Planting Zones

Links to web sites where you can automatically look up your
USDA Plant Cold Hardiness Zone:


Look at the top right corner, enter your zip code, hit go!

USDA Agricultural Research

View your State Map – See on Top Banner of website

What is a Plant Zone?

In 2012, the USDA released a new version of the Plant Hardiness Zone Map.
It was the first time it was updated since 1990 – and most of us may be surprised to hear it was updated after such a long time, but it was time because our climate is always changing, seems to be getting warmer, and the mapping technology is more advanced for tracking the zones, etc.

Originally, the map had 11 zones but two more were added when it was updated, so it has a total of 13 Zones now. Each zone is a 10-degree F band, but they are also further divided into 5-degree F zones called “a” and “b.” For example, my Zone in Broad Brook, CT is 6a (-10 to -5 F).

Plants zones represent the average annual minimum winter temperature for a specific location, and it is the winter temperature that we need to consider on whether a plant will survive or not. The Zone helps you determine if the plant will survive at your location.

Plants will die back to the ground in many cases (such as perennials), but their roots will survive to regrow the following year when we spring and summer arrive again if they are hardy. If you plant a plant that will not survive our cold extreme winter temperatures, it will not come back.

Most nurseries will sell plants suited for your Planting Zone, so if you are a newbie and seem worried about what a Zone is, you don’t have to worry too much – Your local nurseries aren’t selling plants which can’t make it – unless it is a tropical or houseplant for example.

Just use one the links above, enter your zip code, and you will locate the Plant Zone for your region. Then, when you shop at the garden centers, you should see a zone range on the plant tag. So long as your zone is shown, you are safe.

Sometimes plants sold in your local nurseries or by a grower are for warmer zones, such as the tropical plants sold in my workshops – so why do we sell and use them? Because they “rock” in container gardens and may be overwintered inside the home, so using plants out of your zone is fun and it expands your horizons (or zones). You don’t necessarily have to be limited by Planting Zones.

In my workshops, I discuss Plant Zones with my attendees and ways using plants for zones “colder” or “warmer” than your region is beneficial in container gardens, and why.

There’s more to it also. For example, some areas within your yard may have “micro climates,” and snow cover is an insulator which can affect the ground temperature, and even a wood stove by a foundation wall may warm up your soil enough to keep a non-hardy plant growing – but we don’t need to go into that here – we can discuss it further at my workshops.

Thanks for visiting.

Cathy Testa

One thought on “Planting Zones

  1. Pingback: Why I love (and I mean LOVE) Container Gardening! | Container Crazy Cathy T

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