How to Use Planting Zones


If you've ever looked at the back of a seed packet or an instruction tag on a tree and seen a map of the United States divided into brightly colored bands, then you may already know about planting zones. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has divided North America into 11 separate plant hardiness zones based on the lowest average winter temperature. Each zone differs in temperature by about 10 degrees. By following planting directions based on planting zones, gardeners are likely to choose plants that do well in their area.

Step 1

Consult the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to find the hardiness zone where you live and garden.

Step 2

Locate the care information on the backs of seed packets and on stakes, stickers or tags attached to nursery plants.

Step 3

Note the plant hardiness rating for each seed variety and/or plant.

Step 4

Select plants that are rated to your hardiness zone. Plants that are rated for zones lower than your own may not survive the heat of summer. Plants that are rated for zones higher than your own may not survive the cold of winter. Plants that are rated for your zone should survive all temperature extremes in your area.

Things You'll Need

  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
  • Seed packets
  • Plant care labels


  • USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
  • USDA Hardiness Zone Finder
  • USDA Plant Hardiness and Gardening Zones

Who Can Help

  • Know Your Planting Zones
Keywords: USDA hardiness zone map, plant hardiness, planting zone

About this Author

After 10 years experience in writing, Tracy S. Morris has countless articles and two novels to her credit. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets" and "CatFancy," as well as the "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World," and several websites.