Whether you’re adapting your garden to climate change or you just want some greens during the dog days of summer, this list of heat-tolerant greens will give you some inspiration for your garden.
If you’re a gardener in a hot climate, you know the challenges of rising temperatures due to climate change. The soil becomes less moist as the weather gets warmer, leading to less water for your plants.
Or maybe you just long for a salad out of your own garden even though the temperatures are climbing. The following greens can handle the heat and provide a diverse and flavorful harvest during the warm days.
1. Bok Choy
If you want something versatile and heat-resistant, bok choy (Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis) is an excellent choice. Originally from China, this leafy green has a bulbous bottom, making it stand out in any garden.
Once harvested, you can easily clean it and chop it into a stir fry with other vegetables. Alternatively, you can eat it raw in a salad.
This crop is great for warm climates because it takes a while to bolt in the heat, which makes it survive longer than other greens like lettuce.
2. Dinosaur Kale
You can find this green in many Italian-inspired dishes such as soups and pasta recipes. Some gardeners enjoy growing this crop as an ornamental edible because of its striking dark green color, which almost looks purple in the evening light.
Dinosaur kale (Brassica oleracea var. palmifolia) is ideal for adding some texture and color to your garden when it’s warm. If you leave it on the stalk too long, it becomes tough, making it perfect as fodder for livestock.
3. Egyptian Spinach
It’s hard to mention heat-tolerant greens without including Egyptian spinach (Corchorus olitorius). Like bok choy, it takes a while before this crop bolts, making it suitable for growing in warm climates.
When the flowers are pollinated, they turn into edible pods that taste like okra. This green is often called ‘Molokhia’ and grows tall when planted in your garden. You can cook this spinach in a variety of Middle Eastern dishes as well as classic garden salads.
Biennial collards (Brassica olaracea) can be planted in raised beds, soil, or containers. They’re an excellent crop for people who want to grow greens indoors. The harvest from collards is generous, so you can expect to feed a family with this crop.
These greens are tolerant of heat and can stand up to cooking, as well.
5. Sweet Potato
You might be wondering why sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are included in this list of heat-tolerant greens, but their greens are delicious and heat tolerant. In fact, some people only grow this crop for their leaves because they’re so tasty.
Plus, you can harvest the leaves while the sweet potatoes are still growing. So, this crop offers you two things for the price of one. All you have to do is harvest them like Eygptian spinach with a pair of scissors and clean them before cooking.
Be sure to leave at least half of the leaves behind if you want a root crop so the plant has enough energy to produce a large tuber.
6. Longevity Spinach
Gynura procumbens is another type of spinach that grows well in the heat. It’s low maintenance, looks great, and can be left alone if you need to travel during spring or summer.
Research shows that eating spinach can prevent certain illnesses and lower blood sugar levels.
Also known as the drumstick tree (Moringa oleifera), this magical plant can survive extreme heat and cold climates, making it a popular choice for gardeners. The nutritional benefits of this plant are incredible, so you should add it to your list of crops.
The leaves can be prepared in a salad or used in a smoothie to boost your immune system. You can also use them to make a soothing cup of tea!
This edible leafy green (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius) is native to Mexico and Central America. It is also known for its impressive nutritional benefits and antioxidant properties. If you can find this crop in America, it’s ideal for growing in warm regions.
As a general rule, it’s essential to cook chaya for at least 20 minutes as it removes any cyanide traces in the plant. As long as you cook it thoroughly, it’s perfectly safe for consumption.
Part of the Phyllanthaceae family, Auropus androgynus is commonly found in traditional Southeast Asian meals. It is easy to grow and can thrive in the heat. You can also harvest the edible berries from this leafy crop.
The raw leaves taste like peanuts, and the cooked leaves taste like spinach!
On top of being delicious, a study published in the Journal of Ethnic Foods shows that the plant has antifungal, antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-cancerous potential, so eat up!
10. Edible Leaf Hibiscus
This perennial leafy green (Abelmoschus manihot) doesn’t need much attention and can be grown in hot gardens. The tallest it can produce is 2 feet with the right growing conditions, which makes it fantastic for self-sufficient homesteaders looking for a large harvest.
You can eat the leaves and flowers of this green.
11. Cranberry Hibiscus
Another hibiscus plant that enjoys the sun is cranberry hibiscus (Hibiscus acetosella). This shrub is typically grown for ornamental purposes, but few people know its edible uses and how it can improve your health.
This crop is red compared to the other heat-tolerant greens on this list. So, you can have some variety in your garden and enjoy its tasty leaves in meals at home.
12. Swiss Chard
A staple heat-tolerant green for any gardener is swiss chard (Beta vulgaris). Even though swiss chard looks similar to celery, the leaves and stems are slightly sweet and mild, similar to spinach.
This crop can also grow in the cold, so it’s a versatile heat tolerant green suited to many different gardens.
13. Ethiopian Mustard
Ethiopian rape or mustard (Brassica carinata) is a beautiful crop for warm locations if you want to grow a collection of heat-tolerant greens and flowers.
This green is a cousin to mustard and produces thousands of seeds. It’s likely a natural hybrid of black mustard (B. nigra) and wild cabbage (B. oleracea). They might bolt quicker than some of the other greens on this list, but their vast harvest is worth it.
Ethiopian rape is hardy and doesn’t suffer from many pests and diseases.
For small homesteaders, amaranth greens (Amaranthus spp.) are one of the best choices. In the past, this crop sustained empires, and today is used as a leafy green and grain. It was first discovered in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Since then, many gardeners have grown this leafy green in hot weather worldwide. It has a lovely taste and will produce a stunning purple stem while growing. It’s also heat tolerant so you can eat greens even when the summer is raging.
Our last (but not least) heat-tolerant green is arugula (Eruca vesicaria ssp. sativa). This leafy green is a reliable crop that grows fast once planted.
Not all arugula cultivars are heat tolerant, so look for these greens when shopping: ‘Astro,’ ‘Slow Bolt,’ and wild arugula tuypes. You can also limit the bolting time by keeping the soil moist and in partial shade during the warm months.
A Few Extras
In addition to the 15 heat-tolerant greens above, here are some other crops you can grow in warm climates:
- Curly-leafed Kale (Brassica oleracea var. sabellica)
- Ceylon Spinach (Talinum fruticosum)
- Sissoo Spinach (Alternanthera sissoo)
- Tat Soi (Brassica rapa ssp. Narinosa)
Salad Greens That Grow in Hot Weather
Butter-head lettuces are some of the best heat-tolerant lettuces and won’t bolt when the weather turns up a notch. For many salads, you can start planting in early spring and harvest throughout summer.
Of course, this will depend on your region and how high the temperatures get. For the most part, this is how gardeners prepare for the warm season.
Once planted, butter-leaf salads don’t need much maintenance. You must water the crop once or twice a week and place mulch over the soil for extra nutrients.
‘Bronze Mignonette,’ ‘Buttercrunch,’ ‘Ermosa,’ ‘Marvel of Four Season,’ ‘Red Cross,’ ‘Summer Bibb,’ and ‘White Boston‘ are all more heat tolerant than other types of lettuce.
‘Lollo Rosso,’ ‘Paradai Oak Leaf,’ ‘Red Sails,’ and ‘Ruby Geen‘ all provide red leaves with some heat tolerance.
Tips for Growing in the Summer
When choosing crops to grow in the summer, choose as many loose-leaf varieties. These greens are more resistant to heat and are slower to bolt.
You also need to be careful about sowing your seeds at the correct time. For instance, most lettuce seeds go dormant once temperatures hit 80°F, so you need to get them in the ground when the weather is mild.
Watering is essential for summer crops, so you must be vigilant about checking soil moisture levels and providing extra water when necessary. It’s also a good idea to provide shade during the hottest parts of the day to prevent the leaves from being burnt.
The final tip is to harvest regularly to promote the future growth of your greens. The plant will stop growing new foliage if you leave them for too long as it signals to the plant that they don’t need to keep producing and can go to seed.
Luckily, you can never eat enough salad, so you’ll be able to cook tasty meals all summer long!