Reduce Garden Guesswork: Know Your Hardiness Zone

— Written By and last updated by Diane Lynch

Q: What hardiness zone is Wayne County in?

A: Cold, rainy days in January can make it tough for a gardener to find much gardening to do outside. However, you may be spending these days flipping through gardening books or magazines dreaming and planning what plants you would like to add to your garden when warmer weather finally arrives. When looking at plants, you will often see a recommended hardiness zone range for a plant. You maybe thinking what does that hardiness zone really mean and is it important?

We all know that climate can have a major influence on whether a plant thrives or fails in the garden. The USDA Hardiness Zone Map is a guideline that can be used to pick out plants that will perform well in a particular area.

The USDA Hardiness Zone Map is divided into ten zones based on average minimum temperatures. Each zone is subdivided into A and B sections to make the zones more precise. Section A would be the colder portion of a zone while B sections would be the warmer areas of a zone. Section A will typically be located north of B sections.

The USDA Hardiness Zone Map was last updated in 2012 and was calculated for the lowest temperatures recorded between 1976 and 2005. There are three zones (6, 7, 8) in North Carolina that increase as you move east across the state. Most of the mountains are in zone 6, while the piedmont and the northeastern coastal plain region are in zone 7. The southeast area of the state is in zone 8. Wayne County is in zone 8A with average minimum temperatures between 10° and 15°F.

These zones were developed as guidelines so when you look at the information tag of a plant that you are thinking about buying, you can refer to the recommended zones and determine if the plant will be able to grow in your climate. The zones are not clear cut lines, meaning there will be some plants that may be successful in a warmer or cooler zone than was recommended for the plant. Given locations may be warmer or colder than the zone it is in due to factors like elevation, air, and drainage.

Many gardeners like to take the risk of planting something that is not recommended for a particular location to see if they can successfully grow the plant. Utilizing microclimates within a landscape can help gardeners grow plants that may be one zone less or more than recommended for Wayne County. These microclimates can include areas that are next to a building or fence where the plant would be more protected. A microclimate may be a spot in the landscape that gets more hours of sunlight that the rest of the area, increasing the temperature slightly for that particular area. If gardeners decide to take the risk of growing a plant just outside the recommended hardiness zones, it is important to take precautions to protect the plant during temperature extremes. For example, if you decided to try growing a plant in Wayne County (Zone 8A) that was recommended for a zone 8B and up, you would want to protect the plant when we have a cold snap in the winter by covering the plant.

When you are shopping around for plants to place in the landscape and garden remember to take a look at the hardiness zone recommendations on the plant tag. Most of the time, the recommendations will be something like “Zones 3-9”. If the recommended zones included 8A, then chances are that the plant will perform well in the Wayne County climate. To see a map of the USDA hardiness zone, go to the following website: http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/.

Learn More!
• Visit our website at https://wayne.ces.ncsu.edu/. Click on “Lawn & Garden” on left side of webpage.
• “Like” us on Facebook to receive timely garden tips, ask questions, and learn of upcoming gardening events. www.facebook.com/waynecountygardening

Upcoming Wayne County Extension Gardening Programs:
• Fruit Tree Training & Pruning Workshop – Saturday, January 24th at 10 a.m. at Central Crops Research Station (13223 US Business 70 West, Clayton). Dr. Mike Parker, NC State Tree Fruit Specialist will be discussing and demonstrating how to train fruit trees. Please call the Johnston County Extension Office at 919-989-5380 to register for this workshop.

NCSU & NC A&T University commit themselves to positive action to secure equal opportunity regardless of color, creed, national origin, religion, sex, age or disability. In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation.

Jessica Strickland
Extension Agent
Horticulture
North Carolina Cooperative Extension
Wayne County Center
P. O. Box 68
Goldsboro, NC 27533
E-Mail: jessica.strickland@waynegov.com
Phone: 919-731-1520
Fax: 919-731-1511
https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/wayne