Understanding the Planting Zone of Tennessee

When it comes to gardening, understanding your planting zone is crucial. This knowledge helps you determine which plants will thrive in your area and when to plant them. For those living in Tennessee, this guide will provide all the necessary information about your planting zone.

What is a Planting Zone?

A planting zone, also known as a hardiness zone, is a geographic area defined by climatic conditions, particularly the lowest temperatures experienced. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has divided North America into 13 different hardiness zones based on average annual minimum winter temperatures.

Each zone represents a temperature range of 10 degrees Fahrenheit and is further divided into “a” and “b” for more precision. The zones range from 1a, the coldest, to 13b, the warmest. Knowing your zone is essential for successful gardening as it guides you on what plants can survive and thrive in your area.

Tennessee’s Planting Zone

Tennessee, known for its diverse geography, falls into multiple planting zones. This variance is due to the state’s topography, which includes mountains, plateaus, and lowlands, each with unique climatic conditions.

Generally, Tennessee falls within USDA hardiness zones 6a to 7b. However, some regions in the state, particularly the mountainous areas, can dip into zone 5b. The warmer zones, 7a and 7b, are found in the lower elevations, particularly in the western and middle parts of the state.

Zone 5b

This zone is found in the highest elevations of the Appalachian Mountains. The average minimum winter temperature here ranges from -15 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. Plants suitable for this zone include American Holly, Blue Spruce, and Weeping Willow.

Zone 6a and 6b

These zones cover a significant portion of East Tennessee and the higher elevations of Middle Tennessee. The average minimum winter temperatures range from -10 to 0 degrees Fahrenheit for 6a and 0 to -5 degrees Fahrenheit for 6b. Plants that thrive here include the Sugar Maple, Redbud, and White Oak.

Zone 7a and 7b

These are the warmest zones in Tennessee, covering most of Middle and West Tennessee. The average minimum winter temperatures range from 0 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit for 7a and 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit for 7b. Plants such as the Southern Magnolia, Tulip Poplar, and Sweetbay Magnolia thrive in these zones.

How to Use Planting Zones

Knowing your planting zone is just the first step in successful gardening. You need to use this information to select the right plants for your garden. For instance, if you live in zone 7b, you should choose plants that can survive and thrive in temperatures as low as 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Additionally, the planting zone can guide you on when to plant. Some plants do well when planted in the colder months, while others need the warmth of spring or summer. Therefore, understanding your zone’s temperature range can help you schedule your planting for optimal growth.

Other Factors to Consider

While the planting zone is a crucial factor in gardening, it’s not the only one. Other elements such as soil type, sunlight exposure, and precipitation also play significant roles in a plant’s survival and growth. Therefore, it’s essential to consider these factors alongside the planting zone when planning your garden.

For instance, some plants may be hardy in your zone but require well-drained soil, while your garden may have clay soil that retains water. Similarly, a plant may thrive in your zone but need full sun, while your garden may be shaded. Therefore, always consider the overall growing conditions in your garden when selecting plants.


Understanding your planting zone is crucial for successful gardening. In Tennessee, the planting zones range from 5b in the highest elevations to 7b in the lower areas. By knowing your zone and considering other factors such as soil type and sunlight exposure, you can select the right plants for your garden and enjoy a lush, vibrant landscape all year round.