What Rising Zones Are in Florida?

Aside from beaches, gators, and Disney World, the Sunshine State is known for its lush plant life and practically endless growing season. Florida is an oasis for gardeners, with four major growing zones that rarely go below freezing. Northern and central Florida is more temperate, while the southern parts of the state are subtropical and tropical. 

Florida is the leading agricultural producer of oranges, tropical greenhouse crops, sugar cane, and warm-weather produce like melons, corn, peppers, and tomatoes. With the 2023 changes to the USDA Plant Hardiness Map, some parts of Florida have moved to an even warmer growing zone. This means more hot-climate species are available to gardeners, but some temperate cool-weather species are no longer suitable.

Let’s dig into the four major growing zones in Florida and how to design your garden based on plant hardiness.

What Growing Zones Are in Florida? USDA Zones 8b-11a

Florida encompasses USDA growing zones 8b to 11b, ranging from 15°F to frost-free areas.

Florida includes four USDA growing zones, from zone 8b to 11a:

  • Northern Florida and the panhandle are predominantly zones 8b and 9a, with average extreme lows from 15 to 25°F (-9 to -4°C).
  • Central Florida is slightly warmer, encompassing mostly zone 9b.
  • Most of the central Florida coast is zone 10a, and still experiences light frost.
  • Southern coastal areas are frost-free in zone 10b.
  • All of southern Florida is subtropical, defined as zones 11a and 11b.
  • Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys reside in the ultra-warm tropical zone 11b.

From temperate to subtropical, this is a diverse landscape for gardeners, with thousands of potential garden species you can grow here. Historically, nowhere in Florida has fallen into subzero temperatures, but some northern and central areas still experience frosts.

Remember, growing zones are solely based on average extreme annual minimum temperatures. The USDA uses historical climatic data to delineate these zones. Growing zones help us quickly identify which perennial plants can withstand the winter in our region, but they do not take into account rainfall, humidity, heat, soil, sun exposure, or frost dates. 

Don’t rely on growing zones as the only tool in your garden planning toolbox. Instead, use growing zone information as a starting point for selecting perennial plant species. For example, if a tropical tree, like an orange, is only hardy to zone 9, you should not plant it in a northern Florida garden where winter temperatures dip below freezing. 

Here are more details about each Florida growing zone:

Zone 8b

Close-up of a blooming pink azalea bush on a blurred background of a sunny garden. The pink azalea bush is a stunning deciduous shrub known for its abundant clusters of vibrant pink flowers. These blossoms, with their delicate petals, form dense clusters that completely cover the shrub. The flowers are tubular in shape, with protruding stamens.Some counties in the northern panhandle have shifted from zones 8b to 9a with climatic changes.

Zone 8b is a relatively small proportion of the Sunshine State, including Esembia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Calhoun, and Holms counties. These northernmost regions are clustered around the upper border of the panhandle and some sparse areas along the Georgia border.

This area used to get colder in the winter, but the 2023 updates to the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map account for the climatic shift. This part of Florida has transitioned into zones 8b and 9a.

Zone 9

Close-up of a man's hand holding a ripe orange against a background of orange trees. The orange tree is a graceful evergreen with glossy, dark green foliage and round, bright orange fruits. The fruits hang prominently among the lush foliage, adding a vibrant burst of color to the tree.In Zone 9, there are mild winters suitable for fruit trees like oranges and cherries.

Encompassing the majority of northern and central Florida, zone 9 is characterized by mild winters with rare chances of frost. This is a prime location for growing fruit trees and subtropical perennials, including oranges, limes, olives, apricots, figs, and pears. 

Zone 9a has an average annual extreme minimum temperature of 20°F (-7°C), while zone 9b ranges from 25 to 30°F (-4 to -1°C). Many subtropical and tropical plants thrive in these areas, but occasionally a harsh winter will wipe them out. 

For example, the well-known 1989 freeze was devastating for the citrus industry in central Florida. Some areas in zone 9 of northern Florida got over three inches of snow, which was unheard of for many decades before. Even Miami reached sub-freezing temperatures.

While these occurrences are rare, they can still happen in zone 9 and pose problems for warm-weather trees. Fortunately, gardeners have a range of emergency protective measures, including cold frames, row fabric, frost blankets, and deep mulching, to combat cold winters.

Zone 10

Close-up of pineapple plants in a sunny garden. This tropical plant consists of a rosette of long, narrow leaves with sharp edges that spiral out from a central stem, forming a crown-like structure. At the center of the rosette, a thick, fleshy stalk emerges, eventually producing a single large fruit known as a pineapple. This fruit features a rough, hexagonal patterned rind with a crown of spiky green leaves at the top.In southern Florida’s Zone 10 you’ll find a warm, frost-free climate ideal for tropical plants.

Most of southern Florida and the coastal region are zone 10, which is one of the warmest zones in the continental U.S. You often see tropical “house plants” like pothos and monstera growing abundantly outdoors. This region is warm year-round and does not experience frosty weather. This means gardeners in zone 10 have practically an endless growing season!

The only limitations South Florida growers face are related to excess heat, moisture, and tropical storms. Many garden crops operate on an opposite schedule from those in northern zones. Traditionally, we plant “spring” veggies in the late summer or fall to grow over winter. For example, peppers and tomatoes grow best from August to March

The average extreme minimum temperature is 30 to 40°F (-1 to 4°C), with most areas in zone 10b never experiencing frost. Zone 10 officially marks the transition into one of the best subtropical growing areas of the United States. Plants like bananas, palm trees, avocados, tropical hibiscus, macadamia, papaya, pineapple, sapote, and mango trees all thrive in this delightfully warm climate!

Cool-climate crops like garlic or kale can be more difficult to grow successfully because of the intense heat for much of the year. Zone 10 growers must adapt their varietal selections to match the weather.

For example, softneck garlic that is exposed to cold temperatures in a refrigerator before planting will produce more reliable bulbs. Crops like kale or spinach are best substituted with bolt-resistant or heat-tolerant greens, like Malabar spinach or rainbow chard.

Zone 11

Closeup of a gorgeous xeriscape in a Florida sunny garden. The following plants grow in the garden: Leucadendron, Aloe wickensii, Agave salmiana var. ferox 'Variegata', Russelia equisetiformis, Zamia Furfuracea, Echeveria 'Lady Aquarius', Echeveria agavoides 'Prolifera', Kalanchoe Marmorata.Encompassing Miami and the Florida Keys, Zone 11 offers a warm, tropical climate ideal for exotic plants and wild houseplants.

Miami, the southern coast, and the Florida Keys reside in zone 11, with extreme annual lows of just 40 to 50°F (4 to 10°C). This tropical climate is always warm and can be incredibly hot in the summer. However, it never frosts here, which means you can grow a huge diversity of exotic tropical plants that are difficult to find outdoors in most parts of the U.S. The famous ‘Key Lime’ also thrives in zone 11, along with all citrus and most any tropical fruit you can imagine! 

The species that many gardeners consider houseplants can grow wild in south Florida’s lush landscape. Epiphytic orchids grow wild on trees. Snake plants (Dracaena) cover a landscape as if they were grass. You can even find pothos or philodendron vines with leaves two feet across and vines that are thicker than your arm! Some houseplants are even considered invasive when grown outdoors in containers, so be sure to check with the University of Florida’s plant directory for invasive plants.

Zone 11 is a tropical wonderland with infinite potential for gardening as long as you have water. Fresh water is the main limiting factor in South Florida landscapes. Xeriscaping and native plant landscapes are ideal for conserving water while still enjoying a verdant tropical yard.

Final Thoughts

Florida is one of America’s prime plant-growing regions, with almost infinite potential for subtropical and tropical gardening as long as you have reliable water and heat-tolerant plants. Northern and central Florida reside in zones 8 or 9 and still experience occasional mild frosts, but zones 10 and 11 in southern and coastal Florida are completely frost-free. 

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