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USDA Plant Hardiness Zones

To help gardeners understand which plants will grow well for them, the entire USA has been segmented into ‘Plant Hardiness Zones’. Knowing your zone number is helpful when shopping for plants because:

  • Cold-area gardeners can avoid buying plants that simply won’t survive their lowest winter temperatures.
  • Warm-area gardeners can steer clear of plants that need a period of cold weather in order to bloom again.
Find your Plant Hardiness Zone here.

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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