Hardiness Zones

evergreens in zones 3-8

Evergreen trees like these typically grow in zones 3-8

Nurseries and tree farms will generally tell customers what types of plants grow best in what types of environments; however, it can still be difficult to determine what kind of tree to purchase. Just because a species of tree or plant is able to survive in a specific climate, does not mean that it will thrive as well as another. However, in 1960, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) developed the Map of Plant Hardiness Zones.

What Are Hardiness Zones?

The Map of Plant Hardiness Zones divides the country into zones based on its climate conditions and what various kinds of plants are able to thrive there. These zones take into account the area’s lowest temperatures during the winter season, and from there, it can be determined what plants are best suited for such a climate.

The hardiness zones in the United States are numbered 1 through 13, with the lowest numbers having the coldest winter temperatures. Areas in Zone 1 can have winter temperatures below -50°, whereas areas put into Zone 13 rarely drop below 60°F. The kinds of plants that can thrive in these temperatures varies greatly, so it can be useful to know what zone you are located in and then find out what trees and plants grow best in that zone.

What Hardiness Zone am I in?

The best way to find out what hardiness zone you are located in is to check the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. This map includes the entire United States. Many other countries have also developed their own Hardiness Zone Maps. The United States covers a very wide range of zones. Zones 1 and 2 can be found in Alaska, and the northern mid west states fall into zones 3 and 4. The zones on the higher end, 12 and 13 can be found in Texas, Florida, and Hawaii. Most of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware fall into Zones 5, 6, and 7.

What Does This Mean for Me?

Many plants can grow well in multiple hardiness zones. When choosing a tree or plant for your own landscaping, it is helpful, after you know what hardiness zone you are located in, to find out which trees thrive in that zone.  The states around Elizabeth Farms have individual maps shown in the gallery below so you can easily identify your zone.  The maps are very clearly labeled with counties and zone colors.

Are There Any Drawbacks?

The hardiness zones are very helpful guidelines, but they do not take everything into account. The zones are mostly organized by temperature, but there are other considerations to make when determining a plant’s ability to survive in an area. For example, the hardiness zones do not include summer high temperatures, so two areas that may have similar winter temperatures may have very different summer temperatures, and yet still be in the same zone. The difference in summer temperatures might make one area better suited for different plants than the other. The hardiness zones also do not incorporate snow fall. Most associate snow with cold, but reliable snowfall will actually serve as insulation for plants, which will prevent the roots from being harmed by the cold. Because of this, a plant might be able to survive in an area with snowfall and not in an area at the same temperature that has no snow. It is important to keep in mind that though the hardiness zones can give a good estimate as to which trees and plants will survive in a certain area, it is always necessary to look at other sources for information.

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Thoughts on Hardiness Zones

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