Understanding the Hardiness Zone Map for your Area

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- I'm sure you are aware that the USDA has developed a hardiness zone map. This is based upon average annual low temperatures.

Certainly, you can usually see a hardiness map in many of the seed and plant catalogs. Keep in mind that most of our viewing audience is in zone 6 but that changes to a 5 when we get to the higher mountains like near Beckley or Summersville, West Virginia.

When a new plant is introduced, it will be grown in a number of geographic locales to ascertain how far North (or South) it can be grown. Climatic and geographic factors are not the only ones that affect hardiness characteristics. An example is Sugar Maple.

Trees grown from southern seed sources may not be hardy as those from northern sources. We actually have a great deal of control over how our plants harden off each fall. Research over the years has indicated that some management practices keep plants in a vegetative state or actually growing state. For example, late summer and early fall pruning and fertilization will stimulate a great deal of soft growth that will not harden off before frost times comes around. To minimize excessive damage during the cold weather, avoid excessive nitrogen, pruning as well as covering the plants too early. Actually, if you want to improve the hardiness of a plant, mulch after the ground is frozen. One more thing, to protect the integrity of the plant even further; keep it watered during dry spells in the summer as well as the winter. Yep, I mentioned winter also.

Remember, we are in hardiness zone 6 unless you are in the mountains. If you want to be safe, its better when purchasing plants to opt for a hardiness zone 5 rather than a 6 just to be safe but a 6 hardiness should be suitable.

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