Herbs in the Canary Islands
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Margaret Harrison
Posted on: June 14, 2002

Good afternoon, I wonder if you can help me,I am an avid herb grower here in British Columbia. I am also a Certified Herbalist, in the very near future I shall be moving to Tenerife (Canary Islands--Spain). So my questions are:-

Which herbs would grow well in that climate ? Which of my "old" favorites would I be able to grow ?

I shall of course be visiting the local gardeners so that where I can I can use native plants. I make many healing salve and oils as well as face creams, hand lotions etc. and I would like to continue to do so.

I do hope you can give me some ideas !!

It is never a safe bet to predict which of your favourite plants will succeed in a new location. There are many factors that affect how well a plant will do. Besides the obvious cold hardiness factor, there are heat tolerance, presence or absence of seasonal changes, tolerance to low or high humidity, precipitation, soil factors, local pests and diseases, and other factors. The best bet is to ask your new neighbours what works and what doesn’t.

Usually the most significant factors are cold hardiness and heat tolerance. You can get an indication of these from the zone ratings found in the "Richters InfoCentre" section of our website, in the "Herb Growing Infobase."

You need to know what the equivalent USDA zone rating is for your new location. The USDA zone rating is based on the average minimum temperature; so, for a zone 10, the average minimum is 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit or 0-5 degrees Celsius. For zone 11, the average minimum is above 5 degrees. I don’t have climatic information for the Canary Islands, but I would guess that they are in zone 10 and probably zone 11.

So, as an example, rosemary is rated zone 8-10. This means that it might do well for you. Even if the Canary Islands are zone 11, it is often possible to "push" herbs one zone by taking measures that mitigate the heat. You may need to plant rosemary in a location that is shaded during the hottest part of the day.

It is important to realize that the hardiness zone ratings are intended to be a guide for overwintering plants. Even if a plant’s zone rating indicates that the plant will not survive the winter in a particular location that does not mean that the plant can’t be grown successfully there. For example, in temperate regions plants that are perennial in the tropics are grown as annuals. Petunias, marigolds and tomatoes come to mind. Conversely, in zones higher than a plant’s range it may still be possible to grow it as an annual during the cooler part of the year.

In the end it is going to take trial and error to find our exactly what works and what doesn’t. Good luck!

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