Ask a Question forum→What are zones?

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Name: Shannon
Tamarac, FL (Zone 10b)
May 6, 2020 10:48 AM CST
I've been wondering what garden zones are and what they mean. Google hasn't helped much and I do not get how plants are also classified as Zone 9a and so forth.
This is all new to me so I expect unknown terms lol.
Name: Big Bill
Livonia, Michigan (Zone 6a)
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May 6, 2020 11:07 AM CST
The zones are calculated from years and years worth of data.
Let's just say that zone 9 is rated for 40 degrees as the low. That means during the course of a typical winter, your lowest minimum temperature is 40 or above.
You may get a winter here and there where it goes lower then that but it is rare.
It also works the other way. I was in Florida for 9 years in zone 10. I wanted to grow coneflowers, they were rated for say zones 2-9. Well Florida at zone 10 was too warm for them to survive. I gambled that they would make it but they fried like sautéed onions!!
The zones are guidelines, an aide for selecting plants for growing outside.
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[Last edited by BigBill - May 6, 2020 11:09 AM (+)]
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Name: Paula Benyei
NYC suburbs (Zone 6b)
May 6, 2020 8:33 PM CST
Zones, aka USDA hardiness zones are a way to divy up the country based on average yearly temperature. specifically coldest typical winter temps. and also average first and last frost dates.

High numbers are hot places, typically south, low numbers are colder climates.

Most perennial plants long term survival is dependent on how much cold (and especially freezing) temps they can tolerate, So if a label says "hardy zone 9-11" That means any number less than 9 it will die over the winter if you leave it out. Sometimes it was say "hardy to zone 9" that's almost always the same thing. If they don't give you a range and just say "to zone9" it does not mean numbers 1-9, it means zone 9 is as cold as it can get before it dies. If It's heat the plant can't take, they almost always give you a zone range with 2 numbers. That can apply to any zone, I picked 9 because I think zone 9 and up don't get frost, so you'll se it commonly. In zone 8 they might get a couple frosts, but the ground doesn't freeze, so everything underground is safe. I'm in 6, so I get multiple hard frosts and it can get cold enough for the top 1-2 inches of ground to freeze, killing a lot of shallow crowns, tubers and roots.

You can also use your zone to look up a rough prediction of first and last frost dates, just know those are averages, so be prepared to be wrong if you cut it close.

If you look at a zone map, the boundaries looks a lot like a weather temperature map of the's wavy, with a big dip in the middle.

The plural of anecdote is not data.
[Last edited by Turbosaurus - May 6, 2020 8:44 PM (+)]
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(Zone 5b)
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May 7, 2020 8:12 AM CST
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Name: Lin Vosbury
Sebastian, Florida (Zone 10a)

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May 7, 2020 8:19 AM CST
Hi shinyshay, Welcome!

I'll just add that since you live in Tamarac, Florida, you are in zone 10b.
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Name: Shannon
Tamarac, FL (Zone 10b)
May 7, 2020 9:02 AM CST
I tip my hat to you. ALL of this information was beyond helpful. This gets me more excited for my gardening adventure and journey. Thank you all so much.....especially during these trying times. Lovey dubby

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