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How to Determine Your Best Planting Zone!
A popular question we get here at the nursery is..."What is my planting zone?" You can visit our home page and enter your zip code into the box underneath the Find Your Planting Zone statement and you will be presented with your best USDA plant growing zone to be able to browse through our site and select plants for your location.
What is the planting zone scale and how is it created? The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map debuted in 1960 as a way for farmers and nurserymen to rate plants that would be hardy in specific areas of the United States. Beginning in the most northern part of the US, zone 1 is the coldest zone. As the zone numbers increase, the zones become warmer until we reach the subtropical and tropical areas of Southern Florida with zones 11, 12 and 13. Recommended zones include 10 degree increments on the heat and cold hardiness in which would be the most extreme that the USDA feels a plant will withstand. However, there are always exceptions to that rule, such as quick temperature fluctuations can stress plants severely.
The most recent USDA planting zone map was created in 2012 with 30 year temperature averages taken from 1976 - 2005. Not taking into account the more recent climate changes, the planting zones are more of a starting point. Gardeners and landscapers often plant trees, shrubs or perennials that are 1 zone higher or lower than the USDA recommended zone for a particular plant and they generally perform nicely. But, an extreme weather season can push them and stunt their growth either for a short period or indefinitely, which is why nurseries do not typically guarantee plants planted outside the recommended growing zone.
There are also micrclimates within cooler zones. For example, there are microclimates in zone 5, that are more related to planting zone 6 and will safely grow wamer zoned plants.
When growing plants in the colder zones that a plant should grow in, be sure to provide some level of protection. For example, if you are planting a hedge of flowering shrubs that is hardy into zone 4 and you are in zone 4, try to plant in a few evergreen or fast growing deciduous trees to help block the wind coming across the plants. Straight line winds are harsh on new and old plants and the trees will work to provide some wind break. So on the colder end of the zone map, sometimes wind protection can be helpful for plants to grow.
On the other end of plants being planted in zones a bit warmer than they are zoned for, let's look at lavender plants for example. They are Mediterranean originated so they perfer hot, dry temperatures with loose sandy soil. Most will grow in zones 6 into 9. In zone 9, they perform better in the western regions that they do in the southeastern US. The west is hot and dry with sandy soil, while zone 9 in the southeastern states is hot, humid and clay soil. I receive lots of inquiries on customers wanting to plant lavender in the Gulf areas as well as Mid to Southern Florida. For those determined to grow it there, I recommend planting in open areas where the plants will have full air circulation (a must in any zone), some afternoon shade, sandy soil and plant in a raised area so water completely drains away. Even then, the plants can still stress. There is a huge difference between growing plants in the South of France compared to the South of Florida.
To get started on finding your planting zone visit our homepage and enter your zip code in the box provided.
Want to see the USDA Plant Zone Map? We have it here - USDA Zone Map