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  • Hardiness zone

    Hardiness zone


    • A hardiness zone (a subcategory of vertical zonation) is a geographically defined area in which a specific category of plant life is capable of growing, as defined by climatic conditions, including its ability to withstand the minimum temperatures of the zone (see the scale on the right or the table below). For example, a plant that is described as "hardy to zone 10" means that the plant can withstand a minimum temperature of −1 °C (30 °F). A more resilient plant that is "hardy to zone 9" can tolerate a minimum temperature of −7 °C (19 °F). First developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the use of the zones has been adopted by other countries.

      The hardiness zones are informative: the extremes of winter cold are a major determinant of whether a plant species can be cultivated outdoors at a particular location; however, the USDA hardiness zones have a number of drawbacks if used without supplementary information. The zones do not incorporate summer heat levels into the zone determination; thus sites which may have the same mean winter minima, but markedly different summer temperatures, will be accorded the same hardiness zone.

      Another issue is that the hardiness zones do not take into account the reliability of the snow cover. Snow acts as an insulator against extreme cold, protecting the root system of hibernating plants. If the snow cover is reliable, the actual temperature to which the roots are exposed will not be as low as the hardiness zone number would indicate. As an example, Quebec City in Canada is located in zone 4, but can rely on a significant snow cover every year, making it possible to cultivate plants normally rated for zones 5 or 6. But, in Montreal, located to the southwest in zone 5, it is sometimes difficult to cultivate plants adapted to the zone because of the unreliable snow cover.

      Other factors that affect plant survival, though not considered in hardiness zones, are soil moisture, humidity, the number of days of frost, and the risk of a rare catastrophic cold snap. Some risk evaluation – the probability of getting a particularly severe low temperature – often would be more useful than just the average conditions.

      Lastly, many plants may survive in a locality but will not flower if the day length is insufficient or if they require vernalization (a particular duration of low temperature). With annuals, the time of planting can often be adjusted to allow growth beyond their normal geographical range.


      Zone From To
      0 a < −53.9 °C (−65 °F)
      b −53.9 °C (−65 °F) −51.1 °C (−60 °F)
      1 a −51.1 °C (−60 °F) −48.3 °C (−55 °F)
      b −48.3 °C (−55 °F) −45.6 °C (−50 °F)
      2 a −45.6 °C (−50 °F) −42.8 °C (−45 °F)
      b −42.8 °C (−45 °F) −40 °C (−40 °F)
      3 a −40 °C (−40 °F) −37.2 °C (−35 °F)
      b −37.2 °C (−35 °F) −34.4 °C (−30 °F)
      4 a −34.4 °C (−30 °F) −31.7 °C (−25 °F)
      b −31.7 °C (−25 °F) −28.9 °C (−20 °F)
      5 a −28.9 °C (−20 °F) −26.1 °C (−15 °F)
      b −26.1 °C (−15 °F) −23.3 °C (−10 °F)
      6 a −23.3 °C (−10 °F) −20.6 °C (−5 °F)
      b −20.6 °C (−5 °F) −17.8 °C (0 °F)
      7 a −17.8 °C (0 °F) −15 °C (5 °F)
      b −15 °C (5 °F) −12.2 °C (10 °F)
      8 a −12.2 °C (10 °F) −9.4 °C (15 °F)
      b −9.4 °C (15 °F) −6.7 °C (20 °F)
      9 a −6.7 °C (20 °F) −3.9 °C (25 °F)
      b −3.9 °C (25 °F) −1.1 °C (30 °F)
      10 a −1.1 °C (30 °F) +1.7 °C (35 °F)
      b +1.7 °C (35 °F) +4.4 °C (40 °F)
      11 a +4.4 °C (40 °F) +7.2 °C (45 °F)
      b +7.2 °C (45 °F) +10 °C (50 °F)
      12 a +10 °C (50 °F) +12.8 °C (55 °F)
      b > +12.8 °C (55 °F)
      Zone From To
      1 < 1
      2 1 7
      3 8 14
      4 15 30
      5 31 45
      6 46 60
      7 61 90
      8 91 120
      9 121 150
      10 151 180
      11 181 210
      12 >210

      • 7. In Scotland the Grampians, Highlands and locally in the Southern Uplands, in England the Pennines and in Wales the highest part of Snowdonia.
      • 8. Most of England, Wales and Scotland, parts of central Ireland, and Snaefell on the Isle of Man.
      • 9. Most of western and southern England and Wales, western Scotland, also a very narrow coastal fringe on the east coast of Scotland and northeast England (within 5 km of the North Sea), London, most of Ireland, and most of the Isle of Man.
      • 10. Very low-lying coastal areas of the southwest of Ireland and the Isles of Scilly.
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