Find Your Zone



For a beautiful garden year-round, you must choose plants that are right for your climate. The United States Department of Agriculture divides the country by planting zones. The colder your winters are, the lower your zone number will be. Many other countries have their planting zone systems or use the USDA system.
Those who live in zones nine or higher can have beautiful tropical plants in their outdoor gardens for most of the year. Sun-loving succulents are also great for bringing beautiful color and variety to an outdoor patio. Just remember that while tropical plants love moisture, succulents need very little. They can survive prolonged dry spells but should be protected during rainy periods. Most people in the U.S. are limited in their winter garden choices to plants that can survive in cold temperatures.
Most tropicals, succulents, and other tender plants or shrubs can be damaged or die in winter in hardiness zones below 9. But several types of plants are considered cold-hardy and can survive severe winters. These include Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks), several types of Sedum, Hosta, Snapdragon, and many others. Each plant is different, which is why knowing your zone is essential. Cold hardy plants do best in winter when planted in the ground.
They can be kept outdoors in containers, but this does present a few issues. Many popular types of pots, including clay and ceramic, can crack or break in freezing temperatures. Container plants do not stay as warm as in-ground plants, so choosing container plants that are hardy to one or two zones colder than yours is a good idea. For example, if you live in zone 5, plants that are hardy to zone 3 or 4 would be likely to do better in containers in the winter. If you live in a warm climate, some cold hardy plants might work for you through winter, but some, like Hens and Chicks, seem to prefer the cold for several months. Wherever you live, you can experiment to find out which plants work for you.