Come spring and summer, Climate Zone 8 is a region where beautiful flowers and delicious harvests flourish. This hardiness zone encompasses parts of the Pacific Northwest and South in the United States. It has mild winters, the lowest temperatures dipping between 10° and 20° F. Summers are long and warm, fitting for plant growth. Zone 8’s conditions, especially its extended growing season, make it ideal for many fruits and vegetables. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about Zone 8 and how to choose plants that do well in it.
So what is a climate zone? Before we get into Zone 8, let’s first break down the definition of a climate zone. A climate zone, or plant hardiness zone, refers to an area with a distinct climate. It’s defined by annual minimum temperatures that serve as guides to which plants will grow in it. The United States Department of Agriculture developed the Plant Hardiness Zone Map in the 1960s by taking decades of weather data to divide the country by average annual extreme minimum temperatures, starting with 1 as the coldest and 13 as the warmest.
Hardy plants in Zone 1 will withstand extremely cold temperatures, but hardy plants in Zone 8 will prefer warmer conditions. The map lets you know which plants will likely be perennials in your region. (Perennials, in case you need a refresher, refer to plants that grow back year after year.) Of course, the Hardiness Zone Map is a general guide since it can’t account for all the nuances in each defined region. However, many plant species will stay relatively happy in Zone 8 regions, as we’ll discuss.
As you pick flowers for Zone 8 gardens, look for species that can handle the heat and drought that go hand in hand with long summers. For a groundcover, add quick-growing and drought-tolerant creeping thyme that boasts aromatic foliage and lovely pops of color with white, pink, and purple blooms. If you adore beautiful flowers with extended blooms, consider garden phlox that you can plant in early spring. Zone 8 is also an ideal region for tender summer bulbs that cannot tolerate freezing temperatures. It will be hospitable for many lily bulbs, including African, calla, and mariposa lilies — plant these around early spring, as well. Other popular flower choices are daffodils, hyacinths, hibiscus, peonies, salvia, and tulips.
One of the advantages of Zone 8 is that the long summer can accommodate more than just one growing cycle. Begin seeds for spring and summer vegetables for Zone 8 as early as February — you’ll want to start indoors to avoid the final frost. By March and April, you can begin most seeds outside. Early spring is the time to plant beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kale, lettuce, and spinach. Beans, Brussel sprouts, corn, cucumbers, onions, peppers, squash, and tomatoes can be planted in late spring and early summer. If you plan to grow a second round of vegetables, start seeds again in August and September. It’s helpful to keep a gardening calendar to track everything you grow since each plant will have specific preferences.
Zone 8 also provides the ideal conditions for many fruit trees to thrive. Popular trees include apple, apricot, pear, peach, cherry, and plum. Some lesser known trees that also flourish in this zone include banana, crabapple, and fig. Besides yielding delicious fruit come summertime and autumn, many of these also feature lovely spring flowers that give your garden visual interest. This zone can also handle several types of citrus trees such as orange, lemon, grapefruit, and tangerine.
To add texture and movement to your garden, try stepping up from lawn grass and artificial turf by incorporating ornamental grasses, which are lower maintenance than most edibles. From maiden grass to Japanese forest grass, many types of grasses will be happy in Zone 8. Perfect for warm zones, “Karl Foerster” feather reed grass features bright green leaves, feathery plumes, and purple or pink flowers. Pampas is another beautiful grass that’s hardy in hotter regions, flaunting stunning white flower plumes.
Ready to plan out the garden of your dreams? As you select plants to grow over the spring and summer, consider these staple flowers, fruits, vegetables, and grasses to build a lush and productive paradise in Zone 8. While any gardening endeavor will require trial and error, plenty of great species have thrived in this area.
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