Gardeners in the state of Virginia need to know what planting zone the region falls into. This determines which plants are most likely to thrive in the area. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has divided North America into hardiness zones based on each region’s average minimum horticultural winter temperatures.
The USDA hardiness zone map serves as a guideline for gardeners and growers. Virginia’s growing zones range from 5a in the western mountains to 8a on the eastern shore. Most states fall into zones 7a, 7b, and 8a. Yet, Virginia gardeners need to use the USDA zone map to determine which flowers, trees for your garden, shrubs, and vegetables can survive the winter in that climate zone.
In our guide, you can learn more about the information on a hardiness zone map for Virginia. By the end, you’ll know what you can and can’t grow according to the hardiness map for reference. (Read What Can I Use Instead Of Laundry Detergent)
What Are USDA Planting Zones?
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) created a map in 1990, dividing the country into different growing zones based on each region’s average annual minimum winter temperature. The Virginia USDA plant hardiness zones provide gardeners with a helpful guide for determining which types of plants can survive the winter in their area.
The USDA map divides North America into 13 zones based on 10-degree Fahrenheit variations in the lowest temperature. Zone 1 is the coldest at -60° to -50°F while Zone 13 is the warmest at 60° to 70°F. Each zone is divided into “a” and “b” subzones based on 5-degree differences within the 10-degree bands. The lower the zone number, the colder the climate.
While the USDA map serves as a guideline, it’s important to remember that many local factors, like soil type, if it’s humid. Frost dates and microclimates also determine whether plants will thrive in a particular area.
What Planting Zones Are in Virginia?
Virginia stretches through several USDA planting zones due to the state’s range of climates and geography. Virginia USDA growing zones range from:
- Zone 5 a in the western mountains (temps reach -20)
- Zone 6 in the Shenandoah Valley
- 7a in Central Virginia
- 7b in Northern Virginia and Central Virginia
- Zone 8 on the Eastern Shore
What Does Zone 7b Mean for Virginia Gardens?
Zone 7b is the most common planting zone throughout Virginia, covering central and northern regions of the state. Zone 7b has average annual minimum temperatures between 5°F to 10°F. It’s important to know that trees and plants in Zone 7b on a planting zone map must tolerate winter temperatures falling between 5-10°F.
The last spring frost date in Zone 7b is typically around April 10, while the first fall frost is around November 1. This frost-free growing season allows for various vegetables, flowers, and other plants. Popular Zone 7b choices include hydrangeas, azaleas, roses, apples, peaches, tomatoes, squash, beans and more. (Read My Bottle Brush Tree Looks Dead)
What Grows Well in Zone 8a?
The southeastern corner of Virginia dips into Zone 8a, primarily along the Atlantic Coast. Zone 8a has average minimum temperatures of 10°F to 15°F, allowing for more cold-sensitive plants. The last spring frost is typically in early April, and the first fall frost is around mid-November.
Great Zone 8a, where plants thrive and include citrus-like oranges, mandarins, and lemons. Palm trees, hibiscus, gardenias, and camellias also thrive in Zone 8a. For edibles, options open up for figs, pomegranates, sweet potatoes, okra and peppers. Zone 8a covers coastal areas along the Southeast and Gulf Coasts.
How Do I Use the Zone Map to Choose Plants?
Here are some tips for using the USDA plant hardiness zone map to choose appropriate plants:
- Look up your zip code online to find your exact zone and see neighboring zones. Sites like garden.org have searchable zone maps.
- Use your zone as a starting point, then slim down choices based on your regional climate and microclimate.
- Check tags on plants at the nursery to see their recommended zones. Choose plants rated for your zone or, better yet, one zone colder.
- Choose plants rated for your zone or colder for trees, shrubs, and perennials. For annuals, you have more flexibility to experiment.
- Remember, the zone ratings are for the average coldest temperatures. Unusual cold snaps may still damage borderline plants.
- Certain plants like berries and fruit trees need chill hours below 45°F, so make sure zone ratings account for winter chill needs.
What is the Interactive USDA Zone Map?
In 2012, the USDA updated the traditional hardiness zone map into an interactive digital tool. The new map more accurately tracks microclimates using finer-scale data and takes terrain into account.
Gardeners use the USDA interactive map, and you can also enter your zip code down to very localized areas. Users can toggle between the older and newer USDA maps to compare zones. The map also includes data on first/last frost dates and growing degree days to help further refine plant choices.
Check out the new interactive USDA plant hardiness zone map at planthardiness.ars.usda.gov to find your precise growing zone and frost dates. (Learn How Many Pepper Plants Per 5 Gallon Bucket)
When Should I Plant in Virginia?
Knowing Virginia’s planting zones provides guidelines on when to start seeds or transplant various vegetables and flowers:
- Indoors: Start seeds indoors for cold-sensitive plants like tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers 6-8 weeks before the final spring frost. In Zone 7b, aim for starting in mid-March. In Zone 8a, late February is a good time.
- Outdoors: After the last frost date, plant warm-weather annuals like marigolds, zinnias, beans, and squash directly in the garden. In Zone 7b, early May is generally safe. In Zone 8a, late April is the benchmark.
- Transplants: Harden off transplants for a few days, then plant them outdoors 2-3 weeks after the final spring frost once the soil warms. Mid-April in Zone 7b and early April in Zone 8a.
- Fall Planting: For cool weather crops like kale, lettuce, carrots, and beets, plant 50-70 days before the first average fall frost. Mid-September in Zone 7b and early October in the Virginia USDA Zone 8a.
Key Takeaways on Virginia Planting Zones
- Virginia growing zones stretch across the landscape from USDA zones 5a through 8a due to its range of climates.
- Zone 7b covers a large portion of central and northern Virginia. Zone 8a covers southeastern Virginia.
- Use the zones to determine which plants match your climate, then refine choices based on microclimates.
- Attention to frost dates, chill hours, and the new interactive map for your area.
- Match hardiness zones and planting timelines to pick flowers and vegetables that will thrive.
Knowing your USDA hardiness zone provides a helpful starting point for picking the perfect plants for your Virginia garden! (Learn How To Propagate Virginia Creeper)
FAQS about Virginia Planting Zones
What is the most common planting zone in Virginia?
Zone 7b is the most prevalent planting zone, covering central and northern Virginia, including regions near Richmond, Charlottesville, and Fredericksburg.
What vegetables grow well in Zone 7b?
Great veggies for Zone 7b include tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, beans, lettuce, carrots, beets, broccoli, peas, squash, and many more. Start warm crops like tomatoes indoors in March.
What zone is Richmond, VA?
The city of Richmond and surrounding suburbs fall into Zone 7b, with average minimum winter lows of 5°F to 10°F. Nearby Petersburg is also Zone 7b.
What fruits grow in Zone 7b?
Popular fruits for Zone 7b include apples, pears, plums, peaches, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, muscadine grapes, and figs. Blueberries also grow well with proper soil acidity.