Probably the greatest invention yet of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the USDA Hardiness Zones. These zones make it incredibly easy to figure out which herb to plant in which zone. However, the process can also be confusing as contradicting information can be found all over the web.
So, here is a complete list of which herbs can grow in which zones:
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In this post, I will try to simplify the way we can approach herbs and zones by going through each climate zone one by one and highlighting its features and which perennial herbs will survive the winter. Since some zones will be much more conducive to herb growth than others I have limited the number of herbs listed to the most common garden herbs.
Before we dive right in let’s have a brief look at what these hardniess zones actually are and to use them!
What are the USDA Hardiness Zones?
The USDA Hardiness Zones were established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to divide the United States into several distinct climate zones. The distinguishing characteristic of each zone is the average annual low temperature determines if herbs and other plants can survive the winter.
Above you’ll see a basic overview of all U.S. zones ranging from zone 2 to 10. Zone 2 commences at the most northern tip of Minnesota – close to the Canadian border – and zone 10 concludes at the most southern tip of Florida. Most of the U.S. landmass is covered by zones 4-8 which tend to also the best zones for planting most herbs.
While these zones can serve as a rough estimate of which herbs are likely to thrive in your area they are only that: estimates. There are many other environmental conditions that determine the success of an herb garden in each zone.
Such conditions are:
- Soil: The quality of your soil can have a much bigger effect on the growth of herbs than an ideal climate zone. Herbs in their ideal planting zone will not thrive in soil devoid of nutrients despite perfect atmospheric conditions. Likewise, herbs outside their comfort zone (pun intended) can grow vital and strong in nutrient-rich soil.
- Moisture: Although locales in the same zone will be similar with regards to temperature they can differ quite widely on moisture and humidity levels. For instance, zone 8 in Washington feels very different from zone 8 in Oklahoma. Some herbs cope better with more rain and humidity, others with less.
- Sunlight: Determining the best spot in your garden to plant your herbs for maximum sun exposure will also have a greater effect on herb growth than just the zone. Herbs that grow well in zone 8 and above might to equally well or even better in lower zones with much more sun exposure during the day.
Now that we’ve established how to use the USDA Hardiness Zones for our herb garden let’s go through each zone one by one!
Which herbs to grow in each zone
We’ll go over exactly which herbs grow and thrive in each zone starting with zone 3 up to zone 10. Although zone 2 is technically also part of the United States I have not dedicated a separate section to it since there are no perennial herbs that can withstand those freezing temperatures of zone 2.
For clarity’s sake, I will also not list any herbs more than once in the tables. Yes, herbs that can be planted in colder zones generally will also survive in warmer ones. When there are exceptions to this I will make sure to point this out.
Herbs Zone 3
Herbs that grow in zone 3 are catnip, chives, comfrey, and echinacea. These hardy herbs are some of the few than can survive the harsh winters and cold temperature of zone 3. Besides these, you won’t have much luck cultivating a perennial herb garden in the northern most United States.
Features of USDA Hardiness Zone 3
Zone 3 is comprised of just the northernmost region of Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Alaska. Some more elevated areas of Maine and the Rocky Mountain Region are also included. The climate here is typically characterized by harsh winters with cold winds and early frost.
The average annual low in zone 3 ranges from -30° F to -40° F. These very cold lows make it difficult even for hardy herbs such as Mint, Terragon, and Thyme to survive. However, some herbs have adapted to conditions here up north.
What herbs grow in zone 3?
- Catnip: This herb is native to southern and eastern Europe where temperatures can go well below freezing in winter. Another interesting property of catnip is that it tends to have a stimulating or mellowing effect on most cats.
- Chives: Almost grass-like chives are robust and survive even frost and cold winters. Since their leaves don’t have a large surface area they are able to roll up easily and shield themselves from the cold.
- Comfrey: Comfrey is a polarizing herb. Some say it’s poison, others say it’s medicine. Whatever the case, it is unlikely that you will want to plant this in your herb garden to add it to your meals later. Nonetheless, comfrey will thrive even in zone 3 climates.
- Echinacea: With its colorful pink and purple leaves echinacea looks more like a flower than an herb. But besides looking pretty this herb is frequently used in cold remedies. It can withstand harsh climates and frost and will usually grow back when spring comes around.
Herbs Zone 4
Angelica, feverfew, marjoram, mint, st. john’s wort, tarragon, and thyme will all grow in zone 4. While still being one of the colder parts of the continental United States zone 4 allows for a much wider variety of herbs to be planted than zone 3, including some kitchen-favorites such as Mint, Tarragon, and Thyme.
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Features of USDA Hardiness Zone 4
Zone 4 creep further down into the midwestern United States and encompasses large parts of the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Maine, Vermont and the northern parts of New York. The climate here becomes a bit more moderate with warmer summer months and large temperature swings in sping and autumn.
The average annual low in zone 4 ranges from -20°F to -30° F. These lows in the winter months are still too harsh for most of the common garden herbs to survive. However, some plants with larger protectice stems have managed to thrive in these latitudes.
What herbs grow in zone 4?
- Angelica: Often referred to as wild celery, angelica is native to the northern hemisphere and subarctic regions of our planet. Due to its origins it has the capacity to survive frosty winters but also do well in milder climates and warmer summers.
- Feverfew: While not common in many gardens this medicinal herbs is usually dried and used to treat migraine headaches and other afflictions. Although its primary use tends to be medicinal it can also be grown for ornamental purposes.
- Marjoram: Marjoram is probably the least known herb in the herbs de provence mix. It adds a lofty twist to chicken or fish and had a wide range of applications in cooking. Thanks to its deep roots marjoram plants are able to regenerate in early spring and grow back once temperatures rise.
- Mint: Frequently used in tea or for its fresh scent, mint is an herb that grows anywhere from zone 4 to zone 9. It is versatile in its growth and application and can add a wonderful scent to your front yard.
- St. John’s Wort: This mysterious herb is an ageold remedy for mental health afflictions ranging from mild depression to anxiety. With its robust stems St. John’s Wort can survive winters and frost in zone 4 and will reward any onlooker with its bright yellow leaves.
- Tarragon: Tarragon is often called the cousin of Thyme because of its similarity in use and growth. It can thrive anywhere from zone 4 to zone 9 and can be added to many dishes.
- Thyme: One of my favorite uses of thyme is to sprinkle it onto some white fish and add lemos juice. Thyme is a must for any kitchen herb garden and can even grow upwards of zone 4.
Herbs Zone 5
Herbs that can be planted in zone 5 are chamomille, lavender, oregano, sage, and rue. In addition to these herbs also all herbs mentioned previous in zones 3 and 4 will grow fine in zone 5. This zone has milder winters, earlier springs, and is prone to more sunlight than its nothern counterparts.
Features of USDA Hardiness Zone 5
Zone 5 spans right through the middle of the U.S. and even includes southern parts of Alaska. Its core is comprised of Iowa, Nebraska, parts of Idaho and Wyoming, southern Minnesota and northern Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, parts of Pennsylvania and New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
-10° F to -20° F is the average annual low in zone 5, making it a more bearable climate for many perennial garden herbs. Even some more tender herbal plants such as chamomille can survive in zone 5 and grow back the next year.
What herbs grow in zone 5?
- Chamomille: Perhaps you only know chamomille in your favorite tea but in fact, this herb can do much more than calm. Its versatile use in medicine has populated it across the globe. Chamomille thrives from zone 5 upwards.
- Oregano: Oregano is usually associated with southern Europe and much warmer climates than zone 5. However, this herb is also surprisingly hardy and can withstand cooler temperatures thanks to its robust stems. One of my favorites on pizza!
- Lavender: Probably best known for its distinct scent lavender tends to do better in mild climates but will also likely survive the winter frost of zone 5. The further south we go the more voluminous lavender will grow.
- Sage: Sage leaves can infuse your meals with a sophisticated taste not found elsewhere. And growing a healthy sage plant should not be a problem in zone 5. Make sure it gets plenty of natural light and you will soon be able to reap its rewards.
- Rue: Common rue is commonly used as a folk cure for headaches, anxiety, and a host of other symptoms. As an evergreen, it grows close to the ground and can be used for ornamental purposes as well.
Herbs Zone 6
Herbs in zone 6 include parsley and all other herbs from zones 3-5. This makes zone 6 one of the best temperate zones to grow your herb garden. You will have access to all the common kitchen herbs such as thyme, tarragon, oregano, mint, and now parsley!
Features of USDA Hardiness Zone 6
The USDA Hardiness Zone 6 stretches all the way from New Hampshire to Washington and comprises large parts of New England, the Midwest, down to northern parts of Arizona and New Mexico and up all through most of the Rocky Mountains with the most eastern areas of California, Oregon, and Washington.
The average annual low in zone 6 ranges from 0° F to -10° F. These milder winters make it ideal for some less hardy herbs such as parsley to thrive. Other zones 4 and 5 herbs will also do even better in zone 6 due to its long summers.
What herbs grow in zone 6?
- Parsley: Parsley is native to the eastern Mediterranean but has been cultivated around the world for its culinary applications. It is a delicate herb that grows well between zones 6 to 9 but does not tolerate excessive heat or cold.
Herbs Zone 7
Herbs that grow in zone 7 are thyme, rosemary, sage, chives, parsley, marjoram, and mint. These seven herbs are ideal for the moderate climate of zone 7 and can frequently survive the winter.
Features of USDA Hardiness Zone 7
The USDA Hardiness Zone 7 is comprised of Virginia, Tenessee, Oklahoma, and the southern parts of New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The climate of these states tends to be moderate with warmer to hot summers but also colder winter months.
In Zone 7 the average annual temperature low ranges from 10° F through 0° F throughout the year and can inhibit the growth of some more sensitive herbs such as basil and oregano. In general, however, zone 7 is well suited to grow a variety of herbs due to its warmer summer months and sufficient rain.
What herbs grow in zone 7?
- Thyme: With its intense flavor profile thyme is native to the more southern regions of Europe which experience similar fluctuations in temperature as the USDA Zone 7. This perennial herb will grow even in cooler climates up to zone 4.
- Rosemary: Since rosemary is used to a lot of sun and warmth it tends to do better in higher zones. Zone 7, however, does not get too cold and with plenty of full sun, rosemary will do just fine here. Avoid planting rosemary anywhere below zone 6.
- Sage: Sage is a resilient herb known also for its winter hardiness. As a perennial herb, it will likely grow year after year, especially if planted above zone 5. The more sun it gets the more flavorful its leaves will be!
- Chives: This grass-like herb is extremely resistant to cold and even grows in much colder climates up to zone 3! That said it will easily thrive in zone 7 with a more moderate winter and warmer summer months.
- Parsley: Parsley tends to favor the warmer Mediterranean climates of southern Europe and will do well anywhere above zone 6. Although it is possible to grow in zone 7, higher zones will yield more voluminous plants and more savory leaves.
- Marjoram: This herb remains largely unknown but makes for an excellent addition to your herb garden due to its resilience and flexibility. Anywhere between zones 4 to 8 is where it feels most comfortable.
- Mint: Known for its winter hardiness, mint can be planted up to zone 4. Zone 7 present a near-ideal climate for mint plants to thrive and grow strong. Plant in full sun for the best result!
Herbs Zone 8
Zone 8 herbs are bay laurel, lemon balm, rosemary. Note that all herbs from zones 3-7 will also do fine in zone 8 thanks to its temperate summers. Living in zone 8 will give you one of the greatest varieties of herbs you have access to!
Features of USDA Hardiness Zone 8
Zone 8 encompasses a broad area of the southern United States including Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, the central part of Texas, northern parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and the east of California. The climate will get a little hotter in the summer with much a lot more sun exposure than in previous zones.
The average annual low in zone 8 ranges from 20° F to 10° F which means there is a good chance that your herbs won’t have to deal with any frost in winters. Zone is suitable for the more southern herbs with tender stems and an aversion to colder climates.
What herbs grow in zone 8?
- Bay Laurel: Bay laurel is an evergreen herb commonly used for decorative purposes. It is famous for its decoration on the heads of Roman emperors which can give you some clues with regard to its favorite climate. However, bay laurel can also be toxic to some animals.
- Lemon Balm: Lemon Balm is actually part of the family of mint herbs but used in different ways. It has also not grown as accustomed to anything below zone 8 as its common cousin. Lemon balm is sometimes used in herbal medicine as a sleep aid but can also just be made into a lovely pesto.
- Rosemary: With its colorful purple flower buds rosemary does not only make for a nice addition to your garden it also enhances the flavor of many savory meats. Rosemary is the quintessential Mediteranean herb that thrives in full sun and warm to hot summers.
Herbs Zone 9
Most of the herbs from zones 3-8 also grow in zone 9. This includes oregano, mint, thyme, tarragon, parsley, and many more. However, there are some herbs of lower zones that don’t do well in the heat of zone 9. These include chamomile, comfrey, lavender, marjoram.
Features of USDA Hardiness Zone 9
In order to experience zone 9 we need to travel to the southernmost US to places such as Florida, south Texas, New Mexico, and California. We tend to get drier and hotter summers here with barely any noticable winter seasons.
With an average annual low of 30° F to 20° F it never really gets that cold in zone 9. For some herbs, the excessive heat will be too much to bear while others will thrive. Avoid planting herbs like chamomille, marjoram, comfrey, or lavender in zone 9.
What herbs grow in zone 9?
Herbs Zone 10
Herbs that grow in zone 10 are aloe vera, lemon grass, and stevia. Many cooler climate herbs will have a hard time dealing with the sunny and dry summers, losing too much water to survive.
Features of USDA Hardiness Zone 10
The only part of the United States that is inside zone 10 is the southern tip of Florida. Down here in the Miami Metro Area you’ll experience hints of the almost tropical summers in zone 10.
The average annual low in zone 10 is just 40° F to 30° F which obviously makes it an ideal holiday during winter but not a great place to grow many herbs.
What herbs grow in zone 10?
- Aloe Vera: Aloe Vera is a kind of cactus that has several medical applications. It grows also wild in the rocky deserts of Mexico and close to the Mexican border in the southern areas of Texas. Zone 10 and 11 present an ideal environment for alea vera to grow strong.
- Lemon Grass: Probably most well-known from Asian cooking, lemon grass is accustomed to the tropical climates of southern Asia. It needs plenty of sunlight, humidity and water to do well in zone 10.
- Stevia: Frequently used as a natural sweetener stevia can be grown successfully in zone 10 and beyond. It is able to store sufficient water in its leaves to make through drier summers and does not tolerate much cold in winter.
Using the USDA Hardiness Zones is a convenient way to checking which herbs will likely do well in your garden. Probably the best zones to live in for a divers herb garden are somewhere between 5-8. Here you will have access to the largest variety of herbs to grow outside.
The further north or south you go from there your options will diminish. However, even if your herb is not listed in your zone you can still give it a shot and with some extra care, you’ll usually do just fine.
Herbs outside of their natural zones will usually just not grow as big and strong as otherwise and mostly won’t survive the winters. Other than that, herbs are highly adaptable to their environment.