Do you like to work in your garden outdoors all year round? Would you choose your new home with year-round gardening in mind?
If so, you are in luck! There are numerous locations across the southern tier of states of the United States and the lower elevations of Hawaii where the climate supports year-round gardening. There are also favorable locations that support the year-round growth of trees and perennial plants that many gardeners want to grow.
But before we rate the best states to live in for gardening year round, let’s look at the specific requirements for the kinds of plants that many gardeners aspire to grow. Then we will consider which states are best for gardening all year.
Table of contents
- Year-Round Climate Requirements for Specific Plants
- What State is Best for Gardening All Year?
- Frequently Asked Questions About the Best States for Gardening Year Round
Year-Round Climate Requirements for Specific Plants
Have you always wanted to grow orchids? Are you a fan of home-grown citrus? What about growing your own coffee and cocoa? In this section we will look at the interaction of geography and gardening for specific plant specialties.
Cacti famously withstand the harsh summer heat of interior California, southern Arizona, and the southwestern sections of Texas. They don’t do was well with excessive moisture, however, and most are sensitive to extreme winter cold.
Carnivorous plants make fascinating landscape displays. One of the largest outdoor collections of carnivorous plants in North America can be found at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which endures cold winters and moist summers. Carnivorous plants generally require high humidity, bright but dappled sun, and slow changes in temperature, all of which can be found throughout the Southeastern states.
Many gardeners are surprised to learn that cold-hardy varieties of citrus like blood orange, calamondin oranges, Kiefer limes, Meyer lemons, and kumquats are cold-hardy as far north as USDA Hardiness Zone 7, withstanding temperatures as low as 15° to 17° F (-9° to -8° C.). The reality citrus hobbyists need to accept is that in the northernmost areas where citrus can grow, there will inevitably be a hard freeze that kills their trees. Meyer lemon trees that grew 30 feet (10 meters) tall in Austin, Texas, for example, froze to the ground in 2011 and again in 2021. It is possible, however, to get years of enjoyment from citrus plantings across a large part of the southern United States from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic.
Cocoa farmers sell chocolate made from cocoa beans grown on the Big Island. In south Florida, cocoa trees are sometimes available from local nurseries that can share their expertise for growing them.
Coconut palms grow at lower elevations throughout Hawaii, and in extreme south Florida. Texas and Arizona have periodic cold spells that will kill them, and coastal California is not warm enough for good production.
Hawaii isn’t the only state that produces coffee. Entrepreneurs in southern and central California have planted over 100,000 coffee trees for commercial production, and home gardeners in frost-free zones can give them a try, too.
Flower Beds in Bloom All Year-Round
Do you dream of flowers in bloom around your home every month of the year? While there are relatively few places outside of Hawaii and South Florida where you can have the same blooming plants every month of the year, there are many locations in the United States where you can have constant bloom every month of the year.
Locations that don’t see winter temperatures below 20° F (-7° C) are usually hospitable for winter plantings of cyclamen, ornamental cabbage, dianthus, dusty miller, snapdragons, and petunias. Even locations that have dozens of days in the summer over 100° F (38° C) support plantings of cannas, mallows, zinnias, lantanas, marigolds, and sedum.
For most of the US, winter cold is a greater impediment to outdoor floral displays than summer heat. Many locations, however, support year-round outdoor flower gardening nearly every year.
Outdoor Bromeliads and Orchids
Most bromeliads and orchids thrive on bright but indirect light, high humidity with protection from flooding rains, and year-round temperatures above freezing. Among the 50 states, the only locations that support creating a backyard landscape with these beautiful tropical plants are in Florida, preferably south of Fort Myers and Palm Beach (although you could grow these plants in a sunroom as far north as Tallahassee) and the elevations of the Hawaiian islands,
Chances are that you are aware of the Rose Bowl Parade, every New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California. All of those roses on the floats don’t come from greenhouses.
Chances that you are not as aware of January through December displays of roses throughout southern California, in the deserts of southwestern Arizona, and throughout most of Texas south of Austin and San Antonio. Many parts of the southwestern United States have dry, warm winter weather that supports winter-blooming roses.
What State is Best for Gardening All Year?
Choosing the best state for your gardening future has everything to do with the kinds of plants you want to raise. Some locations favor annual vegetable production, while a few locations in the USA are frost-free and safe for many tropical fruits. The states that support year-round gardening all have some locations with cool or even cold winters and some suffer blast-furnace summer heat. And there are states that have a short but abundant summer growing season.
Similarly, finding the states with the best soil for gardening is a subjective process. While loamy soil with abundant organic matter and a slightly acidic pH is best for the greatest number of garden plants, your specialty may require very different soil characteristics. Gardeners can always improve or modify the soil—usually over three to five years—to support the plants they want to grow.
Let’s take a state-by-state look at year-round gardening opportunities that include both the depths of winter and the summer solstice.
Year-Round Gardening in Alabama
Vegetable gardeners can grow beets, carrots, garlic, onions, parsley, rutabagas, turnips, and mustard greens in their winter gardens anywhere in the state other than Lookout Mountain in the extreme north, although they may need to mulch their plant for protection when winter temperatures fall below 20° F (-7° C).
Year-Round Gardening in Arizona
Countless home gardeners nurture citrus trees throughout the Valley, especially in the city of Phoenix itself. Outdoor summer gardening, however, is mostly limited to taking care of citrus trees.
Year-Round Gardening in California
Coastal California offers opportunities for year-round growing of flowers, fruit, and vegetables that just aren’t found anywhere else in the United States. Although just about every garden in coastal California will require soil amendment and summer irrigation, many locations near the coast support production of the previously mentioned coffee plus avocados, oranges, grapefruit, lemons, bananas, olives, every garden common garden vegetable except rhubarb (which requires chilling), and, not without controversy, almonds.
If you ever wanted to try growing a particular plant in your garden, the southern and central Pacific coast of California is the one place in the United States you are most likely to find success. There are also rainier locations in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento that support hundreds of different kinds of vegetables and at least 100 varieties of fruit trees and berries. The days of finding former truck farms to set up your own garden paradise, however, are long past.
Year-Round Gardening in Florida
While there isn’t an objective measure that can tell us the best state to live in for gardening, It would be hard to argue that Florida isn’t one of the best states to live in for gardening.
There are many happy vegetable gardeners in the northern half of Florida. The Florida panhandle and the rest of the state north of Orlando and Kissimmee have warm summers, mild winters, abundant rains, and just enough winter weather to kill some of the bugs. They are warm enough for citrus.
Extreme south Florida, south of Fort Myers on the Gulf side of the state and south of Miami on the Atlantic side of the state, support tropical gardening. You could have your own coconut palms or raise bananas.
Year-Round Gardening in Georgia
Georgia gardeners grow glorious azaleas and dogwoods in the spring, and soulful vegetables in the summer. Winter gardening, however, is limited to the greens patch in the vegetable garden as in Alabama, or is conducted indoors.
Year-Round Gardening in Hawaii
There are actually places in Hawaii where year-round gardening isn’t possible. The higher elevations of the town of Kula o Mount Haleakala on Maui and elevations over 7,000 feet (2,200 meters) on the island of Hawaii get winter frosts.
Most locations in Hawaii, however, support year-round horticulture. Vegetable gardeners can grow taro, sweet potatoes, southern (black eyed) peas, Lima beans, pole beans, tomatoes, eggplants, and squash all year round. Hawaii supports the cultivation of pineapples, mangos, papayas, and exotic tropical fruits. Flower gardeners can grow orchids and a wonderful profusion on tropical plants that are found nowhere else on earth.
New gardeners need to know, however, that the varieties of vegetables and flowers that worked for them on the mainland may not be successful. Hawaii-specific varieties are far more productive. Gardeners moving to Hawaii need to pay close attention to rainfall. As little as a mile (1600 meters) may separate a location that gets 100 inches (250 cm) of rain a year from a location that gets 30 inches (75 cm) of rain a year,
Year-Round Gardening in Louisiana
Talking about gardening in Louisiana evokes images of sitting in a porch swing, drinking sweet tea on a hot summer day. But Louisiana gardeners can find reasons to keep busy all year round.
Almost anywhere in Louisiana is a great location for a winter vegetable garden. The greens that figure so prominently in Louisiana cooking taste better after a light frost converts some of their starches into sugars. And the long, hot, breezy, and well-watered summers support a profusion of flowers and summer crops.
There are locations in Louisiana, south of New Orleans, that were once a hub of citrus production. The climate for citrus still exists, but the ground itself has been changed by repeated hurricanes.
Year-Round Gardening in Mississippi
Spring comes so early to Mississippi south of a line from Natchez to Jackson to Meridian that the brief winter is a welcome break. Like other states in the Deep South, vegetable gardening can be a year-round proposition, and on the immediate coast, growing frost-tender flowers and fruit is possible. The challenge of Mississippi gardening is dealing with humidity, flooding, and storms. If you can weather the elements, you can always find something to grow in your garden in Mississippi.
Year-Round Gardening in Texas
Texas is a state that is filled with horticultural surprises. The source of the rootstock for all the grapes now produced in France, Texas has become a place where it is still possible to buy land to set up your own vineyard. Five-, ten-, and twenty-acre parcels are being planted in olive groves north of Austin and west of San Antonio. There are even gardeners in Texas who raise truffles. Bananas sometimes survive long enough to produce fruit in extreme southeast and extreme southern Texas, and are used as a seasonal ornamental plant over much of the state east of Dallas and San Antonio.
Just about any location in Texas in USDA Hardiness Zones 9, 10, or 11 supports year-round vegetable gardening. Texas A&M University has even hybridized vegetable crops specifically to take advantage of changing daylight like the 1015 onion. Planted on October 15, this onion grows root and tops and winter and starts growing a bulb when days get longer than 12 hours in March. Texas gardeners regard fall and winter as their most productive seasons of the year.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Best States for Gardening Year Round
Q. Is there really no single best state for gardening year round?
A. The best location for any gardener depends on their preference in plants. Ingenious gardeners find ways to work with the soils and climate they are given.
Q. Do year-round gardens pose any special problems with pest control?
A. Year-round gardens attract year-round pests. The best way to approach this problem is to work with nature to control insects and plant diseases, rather than against it.
Year-round gardeners benefit from:
- Establishing habitat for birds that keep bugs under control. The same birds won’t be around to help with pest control all year, but you can put out bird food, provide protection from predators, and set up birdhouses to make your garden an inviting place for birds. It also helps to make your garden bat-friendly by installing a bat box and by allowing mosquitoes to multiply at least enough to feed your bats.
- Use integrated pest management. Avoid insecticides, and rely on beneficial insects and birds instead. A few insects in your garden isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They feed beneficial insects and birds. Insecticides wipe out beneficials at the same time they kill insect pests, and set the stage for an even worse insect problem later.
- Making a proper compost pile. Compost that heats up kills insect larvae and many of the species of fungi that attack plants. Well-aged compost improves the texture of the soil for better root growth, retains soil moistures, and provides balanced nutrients to your plants without risk of fertilizer burn.
- Using ground covers and mulches all year round. Many gardeners use mulch in the summer to reduce evaporation of soil moisture and to keep the soil cool. Mulches during the winter, however, can protect against frost and prevent the splashing of bacteria and fungi in the soil onto overwintering plants. Biodegradable corn starch plastic mulches help the soil warm up in the spring and prevent the germination of weeds.
- Ensuring garden soil is never trod upon. Plants need soft, pliable, well-aerated soil. Trampling the ground around them compacts the soil so it doesn’t hold water. Walking on flower beds and raised beds kills the beneficial fungi that bring nutrients and hydration to the plants around them. Never walk on ground where you have plants or that you intend to use for planting. Keep soil loose and friable.
Q. What do I do if I just can’t afford to move to the best state for my kind of gardening?
A. Use your ingenuity to become a master gardener where you are now! Even if you can’t relocate to the best states for gardening, you can learn and even originate new gardening methods for maximum enjoyment of your garden now.