RHS ratings.
Tender – these plants must be grown indoors during the winter because they cannot withstand temperatures below 0°C/32°F, although they may be able to be grown outdoors during the summer. The RHS hardiness rating table puts these as H1a, H1b, H1c, and H2.
Half Hardy – these plants can withstand temperatures as low as -5°C/23°F for brief periods. In mild climates, they can survive the winter outdoors. But in colder areas with harsh winters, they will need protection. On the RHS hardiness rating table, level H3 denotes half-hardy plants.
Full Hardy – these plants are completely hardy, able to withstand temperatures as low as -10°C/14°F. On the RHS hardiness rating table, they are levels H4-H7.
Please Note: “A plant’s hardiness indicates the lowest temperature at which it can survive, but other factors must also be considered. Soil drainage is one of the most significant aspects. Even if a plant is hardy, cold weather can still kill it, and a borderline hardy plant is more likely to survive in well-drained soil. Plants may also struggle if there are continuous spells of cold weather with mild to warm temperatures between,” says Chris Bonnett, gardening expert for The Express.
Benefits of Growing Hardy Plants
- Adaptability to the UK Climate: Hardy plants are well-suited to the diverse weather conditions in the UK. They can withstand the country’s cool and damp climate, including frost, strong winds, and occasional temperature fluctuations. Choosing hardy plants increases the chances of successful growth and minimises the risk of losing your plants due to weather-related issues.
- Low Maintenance: Hardy plants require less attention and care than delicate or exotic varieties. They are naturally resilient and can tolerate various conditions, including suboptimal soil quality. This makes them ideal for beginner gardeners or those with limited time for gardening activities.
- Cost-effective: Growing hardy plants can be a cost-effective option. These plants are often readily available and have a higher chance of survival, reducing the need for frequent replacements. They are generally more affordable than delicate or rare plants, allowing you to create a beautiful garden without breaking the bank.
- Habitat for Local Wildlife: Hardy plants, especially native species, provide an important habitat for local wildlife. They attract and support a diverse range of insects, birds, and other animals, contributing to the biodiversity of your garden and the surrounding environment. Cultivating hardy plants can help sustain the local ecosystem and create a thriving, wildlife-friendly space.
- Sustainable Gardening: Hardy plants are often considered more sustainable due to their resilience and ability to thrive without excessive water, fertilisers, or pesticides. Choosing hardy varieties can reduce your environmental impact and promote sustainable gardening practices. Additionally, many native hardy plants are well adapted to the local soil and do not require excessive soil amendments, further enhancing their sustainability.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Hardy Plants
When choosing hardy plants for your garden or landscape, several factors should be considered to ensure their success. Here are some key factors to keep in mind:
- Climate Adaptability: Consider the specific climate conditions of your area, such as temperature ranges, rainfall, humidity, and wind patterns. Look for plants that have demonstrated adaptability to these conditions.
- Soil Type: Assess the soil type in your garden—whether it’s sandy, loamy, or clayey. Different plants have varying soil preferences, so choose those that thrive in your soil type or consider improving the soil conditions for specific plants.
- Sunlight Requirements: Observe the sunlight your garden receives throughout the day. Some plants require full sun exposure, while others prefer partial shade or thrive in full shade. Select plants that match the light conditions of your garden.
- Watering Needs: Determine the water availability and drainage capacity of your garden. Some plants require frequent watering and moist soil, while others are more drought-tolerant and prefer well-drained soil. Consider your watering capabilities and choose plants accordingly.
- Maintenance Level: Assess the time and effort you will invest in plant maintenance. Some plants may require regular pruning, deadheading, or fertilising, while others are low-maintenance and can thrive with minimal intervention.
- Pest and Disease Resistance: Research your area’s common pests and diseases and choose plants resistant to those prevalent issues. Disease-resistant varieties will have a higher chance of survival and require fewer chemical interventions.
- Growth Habit and Size: Consider your chosen plants’ ultimate size and growth habit. Make sure they fit the available space in your garden without overcrowding or overshadowing other plants.
- Aesthetic Appeal: Select plants that align with your personal preferences and the overall design of your garden. Consider their colour, texture, foliage, and blooming seasons to create an aesthetically pleasing and cohesive landscape.
How to Protect Plants in Winter
Although a plant may be hardy, it is still very important to protect them in winter. In winter 2022, we experienced prolonged extreme cold weather conditions, which caused excessive plant damage. For many gardeners, their plants had become damaged. To prevent this from happening in the future, we recommend following our ‘Guide to Protecting Your Plants This Winter‘.