UACES Facebook ‘Don’t freak out’ key message for Arkansas growers, gardeners after USDA updates Plant Hardiness Zone Map
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‘Don’t freak out’ key message for Arkansas growers, gardeners after USDA updates Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Nov. 21, 2023

By Sarah Cato
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • USDA updated Plant Hardiness Zones Map
  • All Arkansas zones have shifted up to warmer zones
  • Changes are not a cause for concern in the state

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(Newsrooms: Download photo of Bowden and Arkansas 2023 USDA Plant Hardiness Zones Map)

LITTLE ROCK — Plant hardiness zones have shifted in Arkansas, but there’s no cause for alarm in the Natural State according to Anthony Bowden, extension ornamental horticulture specialist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Portrait of Anthony Bowden
KEEP CALM AND GARDEN ON — Extension ornamental horticulture specialists says the updated USDA Plant Hardiness Zones Map is not a cause for concern in Arkansas. (Division of Agriculture photo.)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture maintains the Plant Hardiness Zones Map, a tool which gardeners and growers use to determine which perennial plants grow best in their area. The map divides the U.S. into zones based on the average of minimum temperatures, with zone 1a being the coldest and zone 13b being the warmest. In the past, Arkansas zones spanned from 6b to 8a. However, with the recent update each zone in the state has shifted up, with zones now spanning from 7a to 8b. Bowden said these changes are marginal and won’t change much for Arkansas growers.

“Arkansas fared a lot better than other areas of the country,” he said. “Florida and the Pacific Northwest both had some severe changes in their maps. While we saw a half zone shift, some places saw a full zone shift.”

With such a small change in Arkansas’ zones, growers in the state will likely not need to make any changes in their current operations.

“The difference between zone 7a and zone 7b is completely marginal,” Bowden said. “We’re still going to have those freak weather conditions like the freeze we saw earlier this year, and we’re still operating business as usual. I don’t see this having a huge effect on Arkansas.”

More data, more accuracy

Although each zone in Arkansas did shift to a warmer zone, Bowden says this has more to do with available data than an overall warming of the state.

“At the time of the last map update in 2012, there were over 7,000 weather stations across the U.S. Now we have over 13,000,” Bowden said. “Although we are seeing more frequent periods of warmer temperatures, the shift to warmer hardiness zones is due to more data points about the climate in more areas of the country. More data equals more accuracy”

A good example of this are the zone changes seen in Alaska.

“There was a lot of concern about the Alaska map update, as it’s warmer than before,” Bowden said. “But this update is taking into consideration the temperatures in the mountains, where we previously didn’t have that data. So it’s a broader picture than what we had before.”

Ultimately, Bowden’s message to Arkansas gardeners and growers is “don’t freak out.”

“Don’t go ripping up the plants in your landscape just because of the zone change,” he said. “What was good two months ago is still going to be okay now.”

When in doubt, Bowden recommends growers contact their local county extension office for information on planting dates and recommendations for their specific area.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on X and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on X at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on X at @AgInArk.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.  

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact:
Sarah Cato