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USDA Hardiness Planting Zones

To determine if a plant is sufficiently cold-hardy, the USDA created numbered zones indicating winter low temperatures; the lower the zone number the colder the winter.

  • If the coldest winter temperature expected in your area is -15°F (zone 5) then any plants rated zones 3-5 will survive the winter temperatures in your area.
  • If you live in very warm winter areas (zones 9-11) plants with zones 3-4 ratings are not recommended. The lack of freezing winter temperatures do not provide a time for winter dormancy (rest).

First Frost Dates across North America

First fall frost dates are important dates for gardeners. Because this chart tells you when frost will attack your garden or meadow, signaling the end of the gardening season. Tender annuals are killed down, creating a sad black-stained mess the morning after your first frost. Perennials do better, but their leaves, buds and blooms are usually damaged.

Wildflowers with Frost Calendulas bend under the damage from first frost. By sundown, they will be dark and dying.

Some of the fall wildflowers are exceptions, with special traits that keep them blooming so they can fulfill their botanical objective of ripening their flowers into seeds. Many sunflowers and asters are in this group, often blooming right through the first frosts. The chart below includes average frost dates for various cities across the U.S. Find the cities near you, and you'll have a good idea when to expect the first frost this fall. (These dates vary year by year within about a two-week window.)

What can you do?

Well, not much. But many gardeners protect the easily damaged flowers by covering them to keep them beautiful for a few more days. Or, if you like, you can pot up tender annuals (like impatiens and petunias) and bring the pots inside and place them on sunny windowsills, still in full bloom. Some gardeners keep impatiens blooming year round by nursing them through the winter indoors.

City, State First Frost Date
Atlanta, GA 11/18
Baltimore, MD 11/17
Bismarck, ND 9/24
Boise, ID 10/17
Boston, MA 11/8
Buffalo, NY 10/25
Caribou, ME 9/21
Charleston, SC 12/10
Charleston, WV 10/5
Cheyenne, WY 9/27
Chicago, IL 10/28
Cincinnati, OH 10/25
Cleveland, OH 10/20
Columbia, SC 11/20
Dallas, TX 11/17
Denver, CO 10/14
Detroit, MI 10/20
Houston, TX 12/11
Indianapolis, IN 10/27
Jacksonville, FL 12/16
Kansas City, MO 10/30
Las Vegas, NV 11/10
Miami, FL no frost
Milwaukee, WI 10/25
Minneapolis, MN 10/13
Mobile, AL 12/12
Nashville, TN 11/7
Newark, NJ 11/8
New Orleans, LA 12/9
New York, NY 11/12
Oklahoma City, OK 11/7
Philadelphia, PA 11/17
Phoenix, AZ 12/11
Pittsburgh, PA 10/23
Pittsfield, MA 9/27
Portland, OR 12/1
Providence, RI 10/27
Raleigh, NC 11/16
Richmond, VA 11/8
Sacramento, CA 12/10
Salt Lake City, UT 10/22
Seattle, WA 12/1
St. Louis, MO 11/8
Washington, DC 10/28
Fall Foliage

Does frost make the leaves turn?

No. The changing color of leaves during fall is a completely separate phenomenon from the falling temperatures.

Leaf color change is caused by the shortening days as we go from summer into fall. Interestingly, the brilliant fall color is there all summer, but until fall, it is hidden by the production of (green) chlorophyll. As days shorten in fall, leaves shut down their chlorophyll production, and their real pigments are revealed.

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