Gardening in Central America, La Antigua, Guatemala

geostv(Antigua, Guatemala)June 21, 2006

Hello all, I am an avid gardener in Portland, Oregon, and am relocating to Antigua, Guatemala. I haven't been able to find much info on the zonal equivalent it is in. To confuse matters even more, we go by sunset zones out here in the Pacific Northwest (where it was 51 degrees this morning!).

I am guessing Antigua is in a subtropical zone. The reason I am trying to figure this out ahead of time is so I can order some new garden design books for planning my new garden. I am originally from Miami so this is sort of heading back to my gardening 'roots' LOL! I am hoping to hook up with some fellow garderners once I get there.

Anyone have any ideas? Thanks

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As far as I know, Antigua is a full tropical zone. The ocean may keep it from being extremely hot, but it's south of Cuba, so you don't get much more tropical than that!

    Bookmark   June 21, 2006 at 8:06PM
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aroideana(Tropical Australia)

But Antigua is up over 1000 meters above sea level , its a very pleasant place ..much better than living in the sweltering lowland tropics , you will find a few very serious collectors around there if you are lucky .

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 5:31AM
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TonyfromOz(z10 NSW Aust)

I agree with heathen: at 15 deg N lat. it should be fully tropical. Antigua's altitude is around 1500 m or 5000 ft, which will moderate the heat a little, but it's doubtful you would ever get anything like the freezes that Florida has every few years.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 5:38AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Can I go with you!!! Guatamala has at least 12 climate zones due to tropical convergence and altitude. At that altitude I would guess between 65/ 80 year around. the big difference would be how much rainfall and when.Another factor is the runoff from snows at high altitude they moderate temps dramaticly.
I frequently go to Costa Rica and Panama but have never been to Guatamala.
i would wait until established to design a garden you may want to think vertical for epiphytes.
One thing for sure, you will have fantastic weeds!!lol
Please keep us informed!! You're living my dream lol

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 6:54AM
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We live in Guanacaste, Costa Rica, inland at 700 mts. There are so many 'differant climatic'areas changing just around the corner, it is hard to know until you are acually planting something to see whether you plantings will survive or flourish. We get strong winds here, in Oct-Dec that can flatten a young tree! So, I would advise you to scope out the trees in the area you wish to start your garden.
I have started my garden in what was just pasture land, with a small workers house on it. At least this acts as a wind break, and now the rainy season is upon us after months of no rain, many plants which seemed that I would have to reposition have 'perked up' after becoming established.
But, I'm afraid that the wind will kill anything but the most hardy if planted away from this building.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 9:09AM
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geostv(Antigua, Guatemala)

Wow, it is so nice to see that the Tropical forums are as friendly and as helpful as my home forum, Pacific Northwest Gardening. It seems that gardeners everywhere are just really nice people. Anyway, thanks for all the help. I ordered 'The Subtropical Garden' from Amazon, I figure that is a good starting point.

I also got an offer to take a trip to an orchid nursery up in the cloud forest at Coban, so I am off to a great start. It is so hard to give up a garden one has created. My current home garden is a japanese maple grove design. I am really excited about starting a new garden and am sure I will meet many new garden buddies on this forum. Thanks again - George

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 9:46AM
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Well, if you need help, I'll come down and stay and show you how. :D

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 10:41AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

How is the political situation there?? The war seems to be over but I'm told the larger cities have terrible crime rates. Sounds like Florida lol.
Would really love to visit Colombia or Venezuela. but the state dept. keeps scaring me off.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2006 at 6:34AM
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Here's the average weather for Guatemala City, which is very similar to Antigua. Actually, Antigua is very slightly higher in altitude and so might be a couple of degrees cooler. I remember seeing lots of bromeliads there. When I went, they were at war with Belize (and Britain), but I found the soldiers to be very friendly.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2006 at 10:25PM
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Hi All:
So glad to discover this site. It makes for very helpful reading.
Re: the above, we have the same situation (climatic, not political) here in Panama. In Boquete, where I live, there are microclimates galore. We're about a half hour from the beach at 4,000 ft. altitude and tho folks have told me camellias can't be grown here, we have three healthy generic babies and know about more squirreled away in other closeby micro-climates. Would be interested in knowing if anyone else on this forum has experience with camelias down here -- or in the mountains. Another interesting surprise has been the Spanish moss that crops up occasionally. Being from Savannah, I've always thought of Spanish moss in lowland terms and associated with live oaks. Here it is not as dainty and seems to hang off a variety of trees and shrubs. Also, our damaging winds come in January-February and I'm told virtually every part of Central America gets them at some time of the year. One of our orchids (a baby Dracula) blew off its tree during one of these storms and headed for parts unknown.
For these and other reasons, I echo what CostaRicaFinca suggested; it really makes good sense to get situated and see what your own area is like and what unique little treasures it has in store for you. By the way, garyfla, Panama is a great place if you're looking for a stable political situation, low crime and folks who actually LIKE Americans.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2006 at 6:52PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

have been planning another trip to Costa Rica and may try to go to Panama also. I love those mountains.
Last time I thought about it the US invaded to remove Noriega . Time before that couldn't get within 3 miles of the border due to the war in
I think if I were to move to the area to live it would probably be in CR. Don't see that happening as my wife hates the jungle lol.
You got to be kidding !! Not even Americans like Americans lol
Oh well, Have been doing a lot of reading on the S.Pacific lol

    Bookmark   July 2, 2006 at 6:22AM
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PuraVida(Costa Rica)


I am in Costa Rica.

Antigua, Guatemala is full tropical. I am at about 1000 mts in the central valley here. I would suggest starting with some indigenous plants as well as the more common ornamentals you will see around that area. When I started, I planted everything I could get my hands on. I also planted all the seeds from the fruits I ate, and acquired divisions of other basic food crops such as bananas. Once you know when the rainy season is make a point to plant right after that begins. If you have a long dry season there be ready to keep things watered the first few years, if it's a protected spot you might not have to do that. Do you know how much space you're going to have? There are some beautiful clumping bamboos that are NOT invasive that you can easily grow in that zone, they grow fast and are very impressive. Any houseplants you liked back up north will most likely grow to humongous size with little or no help outside. Check out the local nurseries when you get there.

good luck!
Pura Vida

Here is a link that might be useful: garden photo blog

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 12:11PM
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Hello from St John USVI,
Geostv you are getting good advice. Wait till you get settled in to do any garden planning or planting. We moved from zone 5/6 to 10/11. I was so excited I could garden year around I ordered plants, had things dug up from my garden and sent and bought lot's and lot's of books. I have found my best source of gardening books is to go to a Barnes and Noble in Miami which has the closest zone to St John. Start a calendar diary of where the sun is and the average wind on each area of your new home. When you are closer to the equator the positon of the sun is dramatically different each time of year. I put an orchid garden in an area which I thought was shaded only to find a month later it got direct sun and burned all the plants. My garden workers which get $25.00 an hour laugh at me and tell me they will never be out of work as I am constantly moving everything.I started my garden in 1997 and it is a huge learning curve. I have learned that the plants and look I want and what will do well are not necessarily cooperative. Other factors I had never considered cows that roam the island and feast on Hibiscus or goats that can climb sheer rocks and eat anthing and everything in your garden. Our entire garden is fenced and I have a cattle guard across the entrance or there would be no garden.
On a happpier note I now have a prized and beautiful garden I have just about every tropical plant and some that I have challenged to grow I can't live without such as roses.I have been very successful with Vanda orchids from Thailand heirloom roses from Vintage gardens and Antique Rose Emporium and Plumeria which other gardenweb members have shared with me.I will email you the titles of my favorite
tropical gardening books. So many have great pictures but no real information.If I can share cuttings or seeds of anything let me know. I wish I could figure out how to post pictures on Gardenweb but I am technically challenged. I can email pictures with no problem. Congratulations on your move you will love gardening in the tropics.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 9:02AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Since this post is over two years old . How is your garden growing ??lol Curious as to how it worked out gary

    Bookmark   August 19, 2008 at 5:31AM
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Things in Colombia are much improved compared to 5 years ago. There are places where you could have trouble but most of the big cities are ok. I live in Medellin and while there is street crime it's not all that bad. If you are an experianced traveler with some Spanish I think you would be just fine.

Phil Bunch
Medellin/Piedras Blancas

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 5:03PM
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geostv(Antigua, Guatemala)

Nice to see this thread came back to life! Well, I have been in Guatemala for 2 years now, and I love it. like anywhere, there are problems, but overall the quality of life is really nice. The gardening is great, the lowest temp here has been in the low 40's once. typically, it is about 78 during the day and 63 or so at night. Pretty near perfect. Just about anything grows here. I stick mainly with tropicals, but the plants that really love the heat are not as happy here as others. I am about 3 weeks away from completing construction on a new pool, so i have a whole new area to landscape! Another reason to go nursery hopping. And...plants are so cheap here. It almost makes propagating not worth the effort, but I enjoy it. About 2 months ago, i saw a bunch of tropical butterfly weed in the nursery and bought ten of them. Since then, my garden has been full of monarchs, there are so many monarch caterpillars on the plants that I have taken to moving them around by hand so as to try and keep some leaves on the plants. There are chrysalis all through the garden now. that is really cool! Anyway, no regrets, i have only been back to the states once in the 2 years. there is so much to do and see here, there has not been time to head back to the usa. Anyway, thats it for now, take care all!

    Bookmark   August 20, 2008 at 8:07PM
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I am glad you like it there. I am originally from Peru but never did any gardening while living at home. I so much wish I had. I live in the Seattle area and do my best to fill my garden with tropicals--which is a lot of fun until I have to haul everything into the garage every winter--and even then I always lose something.
One of the things (maybe the main thing) I miss about gardens at home is the fragrance--it is probably the warmth that brings out the intensity. I bet it is very exciting to start over and be learning new things. Wish you luck.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2008 at 1:35AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Thanks for that "positive " report!! Everything I hear is soooooo negative . Of course what I would be interested in is the parks where I could see some of those fantastic landscapes and wildlife. I hear these are the most dangerous parts due to the kidnappings.
I suspect the "drug wars" will continue long after i'm gone. As long as Florida keeps buying it Colombia will keep selling it.??
I have some friends in Venezuela which could show me around Would seem a terrific advantage to have someone who knows the area as well as speaks the language well.
Have been to Costa Rica , and Belize and enjoyed them alot
Thanks again gary

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 6:23AM
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If someone could help with gardening in Solola, Guatemala, I would be grateful. I live at 7000 ft where the days stay in the 70's but we get a heavy frost in January and February that kills everything. Roses do well, as do calla lilies. I tried a hydrangea but it is not doing well. Even my bougainvillea are slow to grow and flower. Any ideas?

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 11:02PM
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Hi Marialeigh,
Doesn't sound like Tropical Forum is going to be as helpful to you as possibly California Forum. It is a huge learning curve climate wise. Sounds like your climate may be similar to San Francisco. I am surprised hydrangeas are
not doing well for you. Look at local neighbors gardens
also maybe bulbs ?
Good Wishes AJ

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 12:41PM
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