USDA and Sunset Climate Plant Zones for South Florida

USDA and Sunset Climate Plant Zones for South Florida

Chairs in tropical garden, Miami, Florida, USA, landscape architect Raymond Jungles
Richard Felber/Photolibrary/Getty Images

South Florida’s diverse habitat is divided into growing zones based on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) classification and the climate at sunset. Local garden shops and nurseries will refer to the sunset or climate zone. The USDA zone will be used when ordering plants and seeds from catalogs or online sources. Due to Miami’s extraordinary year-round growing climate, Miami is one of the only areas in the country able to maintain tropical and subtropical plants. This article will explain the different plant zones of Miami, how they can guide your planting, and what native plants you can expect to be indigenous to the land.

Miami USDA Plant Zone

Also known as Hardiness Zones or Growing Zones, the USDA defines 11 planting zones for the minimum range of temperatures that a plant can survive. The higher the zone number, the warmer the minimum temperatures are for the survival and growth of plants. Gardeners rely on USDA zone maps to determine whether certain plants will grow successfully in their climate.

The climate of Miami-Dade County is dramatically different from the rest of the United States. In the county’s 10b plant zone, the minimum temperatures are between 30 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. To grow in this zone, plants are required to survive colder temperatures in addition to the humid, tropical weather that characterizes the majority of the season. Knowing when and when not to sow seeds in the 10b plant zone is very important due to frost dates. For Miami, the date of the first frost is December 15th, and the last is no later than January 31st. These dates, however, are up to your discretion and local weather reports.

Miami Sunset Guide Plant Zone

Sunset Climate Zones differ from USDA zones because they consider summer highs, elevations, proximity to mountains or coasts, rainfall, growing seasons and aridity, rather than just the region’s average cold temperature. Miami is zone 25 with a year-round growing season. In addition to the inevitable high humidity, year-round rainfall (the least after the last frost dates), and overall warmth, Miami gardeners deal with a subtropical climate. To fight non-climate-related growth issues, a separate plan is needed for your gardening.

Common Plants in Miami

Miami’s subtropical climate and coastal location allow an abundance of plants and flowers—native and exotic—to suit the area’s rain patterns, soils, and pests. Wildflowers, ornamental grasses, and ferns are in generous supply. But the greatest natural symbol of the Miami area is the native palm tree. Their high salt tolerance, need for lots of sun, and ability to produce fruit year-round make them perfect for the tropical plant zone. Eight types of palms are native to the region:

  • Scientific palm
  • Buccaneer palm
  • Scrub palmetto
  • Dwarf blue palmetto
  • Saw palmetto
  • Cabbage palm
  • Keys thatch palm
  • Florida thatch palm

According to the University of Florida, there are 146 species of plants native to Miami including mahogany trees, live oak, and coral honeysuckle. Popular garden plants that thrive in zones 10b and 25 include tomatoes, strawberries, sweet peppers, carrots, and lettuce.