Considering your growing zone is important whether you’re planning a full garden or just landscaping. Different plants are adapted for differing climates. You want to only plant species that will survive in your area. Therefore, learning about Alabama’s planting zones is essential when you’re a resident.
If you don’t take these zones into account, you may end up selecting plants that cannot grow in your area.
Below, we’ll discuss what planting zones are and how they work. We’ll also discuss what plants grow best in Alabama and what you can do to keep them alive.
What Are Planting Zones?
Planting zones, often referred to as hardiness zones, are geographical regions defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). These zones provide guidance for gardeners and farmers about what plants are likely to thrive in their area.
These zones are determined mostly by the annual minimum winter temperature and the length of the growing season. However, other factors may also play a role.
The main determining factor is the minimum winter temperature, though. Zones range from Zone 1 (coldest) to Zone 13 (warmest). Each zone has about a 10-degree Fahrenheit difference from the previous zone.
For example, Zone 1 experiences the coldest winters, with minimum temperatures below -50°F, while Zone 13 has the mildest winters, with minimum temperatures above 60°F. The plants that thrive in Zone 1 are not the same ones that survive in Zone 2.
Growing season length also matters. This is defined as the time between the last frost and the first frost. Of course, dates do vary from year to year, so the USDA uses the average frost dates.
Knowing what zone you’re in is important when choosing plants. You want to select trees, shrubs, and flowers that can grow well in your area. While plants adapted to areas outside of your zone may do fine, they won’t thrive.
USDA Plant Hardiness Zones in Alabama
Now that we know what hardiness zones are let’s take a look at what zones Alabama is in. Alabama is very long, which means that it has a range of different hardiness zones. There is a big difference between the weather in Mobile and in Huntsville.
Northern Alabama typically falls within Zones 6a to 7b. This region experiences colder winters and shorter growing seasons than the rest of the state. As you move south, you’ll experience warmer temperatures and longer growing seasons, leading to higher-numbered zones.
Those in northern Alabama need to select cold-hardy plants that can withstand the freezes in the winter. Be sure to check the frost dates, as these will affect when you can plant. Central Alabama faces a moderate climate, allowing you to plant a wider range of plants. However, freezes can still occur.
Southern Alabama is subtropical and has extremely mild winters. Therefore, you don’t have to be concerned about freezes quite as much. However, you do have to consider the humidity and heat of the summer, which can kill plants just as fast.
One zone is not necessarily better than the other. However, you do need to consider what plants can live in the zone you’re in.
Plants That Grow Well in Alabama
Alabama’s diverse climate and soil conditions allow a wide range of plants to thrive. Here’s a list of plants that generally grow well in various regions of Alabama, including northern, central, and southern parts of the state.
Of course, the specifics of your soil and microclimate also matter. You need to select sunny spots for sun-loving plants, for instance.
Tips for Planters in Alabama
1. Know Your Planting Zone
Alabama is a long state, so it has several different planting zones. What grows in northern Alabama isn’t the same as what grows in southern Alabama. Therefore, it’s important to figure out exactly what zone you’re in.
You can use this knowledge to know what to plant when to expect frost, and which plant varieties will do best in your area.
2. Soil Testing
A soil test provides valuable insight into your soil’s pH, nutrient levels, and composition. To give your plants the best shot at thriving, it’s important to understand where your soil is and how you can supplement it to make it better.
For instance, you may need to add things to raise or lower the pH, depending on the plants you’re planting. You may also need to fertilize with different nutrients to correct deficiencies.
3. Add Fertilizer
Alabama has clayey and sandy soil. Therefore, it often benefits from adding organic matter, like compost and peat moss. These items help with water retention and add nutrients to the soil. You may also want to add chemical fertilizers, depending on the results of the soil test.
4. Mulch Liberally
Mulching can help conserve the soil by reducing evaporation – a crucial consideration in Alabama’s hot and humid summers. Those in southern Alabama need to mulch considerably, as they have the hottest summers.
Furthermore, mulch can also help moderate soil temperature and suppress weeds. With an added layer of insulation, your plant’s roots are less likely to experience extreme swings in temperature. Plus, the mulch can also make your garden look much nicer.
5. Water Wisely
When watering, it’s important to water deeply. You want to encourage the roots to grow deep into the soil to make the plants more drought-resistant. Therefore, you want to water a lot less often – instead of only a little bit more often.
Using a soaker hose or drip irrigation is the best option, as it minimizes water waste and can limit the growth of bacteria. Many plant diseases are spread by water, so being able to deliver it only to your plant’s roots can be incredibly helpful.
6. Consider Your Microclimate
While Alabama as a whole has different zones, you also need to consider the microclimates within each zone. For instance, areas near walls an buildings may be warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Areas with a nearby water source, like ponds, may be cooler in the summer.
Areas with lots of sun may get warmer, while areas covered by trees will be cooler.
Take note of these microclimates and select plants that grow best for the ones in your yard. The temperature can differ a lot from one area to another.
7. Choose Native Species
You may be drawn to more popularized, invasive plants. However, these plants did not evolve to grow in Alabama, which often makes them more challenging to grow. Consider choosing native plants that are adapted to the climate, as they are more resilient and require less maintenance.
Plus, by choosing native plants, you also eliminate the possibility that these plants will “invade” the surrounding area if they do thrive.
8. Plan for Heat
Alabama can get very hot in the summer, so you may need to plan for heat waves. Even the toughest plants may have problems when it gets very hot outside. It’s important to protect plants from heat by providing afternoon shade when possible.
You can also use a shade cloth or row covers to shield plants from excessive sun and heat. Some plants are more sensitive than others, while some may not need this added help at all.
9. Watch for Pests and Diseases
You should regularly inspect your plants for pests and diseases. Often, pests start out in minuscule amounts and then suddenly proliferate into a huge problem. Catching them early can be challenging, but it makes treating the problem so much easier.
Discolored leaves, holes, or unusual growth often signal an underlying problem. However, each pest and disease will have its own symptoms.
You may need to use organic pesticides. Try to avoid chemicals, as these can harm pollinators and the soil.
10. Pruning and Deadheading
Pruning is highly encouraged to promote healthy growth and remove dead branches. If you want your plants to grow well, then you need to clear away some of the dead growth. It is normal for plants to have “dead” pieces, but they cannot grow more if these pieces are in the way.
Furthermore, deadheading is recommended for many flower species. Simply put, this process involves removing spent flowers. It can prolong the blooming period and improve the appearance of the plant.
11. Companion Planting
Companion planting involves placing plants together that may benefit from each other. It’s often a good idea to plant species together that do not share the same diseases, as this prevents disease spread.
Furthermore, some plants deter certain pests. You can plant these species near plants that are liked by these pests.
In the wild, plants rarely grow in nice, uniform sections that are divided by species. Instead, there are many species interspersed together. Try to do something similar in your own garden.
12. Season Planting
Alabama’s climate allows for year-round gardening in many places. However, you do need to plant the right plants at the correct times. Cool-weather plants like lettuce and broccoli do well in the fall and winter, while summer is a solid option for tomatoes and peppers.
13. Learn from Local Gardeners
Consider joining a local gardening club or an online forum to connect with other gardeners in the area. You can also attend local workshops, which tend to have other gardeners in attendance.
Local gardeners can provide unique advice for your specific problems that are tailored to your area.
What Planting Zone is Birmingham, Alabama?
Birmingham sits on the border of two USDA hardiness zones: 8a and 7b. It depends on what side of the city you’re on, as well as your specific microclimate and temperature.
You need to figure out exactly where you are in the city and consider your elevation, too. Luckily, because of the variance, gardeners in this city can often grow plants suitable to both climates with a little bit of extra care.
What Zone is Huntsville, Alabama in for Planting?
Huntsville, Alabama, is located in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 7b. However, as with many cities, there can be microclimate variations within the area, so it’s a good idea for gardeners in Huntsville to be aware of their specific location and any localized temperature differences that may affect plant selection and care.
Cities can be a lot warmer than the surrounding suburban areas. Therefore, exactly how much grass and concrete is in your area matters.
What Planting Zone is Gulf Shores, Alabama?
Gulf Shores, Alabama, is located in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 9a. This means the average annual minimum winter temperature in Gulf Shores falls between 20 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
Often, plants that thrive in this area can withstand warm, humid summers. However, they cannot deal with colder winters.
Of course, you should also consider other planting factors, like soil type and rainfall.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © eurobanks/iStock via Getty Images
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