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There are very few rules in gardening, but perhaps the most important one is to work within your zone. Choosing plants that grow and thrive in your particular climate is the very first step toward having a beautiful garden.
What are Zone Maps
Gardeners need a way to compare their garden climates with the climate where a plant is known to grow well. That’s why climate zone maps were created. Zone maps are tools that show where various permanent landscape plants can adapt. If you want a shrub, perennial, or tree to survive and grow year after year, the plant must tolerate year-round conditions in your area, such as the lowest and highest temperatures and the amount and distribution of rainfall.
USDA Cold Hardiness Zone Map
First published in 1960 and updated in 1990 and 2012, the map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature, divided into 10-degree F zones. For the first time, the map is available as an interactive GIS-based map. Users may also simply type in a ZIP Code and find the hardiness zone for that area. By using the map to find the zone in which you live, you can determine which will survive in your garden because they can withstand these average minimum temperatures.
Sunset Western Climate Zone Map
Sunset magazine classifies 33 western zones, numbered from harshest (Zone 1) to mildest (Zone 33), and organized by region from north to south. The boundaries of each of these unique zones are a function of six geographic and climactic factors: latitude, elevation, ocean influence, continental air influence, mountains and hills, and local terrain. Taken together, these factors determine what will grow well in your garden and what won’t.