Over the years, you might have heard about planting zones. You know it impacts what grows successfully in your area, but you can never remember which zone applies to North Carolina.
The quick answer? North Carolina is comprised of five hardiness zones, ranging from USDA Zone 6a (in the western part of the state with its higher elevations and colder temperatures) to USDA Zone 8a. The Triangle region of Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill has zones from 7a (colder) to 8a (warmer).
Read on to find out what planting zones are and learn factors that impact your choice of plants for your NC backyard.
What exactly are planting zones?
Planting zones are different areas in North America. The zone indicates a planting hardiness and can help you decide which plants are suitable for your area. You can always choose plants that grow in other climates, but chances of success with those same plants in North Carolina are reduced.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) divides North America into 11 areas or planting zones. Each zone is 10°F different in an average winter than the adjacent zone. The map is based on average minimum winter temperatures. Planting zones range from zone 1A (the coldest) to 13B (the warmest).
At home with NC plant zones
North Carolina averages plant hardiness zone of 8a (with average winter temps from 10° F to 15° F) to a zone of 6a (with temps of -10° to -5°). Let’s look at the Triangle area a little more closely. The average extreme minimum winter temperature of the Triangle area is 5° to 10°, which is Zone 7b.
While planting zones can help you choose which plants will thrive in your area, don’t forget that other factors impact growth. For example, soil conditions, wind, humidity, sunshine levels, and even total snow amounts impact the success of plants. Additionally, you might find that your area has some unusual characteristics: maybe there’s a pocket of sunshine or a sheltered area, or maybe your property has a low spot in the terrain where colder air seeps. Each of these slight changes can contribute to different levels of plant success.
If you have plants that are blooming despite the recommended zone, factor that in your decision for future garden choices. Consider the zone map a guideline when choosing which plants to select for your garden and not a hard and fast rule. The more time you spend in your garden, the more in-tune with the blooms you will become.
If you do choose plants outside of your recommended hardiness zone, take extra care of the plants during the extreme winter temperatures by covering them.
How planting zones impact your plant choices
When selecting plants, you probably look at the tag that lists whether the plant needs shade or full sun. You turn the tag over and look at when it blossoms, whether it’s easy to care for, and how much water the plant requires.
You might not be aware that tags also include the zone hardiness information. From now on, look at the plant hardiness zone on the tag along with the other information you typically review.
For Triangle folks, be sure you’ve got your eyes peeled for zone 7b on the plant’s tag and if you ever have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at Atlantic Mulch. We specialize in all thing’s lawn and garden, and are always happy to share our experiences and tips, and to lend a hand, should you need one this fall. We look forward to hearing from you!
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