The U.S. Department of Agriculture recognizes four distinct planting or hardiness zones in Florida. These zones are a general guideline for people living the area as to what plants should flourish given the average climate and conditions. On a scale from 1 to 11, Florida ranges from 8a to 11. Even if a plant matches a hardiness zone, consider outside factors such as rainfall, humidity and heat when planting.
The Northern region of the Sunshine State is not the best for growing tropical plants because this area receives annual frosts. Even if the temperatures reach the heat that the remainder of Florida suffers, you can expect to see harsh freezes in the winter. This climate is ideal for growing a variety of edible plants including apples, pears and plums. North Florida is in USDA zones 8a, 8b and a little of 9a. Jacksonville and Tallahassee are some major cities in North Florida.
Since the winters are much milder in Central Florida, a larger diverse crop of subtropical and tropical plants can be cultivated. Frosts are rare, and the summer months can reach subtropical levels of heat. There is a less noticeable difference in the seasonal change than North Florida. Examples of plants that flourish in Central Florida include limes, pineapples and avocados. The USDA zones found in Central Florida are 9a and 9b. Central Florida includes Orlando and Daytona.
A perfect place to grow grapefruit, oranges, tangerines and all manner of citrus fruit, South Florida rarely experiences frosts and freezes. Plants suited to temperate zones can be planted and cultivated during the mild winter, but they may not survive the intense heat of the spring and summer. This subtropical zone is a haven for gardeners who enjoy tropical flowers and fruit-bearing trees. Some of the warmest USDA zones -- 10a and 10b -- are in South Florida, which is home to Miami.
The tropical Florida Keys are positioned as the most southern location in both Florida and the United States. These small islands are considered Florida's tropical zone. Tropical plants that enjoy high humidity and heat will grow extremely well when planted on these islands. Plants better situated to a temperate climate will have a more difficult time surviving on the steamy islands. The tropical Florida Keys have a steady hot and humid USDA zone rating of 10b and 11 on certain islands. All of the Keys are considered a part of tropical Florida.