How do I know if a plant will survive in my area?

Posted on February 14, 2017 by Ed Coughlin

People often ask me if a favorite plant they saw on vacation or at one of the big box stores will survive in their area.  Well, the answer is not always as black and white as you would like.


At Southern Eucs we take the "cold hardy" label and the science behind the trees very serious.  Species research leads to sourcing seeds form the coldest provenances in the world.  From there, the trees are planted in trials gardens for observing cold hardiness, resistance to drought and disease, growth habits, and characteristics of foliage, bark and trunk.   


That being said, the first step to planting success is to know your USDA planting zone.  This helpful map divides up the U.S. into zones.  Know your zone, match it to a plants tag, and you are in the game.

Keep in mind growers and retailers are trying to sell you plants and are pretty aggressive with pushing a plant beyond its ideal zone. 


But here's where the game gets fun.  There are areas known as "micro-climates", areas of your property that might have a southern exposure, a wind break, a low lying area, ideal soil, etc. that can "extend" a plant beyond its advertised hardiness zone.  But "micro climates" with  windy conditions, damp soil, exposed sites, etc. can also have the opposite effect and reduce a plants hardiness. 


Long time gardeners know this all to well, and this is why you see that tropical palm, western conifer, or Monkey Puzzle Tree growing at your neighbor's house and outside its advertised zone. 


Below are some techniques to create that micro-climate and improve your chances of a plants survival.

  • Utilize a good 2 -4" ring of mulch around the plant's base.  Pine straw, chips, shredded rubber, they all work equally well to insulate the plants roots.  The ones from Mother Nature will need to be replaced more often, but they also help feed you plant with a steady diet of organic matter.


  • take the time to develop a fertile, well drained healthy soil.  It not only will help with hardiness but improve fruit, flower, and overall appearance.


  • Give your marginal plant a south-east facing location to warm up faster after cold nighttime temperatures.


  • Protect marginal plants with your home, fence, or natural plant screens.

Bottom line is this.  Know your plant and its hardiness zone, trust your supplier, and take the time to create a "plant healthy" environment that will greatly improve your chances of growing a happy and healthy plant!


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