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Understanding Your Gardening Zone
The fall is upon us, and the winter will follow not too long after. All outdoor gardeners may already be finishing up their harvests and getting ready to prepare for spring growing- but why give up the green just yet? Understanding your gardening zone can help you more effectively navigate cold snaps and and first frosts in the autumn, as well as plant sprouting and planting in the spring.
As well, you may be able to create a new schedule for introducing plants indoors! Soltech has innovated indoor growing to be a beautiful pursuit, which means your hobby will add vibrance and joy to your life all year round, as long as you have the right schedule! Keep reading and we’ll break down how to best manage your gardening from month to month!
The Plant Hardiness Zone Map
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed a system known as the Plant Hardiness Zone Map to help gardeners and growers understand which plants are most likely to thrive in specific geographic areas based on their average annual minimum winter temperatures. The map divides the United States into several planting zones, each representing a 10°F difference in the average minimum winter temperature.
The most recent version of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, published in 2012, divides the US into 13 zones:
• Less than -50ºF
• -50 to -40°F
• -40 to -30°F
• -30 to -20°F
• -20 to -10°F
• -10 to 0°F
• 0 to 10°F
• 10 to 20°F
• 20 to 30°F
• 30 to 40°F
• 40 to 50°F
• 50 to 60°F
• Above 60°F
These zones help gardeners choose plants that are well-suited to their local climate and conditions. However, it's important to note that while the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is a helpful tool, it's just one factor to consider when selecting plants for your garden. Other factors such as sunlight, soil type, and moisture levels also play a crucial role in determining plant success.
As well, the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is based on previous historical data, and won’t necessarily reflect outlying climate events, such as a particularly warm autumn or very dry summer. We recommend consulting a local gardening expert with experience in your local area for the best advice on managing these fluctuations.
Finding Your Zone
While it is best to do your research on your particular locality and the conditions within your particular land such as soil types and bioavailability of nutrients, this rough outline of which zone you can expect to find yourself in may be helpful to beginner gardeners who are looking for a place to start when strategizing their yearly growing schedule.
• Parts of Alaska
• Northern parts of Alaska
• Northern parts of Canada
• Northernmost parts of the US, including parts of Alaska and the upper Midwest
• Northern Midwest, including parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan
• Mountainous regions in the West, like the Rockies
• Northern Midwest and parts of the Northeast, including states like Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania
• Higher elevations in the Appalachians
• Parts of the Midwest, including Missouri, southern Illinois, and parts of Kansas
• Much of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, including New York, New Jersey, and Maryland
• Large parts of the South, including Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia
• Parts of the West Coast, like the Pacific Northwest
• Southern states, including Texas, Louisiana, and Florida
• Parts of California
• Coastal areas of the Southeast, including Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas
• Parts of Arizona and California
• Southern Florida
• Parts of southern Texas
• Southern California and Arizona
Zone 11 and 12:
• Tropical and subtropical regions, including southern Florida, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico
• Hawaii and other tropical islands
Houseplants and Plant Hardiness Zones
While primarily used for outdoor gardening, plant hardiness zones also have a significant impact on the care and selection of houseplants. Indoor conditions, including temperature, humidity, light exposure, and even microclimates within a home, can vary widely. The outdoor conditions of a home can at times have an impact on the interior climate of a house. This is where understanding plant hardiness zones becomes relevant to houseplant care.
Houseplants come from diverse ecosystems around the world, each with its own unique set of environmental conditions. Understanding the plant hardiness zone of your area helps you match the natural habitat of a specific houseplant with the conditions you can provide indoors. For instance, if you live in a region classified as a colder zone, selecting houseplants that thrive in temperate or cooler conditions will likely lead to better growth and longevity.
When choosing houseplants, it's important to consider not only the hardiness zone of your location but also the microclimate within your home. Factors such as proximity to windows, heating sources, and even drafts can create variations in temperature and humidity. Some areas within a home might mimic conditions from a different hardiness zone, enabling the successful cultivation of plants that wouldn't typically thrive in your outdoor climate.
Additionally, the concept of plant hardiness zones extends beyond selecting appropriate plants. It also guides how you care for your houseplants. For example, if you bring a tropical plant into a region with a much colder hardiness zone, you'll need to provide adequate protection and avoid exposing the plant to low temperatures.
Light and Planting Zones
Often, The USDA plant Hardiness Zone is associated with the temperature of a climate. However, sunlight and exposure play a large role in the overall temperature of an area, and also greatly impact what foliage can naturally thrive there. As the country spans a wide range of latitudes and geographical features, each zone experiences unique sunlight patterns that influence plant behavior and gardening practices.
In northern zones, such as Zone 3 and Zone 4, where winters are long and sunlight is limited, natural light becomes a precious resource. Plants in these areas receive less intense sunlight for shorter durations during winter, leading to reduced photosynthesis and growth. Gardeners often rely on strategies like selecting cold-hardy, shade-tolerant plants or using artificial lighting to supplement the inadequate natural light.
Conversely, southern zones like Zone 9 and Zone 10 enjoy extended periods of abundant sunlight, particularly during the summer. While this can be advantageous for many plants that thrive in full sun, it also presents challenges related to heat stress and water management.
Gardeners in these zones must carefully choose drought-tolerant and sun-loving plants and implement shading techniques to prevent excessive heat and sunburn.
In moderate zones like Zone 6 and Zone 7, lighting conditions are relatively balanced, offering gardeners a diverse palette of plant options. However, factors like urban environments, proximity to bodies of water, and local topography can create microclimates within these zones, leading to variations in light exposure. Gardeners often need to assess their specific location's unique lighting conditions and choose plants accordingly.
Understanding the differences in light availability between planting zones is essential for successful gardening. Aspiring gardeners should consider the angle and duration of sunlight throughout the day, as well as seasonal changes in light intensity. They can also leverage resources like sunlight maps, which provide insights into average sunlight hours for different regions throughout the year.
Moreover, advancements in indoor gardening and controlled environment agriculture have allowed gardeners to cultivate plants regardless of their geographical location. Techniques like using grow lights and creating light-specific microclimates enable individuals to grow a wide range of plants, regardless of the natural lighting conditions in their zone. We recommend investing in a Highland™ Track Light System for larger garden setups, as this fixture can be adjusted easily to suit a wide range of plants within a condensed setting.
Recommended Plants for Indoor and Outdoor Growth
A good place to start with navigating gardening throughout the year is researching which plants best suit your climate, as well as your needs. We have compiled a list of five great options which can thrive indoors or out, in a wide range of conditions.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia):
Lavender is a fragrant and hardy herb that can flourish in a range of climates. It's known for its aromatic foliage and beautiful purple flowers. Lavender can be grown outdoors in sunny, well-drained soil, but it's also a popular choice for indoor cultivation, provided it gets plenty of sunlight. It's drought-tolerant and relatively low-maintenance.
Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis miller):
Aloe vera is a succulent with soothing gel-filled leaves known for their medicinal properties. This plant thrives indoors on a sunny windowsill or outdoors in warm, arid climates. It's an excellent choice for both novice and experienced gardeners due to its minimal care requirements.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis):
Rosemary is a versatile herb that can be grown outdoors in a variety of climates, particularly in Mediterranean or temperate regions. It also makes an excellent indoor plant, provided it receives adequate sunlight. Its fragrant leaves are popular for culinary use, and it's known for its resilience and adaptability.
Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum):
Spider plants are excellent indoor plants that can tolerate a wide range of indoor conditions, including varying light levels. They also do well in outdoor gardens in mild climates. Their long, arching foliage with white stripes adds a decorative touch to both indoor and outdoor spaces.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum):
Basil is a versatile herb that can adapt to a variety of conditions. It thrives in outdoor gardens with full sun exposure and well-drained soil but can also be grown indoors on a sunny windowsill. Basil is an essential culinary herb, and its aromatic leaves are a favorite for seasoning dishes.
Outdoor gardening has long been acknowledged as not only a fulfilling hobby, but also a practice which can result in sustainable produce as well as more eco-friendly beautification of properties. In recent years, interest in houseplants has also surged, and more gardeners are using their knowledge of plant hardiness zones to fine-tune their indoor plant collections.
Understanding the temperature requirements of different plants and enables gardeners to create indoor environments that closely resemble the plants' native habitats. By considering both the hardiness zone of their location and the microclimates within their homes, plant lovers can select and care for houseplants that will flourish and bring natural beauty into their living spaces.
Lighting variations between planting zones in the US profoundly influence plant growth and gardening practices. Whether adapting to the shorter, dimmer days of northern zones or managing the intense sunlight of southern regions, gardeners must tailor their plant choices and cultivation methods to the unique lighting characteristics of their zone. Soltech has a variety of options to choose from, but the Aspect™ is a tried and true solution gardeners have been turning to for years. Show us your setups this winter, and let us know which gardening zone you’re growing from!