Heat Loving vs Cold Tolerant Plants

One way to consider annual vegetables, is according to their temperature preferences.

Knowing this key bit of info will help you know when to plant them, and what growing conditions they prefer.

The rule of thumb: leafy greens and root vegetables are more cold-hardy than vegetables that produce a “fruit” (such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, beans, corn, melons, etc)

Cold-Tolerant Plants

These are plants that can be planted early in the spring, and can grow late into the fall and early winter. They will do better in extreme weather with some protection (even a simple, low-tech covering that lets light and moisture through) - but it’s amazing what kinds of weather they can handle!

  • Spinach (very cold-tolerant)

  • Lettuce

  • Kale

  • Swiss Chard

  • Bok Choy

  • Arugula

  • Brussels Sprouts

  • Parsnips

Some varieties can handle more cold than others. For example, I usually have some Red Russian kale that makes it through the winter just fine, even without protection. On the other hand, most other types of kales are cold-hardy, but not THAT cold-hardy.

It’s always a good idea to check out the descriptions for whatever variety of vegetable you’re growing, to learn about the growing conditions that variety prefers. For example, some lettuce excels in the summer, and other varieties excel in the winter.

Moderately cold-tolerant plants

  • Carrots

  • Beets

  • Broccoli

  • Cabbage

  • Radishes

  • Onions

  • Leeks

  • Peas

  • Turnips

Heat-Loving Plants

Here are the plants that love summer. It’s more than a dislike of cool weather — they actually need the warm weather to thrive. If they’re planted when it’s cool, they won’t even grow much until they’re warm.

  • Beans

  • Sweet corn

  • Tomatoes

  • Peppers

  • Eggplant

  • Melons

  • Cucumbers

  • Zucchini

  • Squash

The similarity with all of the above plants is that they produce a “fruit”. These warm-weather crops can be planted as soon as the air and soil temperatures are sufficiently warm in the late spring, and they’ll be poised to take off when the weather turns hot in the summer.

One more addition to the list: another heat-loving vegetable (that’s not a fruit) is sweet potato. If you’re growing them - wait until early to mid June to plant them, unless you’re planning to plant them into landscape fabric and cover with row cover.