Garden Zone Info: The Importance Of Regional Gardening Zones
By: Jan Richardson
As you get started planning out your garden, you may already have your mind filled with visions of crisp vegetables and a kaleidoscope of bedding plants. You can almost smell the sweet perfume of roses. This is all well and good, but if you already have your garden planted in your mind, you may want to stop and back up a few steps before loading up that shopping cart. The first activity any serious gardener should tackle is research into one’s garden zone info, including your regional gardening zone.
Garden Zone Info
Many novice gardeners make the same mistakes, either attempting to grow plants the wrong time of year or choosing plants that are not suited for the region in which they live. Essential to the healthy growth and development of all plants is the length of the growing season, timing and amount of rainfall, winter temperature lows, summer highs and humidity.
Differences in any one of these factors can spell disaster for your garden. To guarantee success and avoid your own disappointment, it is critical to pay close attention to the regional planting information located on the packages and containers of most seeds and plants–known more simply as plant hardiness zones.
Hardiness Zone Maps
The United States is divided into several regional gardening zones according to the average annual minimum temperature. These regions (which may vary somewhat) are most commonly referred to as Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Rockies/Midwest, South, Desert Southwest, Southeast, South Central and Central Ohio Valley, although each region can be even further divided into more specific climate zones.
Using this garden zone info for educating yourself on which plants are better suited for your particular climate zone will save you much disappointment. That’s where the USDA Hardiness Zone maps come in. Some plants cannot handle the icy coldness of a Northeast winter, while others will wilt and dry up in southern climates. Amazingly, other plants call for a brief cold period in order to stimulate their coming growth cycle.
So what garden zone do I live in, you may ask? When locating plant hardiness zones, refer to the USDA Hardiness Zone maps. This is the best way in how to determine your garden zone. Simply go to your region or state and find your general location. Keep in mind that in some states, the zones may be broken down even further depending on specific climatic areas.
Knowing when it is safe to plant specific types of plants within appropriate plant hardiness zones can make all the difference in whether your garden succeeds or fails. For example, during the month of May, gardeners in warm zones can begin to plant cutting flowers and all kinds of vegetables, while their counterparts in more northern climates are busy tilling soil and preparing beds.
Taking a little time to educate yourself on your climate zone and which plants will thrive will pay off in longer lasting and beautifully thriving gardens.
Jan Richardson is a freelance writer and avid gardener.
This article was last updated on
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Regional Gardening, Europe Hardiness Zones, Plant Hardiness
Selecting plants suited to your climate will be a key step to success. If you know your hardiness zone, find the best plants or exciting garden ideas for your geographic area.
Based on the minimum ten-year average winter temperatures, plant hardiness zone maps have been progressively developed, first by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for the United States and then more or less applied to the rest of the planet. The purpose of these hardiness zones is to identify how well plants will withstand the cold winter temperatures of these zones.
How Hardiness Zones Impact Regional Gardening
Regional gardening should be successful when you know which plants are suitable for the climate in your area. What withers in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Fresno, California, might flourish in Boston since different areas don’t have the same growing conditions. Also, plants require various levels of care when being transferred to different locations.
For you to determine which plants should thrive in your garden, the Hardiness Zone Map comes in handy. On the other hand, most of the plants you purchase usually come with a tag that gives you instructions regarding sunlight, season, and watering schedule.
Accordingly, some plants that are for sale may have a code listed beside a color-coded map of the United States, which refers to the hardiness zones of each area.
The USDA Hardiness Zone Map divides the whole of the United States into 11 hardiness zones. Those that are numbered 1 through 11 are the lowest temperature ranges typical for that area and are ranked from coldest to warmest.
All hardiness zones, except for 1 and 11, are split into two subregions, namely “A” and “B,” which are separated by 5 degrees.
13 USDA Planting Zones
Today’s USDA planting zone map is interactive and searchable to help gardeners like you find the information you need. You can refine the nation by location to find your specific zone and start planting the right seeds.
If you were familiar with your area’s hardiness zone in the past, be advised that it may have changed. In 2012, The USDA redeveloped their hardiness zone map to reflect changing climates throughout the nation. Here are the 13 current planting zones and their specifics:
Zone 1 (-60 to -50): The coldest hardiness zone in America, planting zone 1 has an average low temperature of -60 degrees Fahrenheit. Zone 1a is -65 to -55 degrees, and zone 1b is -55 to -50. You’ll only find this number in northern and central Alaska. What can grow in this unforgiving cold? Picture beautiful rows of birch trees and aspens growing through a blanket of snow. Certain hardy rhododendrons also manage to make a go of it in hardiness zone one.
Zone 2 (-50 to -40): Zone 2 also hosts a bitterly cold growing environment. Again, the only parts of America that fall into this zone are northern and central points in Alaska. Certain coastal Alaskan areas also hold a hardiness zone of 2b, which is an average low of -45 to -40 degrees. Paper birches, American elms and Eastern larch trees are hardy candidates for zone 2’s stinging winters.
Zone 3 (-40 to -30): States that border Canada are familiar with zone 3 conditions. These include areas in northern Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Parts of upstate New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine also dip to 3b conditions, which are between -30 and -35. Trees like sugar maples and European white birches as well as certain species of dogwood, juniper, spruce and pine can all tolerate these frigid temperatures.
Zone 4 (-30 to -20): Farther south, states like Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota have sections with zone 4 temperatures. Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota also range between zones 4a and 4b. Suitable plants include forsythias, Japanese barberry and common privet. Deciduous dawn redwoods also thrive in zone 4.
Zone 5 (-20 to -10): Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa are primary zone 5 representatives. Northern Illinois, Indiana, New York, Massachusetts and Northern Pennsylvania also experience zone 5b conditions. If you’re gardening in these parts of the country, opt for winners like Japanese maples, flowering dogwoods and Oregon-grape.
Zone 6 (-10 to zero): Zone 6 belts across the eastern border of Colorado and New Mexico, through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, southern Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and Connecticut. You’ll also find zone 6 in inland Washington and Oregon as well as throughout Nevada, Utah and parts of California and Arizona. Common boxwoods, Atlas cedars, English Ivy and heavenly bamboo are excellent plants for zone 6.
Zone 7 (zero to 10): Zone 7 plants prosper in Arizona, New Mexico and Northern Texas as well as Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. Big leaf maples, English holly and Monterey pines are good fits for zone 7. You can also try Kurume azaleas, which produce beautiful blooms.
Zone 8 (10 to 20): Coastal regions of Washington State, Oregon and Northern California are home to zone 8 hardiness conditions. This zone also spans central Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South and North Carolina. Planting contenders include the Mexican orange, the common olive and the strawberry tree. Zone 8b can also produce healthy pindo palms.
Zone 9 (20 to 30): California, Arizona, East Texas, Louisiana and Florida all have zone 9 weather conditions. Even southwestern Oregon can produce healthy zone 9 plants. Chinese hibiscus plants, orchid trees, fuchsias and eucalyptus species thrive in these areas.
Zone 10 (30 to 40): Zone 10 maintains a higher average year-round temperature, which includes areas like Central Florida, Arizona’s Mexico border and the southern tip of California. Try your hand here with friendly poinsettias, rubber plants and variety of palms and succulents.
Zone 11 (40 to 50): Los Angeles, San Diego and Miami are virtually the only areas of the continental United States that reach zone 11 conditions. Zone 11 residents can have fun with agaves, aloes and African lily plants. Just remember to select plants that are right for your local humidity level.
Zones 12 and 13 (50 to 60 and 60 to 70): USDA tropical zones 12 and 13 exist only on the Hawaiian Islands and Puerto Rico. Zone 13 plants include the exotic birds of paradise and Hawaiian hibiscus. Tropical fruit plants like mangos, avocados and coconut palms are also right at home here.
Know Your Hardiness Zone To Grow Plants Year-Long
I used to clean and keep my gardening tools once I’ve harvested my summer crops. But during winter especially during the holidays, buying vegetables from the supermarket seems really off.
It may seem funny and weird but having enjoyed my homegrown vegetables, eating bought ones seems sacrilegious somehow. Now, I’m maintaining a garden until the weather allows me to.
You too can grow a fall vegetable garden for a year-round harvest. So let’s not wait till the earth freezes over and grow vegetables and fruits now.
Using The Hardiness Zone Map
Check out this USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine where you are in the hardiness zone. As you must be aware, the zones are divided into 11 with 1 being the coldest and 11 the warmest. Zones 1 cover the far north while zones 11 the far south, frost-free, larger areas of Hawaii.
Although the USDA plant hardiness zone map is the standard measure for plant hardiness, other factors should be considered when growing crops beyond the season. Besides cold snaps, the elevation in your area should be taken into account. The variety of plants to grow is also essential. Find out what plants you can grow in your zones and when, as you read on.
Hardiness Zones Plant Ideas
Plant Hardiness Zone 11
If you’re from around Hawaii and the Florida Key areas, then you’re lucky. Yours is a tropical to a sub-tropical area you can keep on growing year-round. Plus you can grow exotic fruits and vegetables perfect for your climate.
You can grow cold hardy crops outdoors even in winter but the weather can be unpredictable. Seeds started in succession would be a bright idea.
Plant Hardiness Zone 10
This sub-tropical zone includes parts of California and Florida where frost is rare but could occur in mid-December. Prepare your soil in September so you can grow winter squash, beets, carrots, lettuce, peas, onions, and cauliflowers in October.
Plant Hardiness Zone 9
This zone includes the Gulf coast of Louisiana and Texas, Central Florida and the Southern Oregon coast. The growing season is long and the winters are mild.
Grow peas, lettuce, cabbages, carrots, beets, and broccoli in September to October. You can also split your rhubarb and asparagus crown for October planting
Plant Hardiness Zone 8
Zone 8 ranges from the western and southern US border of Washington across to North Carolina. The first frost comes around the middle of November so better prepare your soil in August to September.
You can plant, thereafter, carrots, beets, broccolis, cauliflowers, kale, lettuce and cabbages. Most of these vegetables, especially the brassicas can tolerate a light frost.
Plant Hardiness Zone 7
Hardiness zone 7 includes Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Georgia, Delaware, New Jersey, Cape Cod, the greater part of Texas, and Long Island.
The first frost is expected towards the end of October so you had better start September planting of beets, cabbages, lettuce, spinach, and kale. You better be prepared with season extenders or protection for your winter garden as weather can be unpredictable.
Plant Hardiness Zone 6
Hardiness zones 6 covers Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the east coast through the west in parts of West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois.
Gardeners in this area have a wide array of vegetable to choose from to grow. In the hardiness zone, you can grow both cool season and warm season vegetables in the growing season. You can grow salad leaves, tomatoes, and beans, all at the same time.
Downside To Hardiness Zone And Tips To Deal With It
One of the obvious drawbacks to the USDA hardiness zone is that it does not incorporate summer heat levels. But you can also apply the same principle and avoid growing warm climate plants in colder zones.
Other factors which should be considered is the elevation, moisture level, frost days, and rare cold snaps. Take advantage of the cool temperature in higher levels of warmer zones to grow cool season crops.
Although the hardiness zone map has its many uses, every smart gardener must not rely solely on it. Study your surrounding and make a bit of research about your area if you want to be successful in your late season planting projects. While you can also use other season-extending tools and protection for your crops like greenhouses and growing indoors.
Watch this video from OneYardRevolution | Frugal & Sustainable Organic Gardening for fall gardening ideas:
Don’t be easily put off by the fall and winter season when it comes to gardening. Don’t miss out on saving lots of money too with growing your own food beyond the gardening season. Knowing your hardiness zone and using it to your advantage will allow you fresh fruits and vegetables especially for the holiday feasts.
Determining your hardiness zone will also help you save a lot of trouble on expenses and labor. It could be very well a gardening mistake you can avoid knowing what plants will have a better chance of success when planted.
I hope you found this article helpful as it was to me. I’d be glad to hear your comments and entertain questions. Do post them in the comments section below.
Want to start spring planting earlier? Then find out the best vegetables for your spring vegetable garden here.
Plants That Thrive
Because the weather conditions are ideal for gardening, several types of plants can thrive in zones 4-6. However, some differences are dependent on the specific zone. In zone 4, flowers such as goldenrods, daisies, and petunias will thrive. Plus, the bright color combination is a nice bonus. Landscaper, gardener, and writer Melanie Musson advises filling pots and baskets with petunias for a warm, English-countryside look. If you want to plant trees by your lake house in zone 4, consider a sugar maple. The dynamic, orange-brown tones will look vibrant in the Fall. In zone 5, Musson notes that Agastache will quickly prosper, and they’ll also attract hummingbirds to your garden. As for trees and shrubs, flowering dogwoods and Japanese yews are perfect for zone 5. In zone 6, Musson recommends planting hostas. These perennials love the evenly moist soil in this zone, and their leaves are beautiful all season long. Musson also adds azaleas and rhododendrons to the list of plants that will flourish in zone 6. She shares, “they make for low-maintenance shrubbery that boasts a stunning bloom period.”