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Are You a Zone Buster?

Once you start gardening, you’ll begin encountering “zones”. The USDA plant hardiness map has divided the US, Canada, and Mexico into zones measuring the average lowest temperatures. Every plant label and seed packet is going to include plant zone information, basically telling you your odds that the plant you’re checking out is going to make it in your area. Common sense really, take something from the Equator, and try planting it in the Arctic, chances are, it won’t be able to handle the extreme cold.

If you’re not sure, find your zone using this interactive map, and we’ll see if one of my favorite Bee Balms, zone 4-9, is going to make it. Zone 1-2 Alaska can expect that this baby wouldn’t make it. Likewise, zone 10-11 Florida wouldn’t be any better, way too hot. I can also try “zone busting”, growing a plant where it technically isn’t supposed to grow. Zone 3 gardens can try adding a heavy cover of mulch to keep it 10 degrees warmer than normal in the winter, and a zone 10 garden can try planting this in shade and giving it extra water. You may be pleasantly surprised with a great new plant, but you also can’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t make it, you were zone busting after all.

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10 comments to Are You a Zone Buster?

  • Laura Menningen

    Thanks for the tips. I tend to be one who buys a pretty plant first and then check out the caring for instructions later.
    I’m glad you’ve made the web site. I will check in often, and learn lots along the way.
    Hopefully my garden will be lush and healthy — next year.

    • Lisa

      Laura, I’m glad you found this site helpful :) I’m a big fan of buying pretty plants too, and know what it’s like to be burned. The nice thing, the finicky one you lose often times has a hardy twin, same looks but easier growing conditions. Happy to give you suggestions if there are any in particular, otherwise any good nursery would be able to help you out with an alternative.

  • Lisa

    I wanted to share a great reader question on bee balm in general, “Does Bee Balm grow wild up north? We have a purple flower with similar leaves to the bee balm but the flower is smaller than this one. It is all over in the woods.”

    Anne, what you’re describing sounds like Native Monarda (Monarda Fistulosa, Wild Bergamot). Some people enjoy using this as the base of an herbal drink “Bergamot Tea”, and not only does it grow great in the wild, people interested in attracting butterflies to their garden may find this plant useful. There’s also a strong Native American tradition of using this plant medicinally.

  • Anne

    Lisa, there are definately many butterflies up north. In fact I had a bird seed bell out and it had over 4 butterflies sitting on it. These puprple flowers are in full bloom right now in the woods. They must not need full sun to thrive.

    • Lisa

      Anne, butterflies on a bird seed bell? I’d love to see that! I’ve noticed a lot more butterflies in my garden this year as well, but still no hummers (yet). The nice thing about most of the bee balms, they tolerate part sun nicely (especially the wild bee balm). The one here does well, but also tends to get a little bit droopy when it gets really hot out.

  • Anne

    We have lots of hummingbirds up north. They love the cone flowers. I wish I could get a picture of one visiting the flowers but they are just too fast.

    • Lisa

      I just watched a documentary on hummers the other day, the shocker? According to the experts, they perch 75% of the time. I assumed they were non stop flying and eating machine. I always get really excited when I see them, the first time, I thought it was some kind of giant moth. Eeesh.

  • Sandy Little

    I am in Zone 9a so yes the Bee Balm would do well here. We need something like that in our city Xeriscape. I am going to try and find one.
    Thanks for the tip.

  • Sandy Little

    You are right about the butterflies this year. I have the ground cover lantanas and it is covered with butterflies at home and at the Xeriscape. We are making a pocket garden for butterflies.

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