What you need to know about choosing appropriate plants for your climate zone

Q: Could you please explain climate zones and how important it is to select plants appropriate for your climate zone? When I shop for plants online, I make sure that the plant will grow in Zone 9 (my zone) but I’m wondering if that matters, as it seems that the zone pertains to cold hardiness which isn’t an issue here in Southern California. Does the zone number also pertain to humidity or moisture conditions? How far from my zone could I extend and still have success with my plant, assuming I give it extra care: Zone 8 or Zone 7?

For example, I have heard that you can place ice cubes around a plant to simulate harsher climates. Also, is there any value to knowing the Sunset climate zone which is much more specific? Plant retailers do not list the Sunset zone so I’m not sure what I can do with this information. Finally, how can we identify microclimates on our property and determine whether we can use plants appropriate for a different zone?

A: The 13 USDA climate zones are based on the average winter low temperature for a defined region. The coldest zone is 1a with an average winter low temperature of -60F and the warmest is zone 13b with an average winter low of 65F. Each zone is separated by 10 degrees, and the “a” and “b” represent a 5-degree difference. For instance, zone 13a has a winter low of 60F and zone 13b has a winter low of 65 degrees F.

These zones apply across the entire United States and can help you decide whether something is likely to survive winter where you are. They can also provide information as to when to plant cool or warm season annuals (particularly vegetables). They don’t tell you what the first …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

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