Choosing right plants for your garden

Choosing right plants for your garden

Before social media, people use to take a trip to their local plant nursery over the weekend, spend a good amount of time wandering every corner, making sure that the staff gets annoyed with you asking questions about every other plant you see, and then buying just 2 plants…LOL!! Many still do, at least I know about me.

Over the last decade, because of the internet, there is a tremendous increase in the temptation to buy exotic plants.

Let’s me tell you some real-world secrets here, it’s the Gyan that no one talks about.

Geography

Trust me, the sooner you figure this out, the fewer setbacks you will have with your newly bought plant babies. There are four major and broad climatic conditions in India:

  • Tropical wet
  • Tropical dry
  • Subtropical humid
  • Montane

Tropical wet

  • Mainly found in regions with warm or high temperatures.
  • The tropical wet monsoon climate in Indian coastal states of Kerala, southern Assam, and the Western Ghats,
  • Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Lakshadweep islands.
  • The above-listed places experience moderate to high- temperature conditions throughout the year.
  • These areas receive an annual rainfall of 2,000 mm ranging from May to November.
  • The driest of the months in these regions range from December to March.

Tropical dry

  • Due to over evaporation and moisture loss, different states of India experience a tropical dry climate.
  • Places like Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh (mainly the states lying south of the tropic of Cancer) are tropical dry in nature.
  • All the aforementioned states receive an annual rainfall of 400- 750 mm.
  • From March to May, these areas are massively hot and dry while from October to December, they are comparatively cool with a substantial amount of rainfall.
  • Moreover, parts of western Rajasthan also experience tropical dry climatic conditions.
  • East of the Great Indian desert is the states of Punjab and Haryana.
  • The aforementioned states experience less extreme temperatures as compared to the desert region.
  • The annual rainfall in Punjab and Haryana amounts to around 35-65 cm, comparatively less than the southern parts of India.

Subtropical humid

  • Most of the parts of north and northeast India experience a subtropical climate.
  • These regions experience extreme temperature conditions that are extremely hot in summers and extremely cold in winter.
  • The winter season advances some amount of precipitation in these areas.
  • Due to their immediate proximity to the Himalayan mountains, high wind speeds prevail throughout these regions.
  • Winters are mostly dry with occasional rainfall or snowfall or even thunderstorms in some parts.
  • Receive an annual rainfall of 1000-2500 mm.
  • Average temperatures may range between 24-27 degrees celsius.

Montane

  • Also known as the alpine climate, this type of climate is usually found in the northernmost tip of India.
  • The climatic conditions in this region decrease with elevation (around 5 degrees celsius lowering the temperature after every single km).
  • Most of these areas are landscaped with thick layers of snow. Rainfall under this climatic diversity is variable. It means that no particular record or measurement can be accorded to annual rainfall in this belt.
  • Most of the precipitation occurs during the winter and the spring seasons.
  • Areas south of the Himalayas experience this type of montane climate.
  • The months of December and January receive the maximum snowfall.
  • Elevations beyond 5000 m do not receive rainfall and only snowfall occurs beyond these heights.

The tropical climate is suitable for large varieties of plants but have you ever wondered why Apples grow mostly in an alpine climate like J&K and Himanchal. Because they thrive in such climatic conditions.

Adenium or Desert Rose do better in dry or subtropical climates but may not thrive in a colder region. The same goes for succulents.

Many plants may be perennials in Tropical Wet/Dry climates but they are grown like Annuals in Subtropical Humid climates.

  • Always begin with your local nursery to choose plants, if they are thriving there, there are higher chances that they will survive in your garden.
  • You live in a subtropical region like Madhya Pradesh and it’s November. You visited the nursery and got spellbound by Petunia or other seasonal plants, you bought dozens of them and suddenly your home is like a valley of flowers. But by the beginning of March, the weather becomes so hot that these plants could not survive and your garden became barren. Be careful if you are a new gardener. Seasonal plants are a short affair.
  • If you are tempted to buy a plant online, research well about its growing conditions. I have seen people growing apples in Haryana but that is a very specific variety developed for low lands and is adopted from Israel.

A flower lover

If you are a flower lover and many of us are, you will find that flowering plants attract you a lot. And that’s a trap. Bear with me. You love to have flowering plants in your terrace garden. You want to have flowers in your garden all year round.

  • Some people do better with seasonal flowering plants, it’s easier to buy plants and fill your garden with them till the season lasts and then move on to next season to replay with new plants. Most government parks or municipal parks are maintained all year round like this way.
  • Some people do not like the additional work that comes with every season so they stick to perennials flowering plants like roses, Bougenvelias, hibiscus to name a few.

The trap here is that it is easy to get tempted with flowers be it a nursery or online and you end up buying a seasonal plant that you thought was a perennial. Got it?

Foliage lover

You love 50 shades of green and whatnot. Anything green or variegated, you would love to have it in your garden.

Few things to consider while keeping foliage as your primary plants

  • In nature, there is nothing called indoor plants but it’s just the right environment where these plants adapt and thrive. If you are tempted to buy greenhouse plants from your nursery, make sure you know how to provide the right environment. Even though the Fiddle Leaf fig is popular as a living room plant, I have seen it thriving outdoors in the right environment.
  • Lighting is a key factor for your plants, make sure you consider that.

A succulent/cacti lover

Oh, those little spongy and thorny beauties. Succulents and Cacti are wonderful to keep if you have small spaces. They do well with little care but you can easily kill them.

Some factors to consider when keeping succulents

  • If you want a succulent garden, start slow.
  • Start with semi-succulents hardy plants.

GYF (Grow your food) Person

You love to grow what you eat. Although this topic is beyond the scope of this book, I still have a few things to say to you.

  • If you choose to grow your food, grow only organically otherwise please don’t, it’s not worth it.
  • Start slow with things like herbs, microgreens, a few local veggies, and vines. There are commercial service providers who set up an end-to-end terrace garden for you from seeds to plants but don’t go for it unless you have grown some food on your own.
  • Organic terrace gardening requires a system in place.

Fruit Gardener

The idea of growing fruits in a container is not new but with new plant varieties available that do well in a container, it is now a dream come true for every fruit gardener.

I have a terrace dedicated to just fruit plants but I started with just one plant and that was a mulberry tree. If you want to grow fruits in a container, keep the following things in mind.

  • Some fruit plants do well on their own in containers like mulberries but not all.
  • Look for varieties that are grafted/air-layered/cutting grown or dwarf. They produce fruit faster.
  • Tropical varieties are your best bets.
  • Don’t be fooled by so-called exotic varieties. If grafted or otherwise they simply don’t thrive in non-native climates.
  • Choose bigger containers from the beginning, at least a 20-liter bucket.
  • Fruit plants often need annual pruning during spring, make the best use of cuttings and propagate more plants. If you want sufficient fruits for your family, one plant each fruit will do no good. Therefore keep increasing the count if space permits.
  • Don’t forget to share extra produce with neighbors, friends, and relatives. Remember giving is the only form of receiving.