Hardiness and Heat Tolerance: Understanding Planting Zones

There’s nothing more disappointing to a gardener than planting the perfect plant in the perfect spot, only to watch it wither and die during a cold snap or heat wave.

While there are many factors that can affect a plant’s health, temperature is pretty decisive – one hard freeze and your petunias are goners. To prevent this, we go to great lengths to try to predict whether or not a plant will survive and thrive in our area.

Thankfully, there are some great resources out there to help, including systems that divide the U.S. into “planting zones,” such as the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map and the American Horticultural Society Heat Tolerance Map.

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

If you look at most any plant label, you’ll see a zone designation, such as “Hardy to Zone 7.” These labels refer to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones, which divide North America into 11 zones based on estimates of the minimum annual temperature. A plant is considered “hardy” if it will survive the winter in that particular zone.

Each zone represents a 10º F. temperature difference and is then further subdivided into “a” and “b” according to 5º differences. Zone 1 is the coldest and is subject to frost year-round while Zone 11 is the warmest and completely frost-free. If a plant is “Hardy to Zone 7,” that means it should survive the winter in zones 7 and warmer.

Once you know the hardiness zone you live in, you can choose plants that will survive the winter in your area.

Finding Your Hardiness Zone

USDA Hardiness Zone Map

Zone Temperature Example Cities


Below -50 F

Fairbanks, Alaska; Northwest Territories (Canada)


-50 to -45 F

Prudhoe Bay, Alaska; Flin Flon, Manitoba (Canada)


-45 to -40 F

Unalakleet, Alaska; Pinecreek, Minnesota


-40 to -35 F

International Falls, Minnesota; St. Michael, Alaska


-35 to -30 F

Tomahawk, Wisconsin; Sidney, Montana


-30 to -25 F

Minneapolis/St.Paul, Minnesota; Lewistown, Montana


-25 to -20 F

Northwood, Iowa; Nebraska


-20 to -15 F

Des Moines, Iowa; Illinois


-15 to -10 F

Columbia, Missouri; Mansfield, Pennsylvania


-10 to -5 F

St. Louis, Missouri; Lebanon, Pennsylvania


-5 to 0 F

McMinnville, Tennessee; Branson, Missouri


0 to 5 F

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; South Boston, Virginia


5 to 10 F

Little Rock, Arkansas; Griffin, Georgia


10 to 15 F

Tifton, Georgia; Dallas, Texas


15 to 20 F

Austin, Texas; Gainesville, Florida


20 to 25 F

Houston, Texas; St. Augustine, Florida


25 to 30 F

Brownsville, Texas; Fort Pierce, Florida


30 to 35 F

Naples, Florida; Victorville, California


35 to 40 F

Miami, Florida; Coral Gables, Florida


above 40 F

Honolulu, Hawaii; Mazatlan (Mexico)

An interactive version of this map with much more detailed information can be found at . You can download the map in various file formats and sizes at .

Finding Your Heat Zone

A plant may survive the winter cold in your area, but what about the summer heat?

Using a similar format as the Hardiness Zone Map, the American Horticultural Society has published a map defining 12 zones based on summer temperatures. The zones are defined based on how many days the temperature typically goes above 86º F.

You can find your zone by consulting the

Many plants are now also being labeled with both the USDA Zone and the AHS Zone. If your plant only has one zone label, you can assume is the USDA Hardiness Zone.

These maps are an invaluable tool for gardeners, but keep in mind that they are not set in stone. The maps are based on historical averages and cannot possibly predict the effects of:

  • Sudden temperature changes, such as a late frost, that can injure or kill growing plants.
  • Overall plant care and health, which can affect a plant’s ability to adapt to and survive tough times.
  • “Micro-climates,” which occur in protected areas that may shield plants from cold and rain.
  • Winter-long snow cover, which insulates plants and often allows gardeners to grow plants that otherwise wouldn’t be hardy in their zone.
  • Other environmental factors, such as plant location, rainfall, sunshine, drainage, soil nutrients, air quality, day vs. night temperatures, elevation, etc.

Nevertheless, knowing your hardiness zone is very important and can save you time and money in the long run by helping you choose the correct plants for your garden. If a plant is not hardy or heat-tolerant in your zone, you may be able to extend its range by bringing it indoors during extreme temperatures.

Further Information


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9 Comments on “Hardiness and Heat Tolerance: Understanding Planting Zones”

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  • Russell Booth Says:
    May 18th, 2018 at 2:21 am

    I live near Newcastle in Australia which is 150 kilometres north of Sydney.
    We have the same climate zone as Miami which is 11a which just means that we rarely see an overnight low of below 4°C during the winter time,the Koppen Geiger climate at Miami is Am which is tropical monsoonal whereas we have a Cfa which is humid subtropical in our area.

    So far,in late Autumn,we’ve seen an overnight low of 5°C ,one of the 4 jackfruit seedlings that I’m growing,its leaves died,I think it was the weaker one but the other 3 are still alive,I’ve repotted them into bigger pots & placed them out in the sunlight a bit more.

    My papaya & mango plants are growing well since the daytime temperature has been at 20-21°C on the main,a more established mango tree will do very well during the summer time when it can get up to 44°C during the day or on the rare occasion 47°C,the mango trees love the heat !

    Miamis climate I believe is more like what Darwins summer climate is which is wet & humid, Darwin is different in the way that it dry during the winter & wet during the summer,there is no difference between the winter & summer temperatures meaning there are only 2 seasons – dry & wet !

    In Miami, they still have lower winter overnight minimum temperatures than Darwin !

  • Anita T Lewis Says:
    April 12th, 2018 at 1:04 am

    Hi! I’m new in this area, Nevada, MO, I spent many years in the California area. I want to plant flowers, shrubs, all over the back ,front yard and also on both sides of our home. I think I have the amount of rain & sun in the places I’m planting. How ever, the Nevada, MO area is expecting freezing
    for several days, How can I keep my plants & seeds from freezing .
    Lastly, Is it true that white, distilled vineger kills weeds. If not what is the best natural weed killer.

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    January 8th, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    I tried adding a printable 8.5×11 of the map, but the text was too small to read. I added a link to the article above where you can download the map in various sizes at

    Hope that helps!

  • Judie Kraemer Says:
    January 8th, 2016 at 11:35 am

    Is there a READABLE heat map in an 8.5×11 size that my garden club could hand out to new members?

  • Kathryn Brill Says:
    October 22nd, 2015 at 4:35 pm

    Kudos for compiling the Heat Zone Map! I see that a poster-sized hard copy can be purchased for $10.00. Is there any way I could access an on-line version? I would be willing to pay for it if necessary…

  • Roberto Diamanti Says:
    October 19th, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Dear Sir, I live in Dominican Republic and the average temperature for most part of the year is around 27 celcius. I would love to be able to buy seeds of different flowers to start a project and eventually perhaps start my own business. I am ignorant when it comes to determining zones and a few of the seeds I am considering mostly refer to Hardy zone 5-10. Would I have any chance of germinating these and for the plant to survive? I would very much appreciate an answer to this and an advice if you were to provide it.Thank you in advance and give you my regards.

  • Susan Says:
    February 7th, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    Why can’t I enter my zip code to find my heat zone? It works for hardiness. And the heat zone map is too small to see my zone.

  • Rohit Says:
    March 18th, 2013 at 4:01 am

    Hi,I’m doing a analysis on hardiness zone.I have a data which has zip codes of canada.Can you please tell me from where can I get the list of all the zip codes in canada and their corresponding hardiness zone



  • Bob Says:
    January 25th, 2012 at 8:00 pm

    Hi Julie,

    I live in zone 9b (new hardiness map just released). Would it be best not to buy a plant rated for zones 3-8?


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Hardiness and Heat Tolerance: Understanding Planting Zones