The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has released a new version of its Plant Hardiness Zone Map (PHZM), updating this valuable tool for gardeners and researchers for the first time since 2012. USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard by which gardeners and growers can determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The new map—jointly developed by USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Oregon State University's (OSU) PRISM Climate Group—is more accurate and contains greater detail than prior versions.
It is available online at https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/. In addition to the map updates, the Plant Hardiness Zone Map website was expanded in 2023 to include a “Tips for Growers” section, which provides information about USDA ARS research programs of interest to gardeners and others who grow and breed plants.
The 2023 map is based on 30-year averages of the lowest annual winter temperatures at specific locations, is divided into 10-degree Fahrenheit zones and further divided into 5-degree Fahrenheit half-zones. Like the 2012 map, the 2023 web version offers a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based interactive format and is specifically designed to be user-friendly. Notably, the 2023 map delivers to users several new, significant features and advances. The 2023 map incorporates data from 13,412 weather stations compared to the 7,983 that were used for the 2012 map.
Approximately 80 million American gardeners and growers represent the most frequent users of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. However, they’re not the only ones with a need for this hardiness information. For example, the USDA Risk Management Agency refers to the map’s plant hardiness zone designations to set certain crop insurance standards. Additionally, scientists incorporate the plant hardiness zones as a data layer in many research models, such as those modeling the spread of exotic weeds and insects.
Although a paper version of the 2023 map will not be available for purchase from the government, anyone may download the new map free of charge and print copies as needed.
The Agricultural Research Service is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific in-house research agency. Daily, ARS focuses on solutions to agricultural problems affecting America. Each dollar invested in U.S. agricultural research results in $20 of economic impact.