Har-Har-Hardiness Map – What is my new Planting Zone?

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If you are a regular visitor of my blog, you probably have read opening sentences starting with…, “When I went to college…(fill in blank)…”  Not to bore you, but, “When I went to college for hort courses, I never heard the term hardy.”  

Yes, that is correct.  Professors didn’t say hardy, neither did students.  That is not to say we did not learn about planting zones, review the zone map showing our average lowest winter temperatures by geographic location, and learn about the existing 11 zones and why they are important to plant survival.  Probably we didn’t hear the term because we were focused on botany and not selling plants.

However, the reverse happened as soon as I started working in a retail garden nursery center.  Practically everyone, staff and customers, used the term hardy all the time.  Customers would come in and often ask, “Is that hardy?”  And the staff seemed to use alot.  I noticed that word bounce around every day as if you were knowledgeable if you said “hardy.”

So I learned quickly.  While showing customers plants, I would point to this or that, responding, “Yes, this is hardy, that is hardy.  In fact, almost everything is hardy – the store wouldn’t sell it otherwise.  Ah, usually, as there are exceptions, and I’m glad there are.”  Such as the wonderful world of tropical plants, not hardy to our planting zone — but I would tout their benefits anyways. And of course, annuals are not hardy here, but they are elsewhere in the country. Hardiness zones never stopped me from adventuring down the non-hardy path as well.  Thank the Nature Gods. I love seeing new plants and using plants not hardy – otherwise, it would get boring, at least for me.

OK, back to today’s post.  It is not to educate you on what hardiness means or to define planting zones, because I’m guessing most of you know.  Plus with a quick click of the mouse on the web, you can find definitions.

Today’s post is to let you know what you may not have yet discovered.  The “New Plant Hardiness Zone Map” has just been released by the USDA.  Yes, finally an update.  The first since 1990.  And you can find it here:


It has a new Zone 12.  Can you locate it on the new map?  Also you may notice zones are divided into “a” and “b” (not technically new, the a and b thing, I mean) but some zone temperatures are shifting a bit… becoming a tad bit warmer or I should say the boundaries are shifting.

Surprised?  I’m sure not after this pleasantly mild winter in Connecticut.  But the changes lead us down to questioning what will happen to our plants this year.

Also, not surprising, there are 13 zones now instead of 11 zones.  You can search them all by zip codes.  Try entering your’s to locate your exact planting zone.  Bear in mind, microclimates around your planting spaces, and of course Mother Nature’s tricky ways, may be factors affecting your plants ability or non-ability to survive, altering your own little zonal world.

As for me, I have to get busy because all these zone warms-up have not provided me the normal winter pause.  In fact, things have sped up.  We are probably three weeks in advance.  So I must sign off for the day to get back to work.

Sincerely yours,

Zone 6a :  -10 to  -5  (F)


Cathy T

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