Your planting zone is a measurement set by the USDA to help you understand what plants can survive outside in your environment. This is why it’s important that you know what planting zone you live in and do you research to find out which plant species can do well, especially if you live in an area with four distinct seasons where colder winters are common. Generally speaking, your planting zone will define which plants can survive the winter.
They’re typically meant for people who grow perennial plants because these plants live through several growing seasons. Perennials need to be able to survive cold temperatures. You take your plants and look at their planting zone and compare it to where you fall in the spectrum. If you fall in the correct zone, the plants should do well. If your climate falls outside of their comfort zone, they can incur damage during the colder months that kills them off.
The most popular planting zone maps are called zone hardiness maps. The Natural Resources Canada and the U.S. Department of Agriculture create and update them. Each country uses different measures to create their maps.
History of the Different Planting Zone Maps
The first planting zone map attempt happened in 1927 in Boston. Two researchers at the Arnold Arboretum published the first map in 1927. The Arnold map was the first one to be published, and it recieved updates in 1951, 1967, and 1971. However, this planting zone map fell out of use in the late 1970s.
In 1960, the USDA released their first planting zone map in Washington in the U.S. National Arboretum. They revised the map in 1965, and it used 10-degree Fahrenheit ranges to define the different planting zones. They revised and reissued this map from 1965 until 1990. In 1990, they revamped the planting zone map using new climate change data, and they changed it to five-degree increments instead of 10. They also divided each planting zone into A and B subdivisions.
It’s possible to start your plants indoors and transplant them when it gets warmer.
The American Horticultural Society produced a revised map in 2003 that featured temperature data they collected from July of 1986 until March of 2002. This map put most areas around a half-zone higher than the original 1990 map. Additionally, this map mimicked the makeup of the 1960 planting zone map. It showed finer details like urban heat islands and the downtowns of larger cities like Atlantic City in New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland.
This revised planting zone map also excluded the a/b subdivisions that the USDA introduced in 1990. In response to this map, the USDA rejected it. However, they did revamp their map and turned it into an interactive computerized format.
The Arbor Day Foundation released an updated hardiness zone definition in 2006. It revised these zones and showed that many parts of the country had warmer temperatures. The USDA updated their map again in 2012. It added two new hardiness zones, and the map is a higher resolution. Zone boundaries expanded, and many zones were found to be at least half of a zone warmer. The map has a zip code function that you can use to find out exactly where you fall in the planting zones.
The Different Planting Zone Ranges
Luckily for you, the different planting zones don’t change much from year to year. The plants you put it this year should do just fine when they come up again next year. We’ll outline the different planting zones with their temperature range in the following table.
|Zone||From Temperature||To Temperature|
|0||A: Below -65 °F|
B: -65 °F
|A: Below -65 °F|
B: -60 °F
|1||A: −60 °F|
B: −55 °F
|A: −55 °F|
B: −50 °F
|2||A: −50 °F|
B: −45 °F
|A: −45 °F|
B: −40 °F
|3||A: −40 °F|
B: −35 °F
|A: −35 °F|
B: −30 °F
|4||A: −30 °F|
B: −25 °F
|A: −25 °F|
B: −20 °F
|5||A: −20 °F|
B: −15 °F
|A: −15 °F|
B: −10 °F
|6||A: −10 °F|
B: −5 °F
|A: −5 °F|
B: 0 °F
|7||A: 0 °F|
B: 5 °F
|A: 5 °F|
B: 10 °F
|8||A: 10 °F|
B: 15 °F
|A: 15 °F|
B: 20 °F
|9||A: 20 °F|
B: 25 °F
|A: 25 °F|
B: 30 °F
|10||A: 30 °F|
B: 35 °F
|A: 35 °F|
B: 40 °F
|11||A: 40 °F|
B: 45 °F
|A: 45 °F|
B: 50 °F
|12||A: 50 °F|
B: Above 55 °F
|A: 55 °F|
B: Above 55 °F
Breaking Down Which Plants Survive in Each Planting Zone
Now that you know a short history of the planting zones and what temperatures define each zone range, we’ll go zone by zone and tell you which plants do well. This way, you can look at your individual zone and pick out plants that are strong enough to survive the colder temperatures and come back the next year.
Planting Zones Zero and One (-50 °F to Any Temperature Below -65 °F)
Planting zones zero and one was created for the northernmost areas of Alaska. Here, temperatures fall below -65°F in the winter months, and it’s dark for several months out of the year. Because of this, most plants don’t grow well here. You may find the odd shrub or tree, but perennials can’t survive the bitter cold and dark winter months.
Zones zero and one are often too harsh for much vegetation to grow and thrive.
Planting Zone Two (-50 °F to -40 °F)
Planting zone two can still get bitterly cold in the winter months, but there are several different vegetables that can deal with the short growing season. You’ll usually be able to grow your vegetables from April to September. Things like beets, brussel sprouts, celery, cabbage, parsnips, peas, spinach, strawberries, and turnips will do well.
There are also several different plant species that can grow in these shorter growing months. They include but are not limited to:
- Scilla – Scillas bloom in the early spring months and bright spikes of bright periwinkle flowers. They can grow up to two feet tall, and they do well in full sun or partial shade. They’re low-maintenance, and all you have to do is keep the soil slightly moist. They also deter pests like rabbits.
- Creeping Phlox – This is a very popular evergreen perennial plant that produces very bright flowers in several colors, including white, purple, pink, and magenta. They bloom in late spring, and they spread so quickly that they can over the ground to form a blanket over the green foliage.
- Pansies – Pansies work well for fall and spring gardeners, and they come in a variety of colors. You can treat your pansies as annual or perennial flowers, and they can bounce back from single-digit temperature drops.
- Sunflowers – Native to the United States, sunflowers can survive extreme heat and extreme cold. They can get over 16 feet high with bright yellow petals and dark brown faces. At the end of the growing season, you can harvest the sunflower seeds for a snack.
Sunflowers are popular plants due to their large size and bright colors.
Planting Zone Three (−40 °F to −30 °F)
Zone three has a slightly longer growing season that starts in April and goes to October. This is the perfect zone for most vegetables and some fruits. You can easily grow asparagus, broccoli, eggplant, kale, lettuce, pole beans, red and white potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet peas, vine tomatoes, and winter squash.
Flowers also do very well in this zone because they’re ready to winter by the time the cold snap comes through and the frost settles. Flowers that do well here include:
- Achillea – This plant comes in bright red, gold, and orange coloring. It produces clusters of small flowers on the top of slender stalks. It has a two-foot spread, and it can grow up to 30 inches tall. They attract butterflies, and they’re a deterrent for rabbits.
- Monkshood – These eye-catching plants bloom later in the summer months, and they grow from two to four feet high. They produce rich azure-blue flowers, and they have a deep green foliage. You can cut the flowers back to encourage them to bloom again later in the season.
- Black Cohash – This is a beautiful perennial that blooms all summer long with pale yellow, feathery foliage. It’s a medicinal plant that grows between three to six feet tall and up to four feet wide. It can take up to three years to mature, and it attracts butterflies and birds.
- Hollyhock – Although this perennial has a shorter lifespan and a smaller stature, it self-seeds and can establish itself in your garden. It produces large pink and white flowers that come in a round spike. It blooms in late summer, and you can cut back the flowers to get a second bloom.
Monkshood has flowers that look like a monk’s hood. This is where the name came from.
Planting Zone Four (−30 °F to −20 °F)
Unlike planting zone 3, zone 4 has a shorter growing season due to the early frost date of late September, and the frost sticks around until mid-May. The growing season starts in June and goes until September, and this means you want to plant things like kale, onions, cabbage, brussel sprouts, summer squash, carrots, beans, and corn.
Flowers do alright in this zone as long as they bloom in the middle summer months and are ready to cut back and winter by September. This can be tricky, but the best plants include:
- White Fir – This is a dwarf evergreen shrub that has blue-green needles that curve slightly at the ends. It only grows an inch per year, and it has a maximum height of 18 inches tall. There is no pruning required, and it makes a nice ornamental shrub alongside your home.
- Baneberry – Beautiful all summer long, Baneberry creates spikes of light pink and white flowers that are beautifully offset by dark foliage. It grows between 3 to 5 feet tall, and it can spread between 1 to 2 feet wide. It does take three years to mature.
- Ohio Buckeye – This is a small deciduous tree that creates dark, dense leaves with low-sweeping branches. It can grow between 20 and 40 feet tall and just as wide. Hummingbirds and bees are attracted to this tree, and it works for large lawns in the landscaping.
- Floss Flower – You’ll get fluffy, round clusters of flowers with this plant that grow on very tall stalks. It attracts butterflies while repelling deer and rabbits, and it’s very easy to grow from seed. This plant works well in garden edges and as a groundcover.
Planting Zone Five (−20 °F to -10 °F)
This zone features a slightly longer growing period that starts in late March and goes until early October. The frost is usually slow to come in and quick to leave. This makes it an ideal zone to plant corn, tomatoes, beans, melons, lettuce, strawberries, and other greens like spinach. However, you do want to harvest them quickly because cold snaps are common in mid-october.
Zone five is also great for perennials and shrubs because it gives them a longer season to grow and ground themselves before going dormant for the winter. You can grow:
- Okra – Having edible fruit, Okra features an hibiscus-like flower that is three inches across. It displays different shades of orange, yellow, red, and pink with sharply contrasting centers. You can use the fruit capsules either fresh or dried, and you collect them in early fall.
- Korean Fir – A gorgeous evergreen conifer, this tree produces deep green needs with striking blue pine cones. It grows between 2 and 6 inches per year, and it has a mature height of 6 to 10 feet. It’s almost completely disease free, repels deer, and is easy to maintain.
- Bear’s Breech – This is a stately, upright growing perennial that produces a pale peach and white clump of flowers. It’s almost pest-free, and it can grow up to four feet high. The plants can spread aggressively, so it’s best to monitor them and cut them back as needed.
- Japanese Maple – This is a miniature shrub that has bright red leaves in the later summer months. It can get up to six feet tall, and it’s very low maintenance. It does loose the leaves in the late summer months before going dormant for winter.
The Korean Fir produces striking blue-hued pinecones.
Planting Zone Six (-10 °F to 0 °F)
Zone six has slightly more mild temperatures that rarely go over -10 below zero. It also has very warm summer months that stretch from mid-March until the end of October. Various vegetable plants thrive in this zone, and you can easily plant and harvest corn, peppers, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and potatoes. Annuals and perennials do well too, as long as you give them time to root.
If you want to start your plants, you should start them very early in the season and transplant them outside. Several examples of plants that do well in this zone include:
- Daylily – Daylilies only last one day, but the flowers can produce over 300 blooms every growing season. They work very well as ground cover because you can grow them in dense clumps, and they grow up to a foot high.
- Hosta – This large perennial plant features striking dual-toned leaves with light pink or purple flower spikes. It grows very well in the shade, and you can divide the large plants up into three or more smaller ones. It fully matures after four years.
- Rose – Rose bushes grow very well in this zone. They need at least six hours of sun every day, and they’re relatively easy to grow once they take root. The green foliage offsets the bright flowers, but they come with thorns that you want to avoid.
- Butterfly Bush – These plants are well-known for their colorful, long flowers and deep green foliage. They bloom in summer and spring, and they attract butterflies. These plants don’t spread a lot, and they need very little maintenance to thrive.
Planting Zone Seven (0 °F to 10 °F)
Zone seven has an even longer growing season that makes it a great choice for those slower-maturing vegetables. The growing season starts in mid-March, but it goes until the start of November. You can easily grow leafy greens, asparagus, carrots, bush beans, collard greens, carrots, squash, tomatoes, melons, and corn.
If you’re someone who would rather plant flowers and shrubs, you’re in luck. There are several varieties that do well in this zone, and they include:
- Bleeding Heart – The Bleeding Heart plant blooms in the early spring months with bright pink flowers that hang down. It does very well in partial shade, and the flowers will stretch out if you leave it growing unchecked. It grows best in containers.
- Black-Eyed Susan – This is a heat and drought-tolerant plant that has bright yellow petals and a dark black or brown center. They can grow up to 1.5 feet high, and they spread out because they self-seed. They can be a short-lived perennial, annual, or a biannual.
- Iris – Iris plants have bright and bold flowers that grow on top of a thick stem. They bloom in the very yearly spring and late winter. They can range from three inches tall to four feet tall, and there are common and dwarf varieties available.
- Bee Balm – This plant attracts butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds with its bright purple flowers that have a strong scent. They grow up to four feet tall and spread out several feet wide, and the plant can come back year after year without any help from you.
The Iris is a very popular Easter flower due to the rich purple hue.
Planting Zone Eight (10 °F to 20 °F)
Zone eight has a growing season very similar to zone seven that starts in early March and goes until the start of November. The summer weather is hotter and more humid here. This makes it a good choice for anyone who wants to grow kale, spinach, peas, squash, onions, beets, tomatoes, and beans. You do want to start potatoes and onions slightly later in the season.
For people who want to grow flowers instead of vegetables, there are a host of different annuals and perennials you can choose from. They include:
- Creeping Thyme – If you want a ground cover that smells wonderful, this is it. Creeping Thyme will easily grow in rock gardens, around trees, and around your steps. It has small purple flowers with slightly hairy foliage. It does well in low temperatures.
- Dahlia Frost Nip – These plants produce flowers that are large enough to earn the plant the nickname of the Dinner Plate Dahlia. They start blooming in the midsummer months, and they’ll keep blooming until the first frost hits the ground.
- Henry’s Lily – Native to China, this lily can reach a huge eight feet tall. They’re a favorite of bees and butterflies, but you want to keep your cats away because they’re toxic. The flowers have orange petals with brown spots, and the foliage is a light green.
- Rozanne – Rozanne can grow in any type of soil, including a variety of different pH levels. Every spring, your plant will grow back larger and healthier than it was the previous year, and it has blue-violet flowers that bloom from late spring to early fall.
Planting Zone Nine (20 °F to 30 °F)
Although you can’t quite grow plants year-round yet, zone nine offers a growing season that starts in mid-February and goes until November. You can easily grow and harvest several fruits and vegetables including bananas, citrus, corn, figs, melons, peaches, peppers, salad greens, sweet peas, squash, tomatoes, and yams.
If your focus is more on flowers, the very hot summer temperatures open the door for a host of gorgeous flowers and hardy plants. You can grow:
- Passion Flower Vine – The flowers on this plant range from ½-inch to six inches across, and there are over 400 varieties. You’ll need a trellis or fence for this vine to climb, and they can grow up to 20 feet in a single growing season. You can deadhead them in the fall to encourage new shoots.
- Columbine – Columbine blooms in the early spring, and the green foliage turns a deep maroon color in the fall months. They like full sun and well-draining soil, and this is a very low-maintenance plant. You should space them one to two feet apart.
- Spider Lily – These are very big moisture and heat loving plants that produce large white flowers that hang down. Referred to as the Southern Swamp Lily, it can reach between three and five feet at maturity. You should space the plants between three and four feet apart.
- Strawflower – Having straw-like, charming blooms in a host of colors, this is a popular drought-resistant plant. You’ll get nonstop blooms starting in early summer and going until the first frost touches down. It does well with other annuals and perennials.
Columbine comes in several striking colors that makes it a favorite garden plant.
Planting Zone Ten (30 °F to 40 °F)
The planting timeline for zone ten is very similar to zone nine. It has a long growing season that starts in mid-February and goes until the middle of November. You can grow beans, cantaloupe, basil, celery, figs, oranges, lemons, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, and watermelon.
The flower choices you have in this zone vary as well. You can grow more tropical plants as well as traditional houseplants. A few common choices include:
- Aloe Vera – This is a very attractive succulent that is easy to grow and maintain. It does well in container planting, and it comes with very thick green leaves. If you break them open, you’ll get aloe that you can use on sunburns.
- Baby’s Breath – You’ve most likely seen this plant used in cut plant arrangements. It has spindly green foliage with tiny white flowers. It can be an annual or perennial, and it needs a specific pH level to grow, along with full sun.
- Cosmos – Cosmos add a slightly frilly texture to your garden, and they can grow to various heights between one and four feet. You have to protect these plants from the wind if you don’t stake them, but they’re relatively easy to grow.
- Snapdragon – Featuring very bright flowers on tall stems, Snapdragons make popular edge arrangements. They come in dwarf and traditional varieties, and they start blooming in the start of summer.
Planting Zone Eleven and Twelve (40 °F to Above 55 °F)
The final two planting zones have very similar climates and growing seasons that go all year round. It’s very rare that either zone gets any snow or frost. This makes these planting zones excellent for bananas, cassava, citrus, kale, mango, okinawa spinach, papaya, passion fruit, pineapple, pole beans, pumpkin, red potato, sweet potato, taro, and Thai chili peppers.
Tropical and heat-loving flowers do very well in these two zones as well. You should have a lot of success planting and growing:
- Brazillan Fireworks – This plant produces tubular flower clusters with pink-purple spikes. The leaves have attractive silver veins, and it does well both indoors and outdoors. It grows best in shady conditions.
- Heliotrope – This is a hybrid plant that produces glossy, lush foliage with velvety blooms. It’s a butterfly magnet due to the fragrant scent, and it has purple flowers. The plant does best in full sun, and you can grow it indoors as well.
- Kalanchoe – You get succulent-like leaves with very low water requirements. The dainty blooms come in varying shades of yellow, white, pink, orange, and red.
- Kangaroo Paw – Native to Australia, this plant produces vibrant flowers in shades of bright red and yellow. It can grow up to six feet tall and two feet wide.
These planting zones are perfect for citrus fruits due to their warm year-round weather.
No matter which planting zone you live in, you can find vegetables and flowers that thrive in these conditions. Take your time, pick out the best options for your growing conditions, and watch them thrive year after year.