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

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s updated plant hardiness zone map has gardeners excited about the possibility of growing new plants in their warming regions.

Gardeners across the United States are buzzing with excitement as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) releases its updated “plant hardiness zone map.” This map serves as a crucial tool for gardeners and growers, helping them determine which plants are most likely to survive the coldest winter temperatures in their specific location. After more than a decade, the map has finally received an update, revealing a significant shift towards warmer temperatures. With the 2023 map being approximately 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than its 2012 predecessor, gardeners are eager to explore the new possibilities that lie ahead.

Shifting Zones and New Opportunities

The newly updated USDA plant hardiness zone map indicates that approximately half of the country has shifted into a new half zone, offering gardeners exciting new opportunities for plant cultivation. This shift means that many regions may now be suitable for growing different types of flowers, fruits, vegetables, and plants. Megan London, a gardening consultant from Hot Springs, Arkansas, expressed her anticipation for the updated map, stating that she has been advocating for its revision for quite some time. London, who has been gardening for 26 years, has witnessed the warming of her region firsthand. In the new map, her region has transitioned from zone 7b to zone 8a, prompting her to consider growing tropical plants such as kumquats, mandarin oranges, and shampoo ginger.

The Dual Feelings of Excitement and Concern

While gardeners are thrilled about the opportunity to grow new plants, there is an underlying sense of concern about human-caused climate change. The scientific consensus overwhelmingly supports the notion that the burning of fossil fuels is the primary driver of global warming. The summer of 2023 was the hottest meteorological summer on record for the northern hemisphere, further highlighting the urgency of addressing 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. However, Daly acknowledges that climate change does play a role in altering the plant distribution across the United States, ultimately leading to a slow northward shift of zones over time.

Validation Amidst a Changing Landscape

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 area two years ago to aid in hurricane recovery efforts, has witnessed firsthand the impacts of climate change on her gardening community. The rising temperatures have made it difficult for traditional tomato varieties to thrive, leaving many gardeners disappointed. Patterson, however, has been working to adapt to the changing conditions by planting more resilient heirloom tomato varieties that can withstand the challenges posed by warmer climates. The updated map reinforces the need for climate action, reminding gardeners and policymakers alike of the urgency to address climate change and implement effective policies to mitigate its effects.


The USDA’s updated plant hardiness zone map has sparked excitement among gardeners across the nation, offering new possibilities for plant cultivation in warming regions. While gardeners eagerly embrace the opportunity to grow new plants, there is an underlying concern about the role of human-caused climate change in altering these zones. As gardeners adapt to the changing landscape, it is a reminder of the need for collective action to address climate change and implement policies that will help mitigate its impact. The updated map serves as a tangible reminder of the urgency to safeguard our environment and ensure a sustainable future for all.






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