Here's a Full Guide to the USDA Gardening Zones

Learn what plant hardiness zone you're in and the best plants for your region.


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Gardening is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, take part in a therapeutic hobby, and even save money on your grocery bill. However, unless you have a temperature-controlled greenhouse, it's essential to understand the United States Department of Agriculture's gardening zones so that whatever you plant in your garden will prosper.

Knowing the difference in gardening zones will help you to determine which plants, flowers, and trees will thrive depending on your location. It also guides you on when to plant, which can prevent you from making mistakes like planting too early or late in the year. We spoke with gardening experts to provide you with the best USDA plant hardiness zone guide so you can garden successfully season after season.

What are Plant Hardiness Zones?

"As designated by the USDA, plant hardiness zones are geographical areas that indicate the variability of climate conditions that are conducive to the growth and survival of various plant types," Amber Noyes, horticulture and gardening expert and executive editor of Gardening Chores, explains.

The United States Department for Agriculture institution created the USDA Gardening Zones to help farmers understand and choose which crops they can grow, according to the climate of their region. However, Noyes explains that this system has become a key tool for home gardeners as well.

To create the zones, the USDA partitioned the country into 13 distinctive zones. (However, in the contiguous U.S., the zones typically fall within the range of 3 to 10, Noyes explains.) "These zones are differentiated based on the average minimum temperature during winter," Noyes says. "This means that you can have milder seasons, but also exceptionally cold ones. But still, it gives you a clear idea of which plant you can grow in which area."

The zones go from the coldest to the hottest regions, starting at Zone 1, which is exclusive to Alaska, and ending with Zone 13, which is exclusive to Hawaii and Puerto Rico. "Each zone has a range of 10 degrees," Jen McDonald, a certified organic gardener and co-founder of Garden Girls, says. "Within each zone, there is an additional classification, either a or b, which details temperature increments within 5 degrees. This is helpful information to optimize plant selection."

Why it's Essential to Plant According to Your Gardening Zone

Planting according to your gardening zone will give your plants a much better chance at flourishing, since they'll be growing in the conditions most suitable to their needs.

"Once a gardener knows which zone they live in, we encourage them to begin selecting native plants indigenous to their growing region," McDonald says. "The reason is the plants have already adapted to a specific climate and do not require a ton of care. Native plants are hearty and will not need fertilizer or extra water once established."

USDA Gardening Zone Limitations and Considerations

While the USDA zones can be very helpful in determining when and what to plant to avoid potentially damaging frosts, there are some limitations. "The USDA zones don't indicate how hot it gets in summer, and some plants don't tolerate high temperatures," Noyes explains. "For this, you will need to know what your heat zone is, especially if you live in a region where summers are very hot."

Another thing the zones don't indicate, she says, is the precipitation level for the different regions. Since there can be both hot and dry climates within the same zones, this will also affect which plants will do well in your area.

"It is important to understand the growing zone first and then research which plants will perform best for the current season," McDonald says. "Planting broccoli in the summer in Zone 9 will not work. It's simply too hot. So, understand your growing zone first, then research which vegetables, herbs, and flowers grow best in each season."

Planting Guide for the USDA Gardening Zones

The zone you reside in will determine what you can plant and when. "There are thirteen zones, and they get warmer and warmer as we go up the scale," Noyes explains. "They range from climates that we can call arctic, cold, temperate, mild, subtropical, and tropical."

Since states can contain various zones and subzones, use the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to search and find out which zone you're in based on your zip code.

Keep reading for a breakdown of the various USDA Gardening Zones and their frost dates. Plus, learn which types of plants Noyes and McDonald recommend to grow in your garden for each zone.

USDA Zone 1: Temperatures between -60 and -50 Degrees Fahrenheit

"Zone 1 is considered the most frigid and difficult gardening zone in the United States," Noyes says. "This zone is typified by its extremely low average temperatures, ranging between negative 60 and negative 50 degrees. It is primarily located in the state of Alaska."

Since the outdoor growing season is relatively short, some opt for growing in greenhouses or indoors. The average last day of frost for Zone 1 is between May 22 and June 4, and the average first day of frost is between August 25-31.

However, there are a few plant options that can live even in this harsh gardening zone:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Radish
  • Chives
  • Dill

USDA Zone 2: Temperatures between -50 and -40 Degrees Fahrenheit

"Similar to Zone 1, Zone 2 is predominantly situated in Alaska as well," Noyes says. Temperatures are a little less frigid, but not by much. So, you will still need plants and vegetables that can withstand cold temperatures.

Remember, you can always start seeds indoors if you live in areas that have shorter growing seasons. That way, you have a head start before planting them outdoors. The average last day of frost for Zone 2 is between May 15-22, and the average first day of frost is between September 1-8.

You can plant a variety of plants and vegetables in this zone. Remember, if they are hearty enough for Zone 1, you can also plant them if you reside in Zone 2. So, in addition to the list above, you can also plant:

  • Okra
  • Love-Lies-Bleeding Plant
  • Blue-Bead Lily
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Black and White Minstrels
  • Viola blanda 
  • Viola palustris

USDA Zone 3: Temperatures between -40 and -30 Degrees Fahrenheit

Zone 3 also includes portions of Alaska but then extends deeper into the contiguous United States. This zone covers Wyoming, Wisconsin, New York, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and small parts of Vermont and Colorado. These states still have harsh winters, and the length of time between frost dates only varies by a couple of weeks.

For this zone, the average last day of frost is between May 1-16, and the average first day of frost is between September 8-15. Despite frosty winters, there is a vast amount of beautiful flowers and yummy vegetables you can grow if you live in this zone, such as:

  • Yarrow
  • Hollyhock
  • Daffodils 
  • Tulips
  • Asparagus
  • Squash
  • Garlic
  • Parsley
  • Mint

USDA Zone 4: Temperatures between -30 and -20 Degrees Fahrenheit

You will notice that Alaska is included in several USDA Gardening Zones, including Zone 4. So, the part of the state you reside in can determine what you can implement in your garden. Zone 4 also primarily covers the northern states in the U.S., including Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Ohio, Vermont, and Maine.

You get a little extra time to plant in this zone. The average last day of frost is between April 24 and May 12, and the average first day of frost is between September 21 and October 7.

Try adding a mix of these alluring flowers and vegetation to your garden:

  • Bugleweed
  • Trumpet Gentian
  • Bloodroot
  • Coral Bells
  • Eggplant
  • Pumpkin
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Lemon balm

USDA Zone 5: Temperatures between-20 and -10 Degrees Fahrenheit

When you look at the USDA Gardening Zones on the map, you will notice that Zone 5 predominantly spans across states such as Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. It also includes certain areas of Alaska's coast and regions of New England. That's quite a bit of range as far as locations go.

This zone's last day of frost is between April 7-30, and the first day of frost is between October 13-21. As you get into warmer climates, your growing seasons get longer, which means you have more choices for various types of plants because they have time to grow before the weather gets too cold.

Start your garden with some of these fabulous flowers, hearty herbs, and a variety of vegetables:

  • Roses
  • Mums
  • Lilies
  • Peonies
  • Azaleas
  • Yucca Filamentosa
  • Lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Thyme

USDA Zone 6: Temperatures between -10 and 0 Degrees Fahrenheit

"Zone 6 is often regarded as one of the broadest-reaching zones across the United States," Noyes says. "It initiates in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, encompassing segments of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, and subtly extends down the Atlantic Coast to incorporate North Carolina, Maryland, and the District of Columbia."

Noyes continues, explaining: This zone also stretches through portions of the Southern states like Georgia and the Midwestern areas such as Ohio, Kentucky, and Kansas. It covers temperate zones of the Southwest, including Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah, and concludes in the Northwest regions of Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Oregon. Parts of Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire are also classified within Zone 6."

Needless to say, this zone covers a lot of ground. As far as when you can plant, the average last day of frost is between April 1-21, and the average first day of frost is between October 17-21. If you live within this zone, consider planting some of these various types of plants:

  • Formosa Lily 
  • Baby Sage
  • Konjac
  • English Lavender
  • Tomatoes
  • Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Squash
  • Lavender
  • Chamomile

USDA Zone 7: Temperatures between 0 and 10 Degrees Fahrenheit

Noyes explained that Zone 7 encompasses a wide range of states. This zone primarily includes Alabama, northern Arkansas, eastern California, Colorado, Connecticut, Rhode Island, northern Texas, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, southern Tennessee, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, southern Oklahoma, coastal New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, central Arizona, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and the southern and western regions of Nevada.

The planting season starts a little earlier for this zone. The average last day of frost is between March 22 and April 3, and the average first day of frost is between October 29 and November 15.

If you love a more exotic variety of flowers, then you're in luck. Thanks to the less frigid temperatures, you can plant a wider range of striking flora in this zone, along with some tasty herbs and vegetables. Consider adding these various plants to your garden:

  • Canna Lily 
  • Golden Lotus Banana
  • Spineless Prickly Pear
  • Calla Lily
  • Wild Ginger
  • Peppers
  • Arugula
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Sage
  • Marjoram
  • Tarragon

USDA Zone 8: Temperatures between 10 and 20 Degrees Fahrenheit

Gardening Zone 8 is another one that stretches across the U.S. Some states that are included in this zone are North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

There are also sections of this zone that extend to the coast of Oregon. It doesn't begin to frost until late into the year, between November 7-28, and the last day of frost is between March 13-21. Pluck some plant ideas from this list for a great growing season:

  • Purple Arrowroot
  • Lily of the Nile
  • Angel's Trumpets
  • Dahlias
  • Elephant's Ear
  • Beavertail Cactus
  • Melons
  • Peppers
  • Okra
  • Tomatoes
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Sage

USDA Zone 9: Temperatures between 20 and 30 Degrees Fahrenheit

This zone incorporates states such as South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Nevada, Florida, and Washington. Your frost dates are getting shorter, and for Zone 9, the average first day of frost is between November 25 and December 13 and the average last day of frost is between February 6-28.

When getting into warmer climates, you also need to choose plants that can withstand the heat. Don't worry, though—there are plenty of plants that flourish in this zone, such as:

  • Succulents, like Hens and Chicks
  • Hardy Hibiscus
  • Coneflowers
  • Creeping Phlox
  • Peanuts
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Okra
  • Cabbage
  • Basil
  • Bay Laurel
  • Parsley

USDA Zone 10: Temperatures between 30 and 40 Degrees Fahrenheit

Zone 10 starts as you get further south and into the heat. Only a few places experience this warm zone, including regions in Arizona, southern California, southern Florida, Nevada, Texas, Louisiana, and Hawaii.

"In USDA hardiness zones 10 and above, there is no usual day of frost, so you have an all-year-round season," Noyes says. However, it's still a good idea to plant according to the specific needs for the plants you choose.

Enjoy these various types of plants if you're living in these warmer climates:

  • Aloe Vera
  • Queen of the Night
  • California Poppies
  • Melons
  • Jicama
  • Spinach
  • Tomatillos
  • Oregano

USDA Zone 11: Temperatures between 40 and 50 Degrees Fahrenheit

Only a few small areas are in this zone. It primarily encompasses Hawaii, the Florida Keys, and parts of Puerto Rico. Needless to say, it's pretty much open season when it comes to growing a range of gorgeous tropical plants.

Here are some tropical plants and produce to grow in Zone 11:

  • Lantana
  • Scarlet Star
  • Flamingo Flower
  • Pineapple Plant
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Lemongrass
  • Beans
  • Basil

USDA Zone 12 & 13: Temperatures between 50 and 60 Degrees Fahrenheit and Higher

These zones are exclusive to Hawaii and Puerto Rico, with no presence in the contiguous United States. Rather than fretting about frost here, you need to ensure your garden can hold up to the heat.

You get to enjoy gardening year-round and have an abundance of plants to choose from including:

  • Bird of Paradise 
  • Foxtail Orchids
  • Hibiscus 
  • Blue Ginger
  • Sea Purslane
  • Eggplants
  • Peppers
  • Beans
  • Borage
  • Mangos
  • Licorice 

If you're curious about other types of plants but not sure if they will grow in your zone, it's easy to find out. Noyes says you can usually find zoning information on seed sachets and near plant descriptions, and it's usually the first detail you'll see.

"You will see that perennials are generally called ‘hardy’ and ‘tender,'" she says. "These are generic terms we use to say if a plant can withstand frost or even freezing temperatures or not. Of course, the warmer your climate zone is, the more tender varieties you can have, while in cold areas, you will need hardy plants. The colder, the hardier."

Use this USDA Gardening Zone Guide to plant accordingly so you can have a glorious garden every year.

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