Heat sensitive plants

An old-time picket fence is not heat-reflective but beautiful vinyl privacy fencing is. The reflective heat may be damaging to heat-sensitive plants.

DEAR AMOR: My neighbor next door put up a beautiful privacy fence that is the popular white vinyl fencing. Along the side of my yard the west afternoon sun reflects off this fencing. Some of my flowers have not withstood this heat. Any suggestions on what can withstand the heat? I’m in zone 5. — Mary

DEAR MARY: Oh no! Vinyl privacy fencing is indeed beautiful but I did not realize it could reflect too much heat, which is destructive to some plants. I looked around some neighborhoods and saw these tightly built privacy fences, then I understood what you meant.

Most residential white vinyl fences are built as a wall, intended to conceal everything out of sight. They will indeed reflect heat to the plants. It is not like those old-time decorative picket fences where flowers are blooming right through them.

A lot of plants cannot withstand afternoon sun, let alone receive added heat reflection from a structure. These heat-sensitive plants need strategic locations in areas where they can have some form of shade from nearby trees or buildings.

Aside from suggesting that it is best to relocate your plants to a reasonable distance away from a heat-reflective privacy vinyl fence, you may consider choosing perennial flowering, bush-type plants to go along with your other favorite full-sun annual or perennial groundcover plants in that location. In my point of view, perennial shrubberies are more resilient to extreme weather conditions and will provide some shade with other companion plants.

When purchasing plants, always look for those ones that were tagged “full sun” as they will mostly succeed in your intended location. The following heat loving shrubberies have been grown successfully by homeowners and business landscapes.


Thrives in full sun. Hardy in zones 5-8. Grows best in moist, well-draining soil. Flowers in late spring and early summer. After flowering, a light pruning maybe done to remove its spent blooms. However, late winter or very early in the spring before growth begins is a good time for heavy pruning. Remove defective branches and its oldest wood for plant renewal and flowering efficiency for the next season.

Japanese Spirea

Thrives in full sun. Hardy in zones 4-8. Grows best in moist, and well-draining soil. Flowers in early summer. Prefers neutral soil but not highly alkaline. If so, adjust your soil pH accordingly. Removing spent flowers encourages rebloom. Prune in late winter or early spring by removing diseased or dead branches.


Thrives in full sun. Hardy in zones 3-7. Grows best in moist, well-draining soil. Most varieties tolerate alkaline soil. It will not be a prolific bloomer in highly acidic soil as that will only encourage bushier leaves instead. Look for cultivars that are mildew resistant. Flowers in late spring. Prune spent bloom right away for plant vigor and flowering strength the next year.

Shrub Roses

Thrives in full sun. Hardy in zones 5-10. Grows best in acidic soil. A well rotten manure is the best organic additives to fertilize a less ideal soil. Some shrub roses are self-cleaning by dropping off their spent blooms. A “one-third” renewal pruning technique is best to make any shrub roses continue to become a prolific bloomer. This is done after the plant has reached its third year. In early spring, search out the one-third very robust stems of the plant. Prune away all others.

Rose of Sharon

Thrives in full sun. Hardy in zones 5-8. Grows best in moist, well-draining soil. It tolerates alkaline soil. Flowers of this plant can be single or double and of varying colors. Pruning in early spring boost flowering efficiency.

Amor Chamness Cook is a Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate. Email your garden questions for “Dear Amor” at dearamor@yahoo.com.

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