Microclimates in Water-Wise Landscapes

What is a microclimate?

Microclimates in landscapes are small localized areas that differ in temperature, precipitation, and wind protection from the greater surrounding area.  Structures, topographic features, and plant orientation can create microclimates.  They can be naturally occurring or intentionally designed.

Inside of hoop house with plants
This hoop house creates a microclimate for the plants inside. While this was intentional, most microclimates in a landscape are not, but they can be an asset if they are worked with correctly. Photo credit: Campobello Island Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Examples of Existing Features that can Create Microclimates

  • Topographic depressions – influence temperature, water and snow retention, and wind
  •  Hills and berms influence temperature, snow melt, and wind
  •  Slopes influence runoff and temperature depending on orientation to the sun
  • Groups of existing plants, buildings, and other structures influence temperature and wind

These areas may or may not need to be modified based on what opportunities and constraints were determined by the site inventory and analysis.

How to Create a Water-Wise Microclimate

  • Use walls, fences, plants or other structures to block use areas and keep sensitive plants from drying winds.
  •  Create shade using water wise tree species or structures to reduce evapotranspiration.
  • Plant tree species that leaf out later in the spring to maximize seasonal use of outdoor areas.
  • Create depressions, swales, or rain gardens to capture and slow water infiltration into the soil.

Additional Resources:


Nebraska – Microclimates


California – Creating Microclimates in the Garden
California – Garden Site Evaluation Form


Florida – Microclimates