Historically, the cradle of civilization lay in the fertile crescent of the eastern Mediterranean. Plant life in the Mediterranean regions grew well enough that farming became a predictable, seasonal event that became the foundation for modern civilization. Today, Mediterranean plant life is similar to the plant life that grew there in ancient times.
The Mediterranean climate does not just exist in the regions that surround the Mediterranean Sea. This climate may be found throughout the subtropical and coastal regions. A Mediterranean climate is used to describe any area where summers are long and hot and winters are mild and wet. Examples of a Mediterranean climate in the United States include parts of the South and the California coast.
Mediterranean plants have developed adaptations to help them survive warm, dry summers. Succulents may store up moisture throughout the wet winter weather that they will use in summer. Plants such as lavender and rosemary have needle-like leaves that reduce the rate of water lost through transpiration. Others such as lamb's ear have thick leaves filled with hairy, silvery foliage that do not lose water well. Trees for Mediterranean regions include lemon, olive and crape myrtle. Vines include trumpet vine and potato vine. Fruiting vines include grapes, which were among the first fruits to be cultivated.
Plants imported from the Mediterranean region are well-adapted to growing in Mediterranean climates throughout the world. These plants require less irrigation in summer. Gardens with Mediterranean herbs and vegetables as well as orchards with Mediterranean fruit trees need less upkeep work in the hottest months of summer.
Just because Mediterranean plants can survive Mediterranean climates around the world does not make them the perfect plant. Some of these plants must be placed in the garden in specific ways so that they can adapt to summer droughts. Some plants should be placed beneath trees so that they receive dappled shade in the hottest parts of the day. You should place rocks near other plants to provide moisture in the form of condensation for the plant roots.
Mediterranean soil is sandy and rocky. This can pose a problem when planting Mediterranean plants in heavy clay soils such as the Piedmont soil found in much of the South. Gardeners should amend their soil for Mediterranean plants with organic materials such as peat moss and compost. This will help to improve soil drainage and nutrient structure so that plants can thrive.