Sun plants and 'hot' tips for sunny spots

Lavender cotton plants in the sun
ARTICLE Patricia Moore 

A plant that’s not living up to its reputation may well be in the wrong place! Most Kiwi gardens receive sun for at least part of the day with north facing sites enjoying a higher number of sunshine hours and the south the least. With the sun comes lack of moisture and while irrigation systems and watering are the obvious solutions, it’s important to choose plants that have adapted to hot, dry conditions.

There’s no hard and fast rule for recognising these and there are always exceptions. Foliage is generally a good indicator. Plants with silvery or hairy foliage are usually able to withstand heat and lack of moisture, as are those with small leaves. Waxy or fleshy leaves are designed to hold water, something that’s made succulents a popular choice in sunny site, and plants that grow from corms, tubers, bulbs and tuberous roots, also have the ability to store moisture and thrive in the heat.

Look for New Zealand natives, such as coprosmas, flaxes, hebes and astelia, which all provide wide variations in colour and texture and have the ability to withstand not just the hot sun but a range of soil conditions. Where section size allows for trees, consider albiza (silk trees) and eucalypts.

‘Hot’ tips for sunny spots from a landscape designer at Zones:

  • Look around your neighbourhood at spaces that have a similar aspect to your garden. This will give you a fair idea of what can survive/thrive in your garden.
  • To help with moisture retention include a good layer of mulch while plants are establishing and plant in autumn to give plants a chance to settle in before the hot summer months.
  • Consider embracing xeriscape principles and aesthetics in hot and sunny gardens. When designed correctly these gardens are extremely low maintenance, have little or no need for irrigation and have year round interest.
  • Use gravels and other materials to create texture and interest in the dry garden and add feature plants for effect.
  • Add interest with elements, such as water features and natural rock works for a brightly coloured wall.
  • Don’t forget the time factor; trees will alter the microclimate as they grow and establish – your garden will evolve and under-planting may need to change.

Things to think about: 

Gardeners are coping with increasingly erratic climatic conditions. With some areas experiencing lengthy periods without rain, plants that can survive little or no water once established are the focus of a growing trend; xeriscaping – effectively dry climate gardening using drought-tolerated plants – is also appealing to gardeners who want to conserve as much water as possible and still enjoy an attractive and diverse garden-scape.

Plantings may range from native flaxes and grasses to silvery strawflowers and lavender cotton, succulents like aloe and sedum, flowering favourites including dianthus, red hot pokers and salvia, plus a range of garden herbs, such as rosemary, sage and thyme. Xeriscaping also includes greater use of gravel, shells and pavers. 

You might be interested in reading: Tips and tricks for planting in a shaded garden.

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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.

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