‘It feels like I’m not crazy.’ Gardeners aren’t surprised as USDA updates key map

Gardeners across the United States are embracing the newly updated U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “plant hardiness zone map,” which reflects the warming climate and offers new possibilities for plant growth.

A recent update to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “plant hardiness zone map” has sparked excitement among gardeners and growers across the nation. The map serves as a crucial tool for determining which plants are most likely to thrive in specific regions, based on the coldest winter temperatures. This update, the first in over a decade, reveals a warmer outlook for many gardens, with the 2023 map reflecting an average increase of 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit compared to its 2012 predecessor. As a result, gardeners are now exploring the potential for growing new and previously unsuited plant varieties.

1. The Shift in Hardiness Zones:

The updated map indicates that approximately half of the country has shifted into a new half zone, while the other half remains unchanged. This shift presents gardeners with the opportunity to experiment with a wider range of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and plants. Megan London, a gardening consultant in Hot Springs, Arkansas, expressed her satisfaction with the update, as she had been advocating for it due to the observed warming in her region. London’s zone has transitioned from 7b to 8a, prompting her to consider cultivating kumquats, mandarin oranges, and shampoo ginger, a tropical plant.

2. Balancing Excitement and Concern:

While gardeners are enthusiastic about the prospect of growing new plants, they are also mindful of the underlying cause behind the warming trend – human-induced climate change. The scientific consensus overwhelmingly supports the notion that burning fossil fuels is the primary driver of global warming. The summer of 2023 set a record as the hottest meteorological summer in the northern hemisphere. London and other gardeners are excited about the possibilities but remain cautious about the long-term implications of climate change.

3. The Role of Climate Change:

Chris Daly, director of the PRISM Climate Group at Oregon State University, cautions against directly attributing the changes in the map to climate change due to the volatility of the data used. The map is based on the coldest night of the year over the past 30 years, which is subject to significant variation. However, Daly acknowledges that climate change is likely to contribute to the shifting plant hardiness zones over time, resulting in a gradual northward movement.

4. Validating and Adapting:

For gardeners like Rachel Patterson in Port St. Joe, Florida, the updated USDA map serves as validation for their experiences. Patterson, who moved to the community to aid in hurricane recovery, has witnessed the impacts of climate change on gardening in Florida. Rising temperatures have made it challenging for elderly gardeners to grow tomatoes, as the heat causes them to wither. In response, Patterson has been introducing resilient heirloom tomato varieties that can withstand warmer climates. The updated map reinforces the need for climate action and policy changes to mitigate the effects of climate change.


The USDA’s updated plant hardiness zone map has sparked excitement and validation among gardeners across the United States. The warmer outlook offers new opportunities for plant growth, allowing gardeners to explore a wider range of species. However, this enthusiasm is tempered by concerns about the underlying cause of the warming trend – human-induced climate change. While the map update does not explicitly attribute the changes to climate change, the scientific consensus suggests that it plays a role in the shifting plant hardiness zones. Gardeners like Rachel Patterson view the updated map as a reminder of the urgent need for climate action and policy changes to address the challenges posed by a warming climate.






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