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USDA Zone 2

USDA Zone 2: Where is it? What to Plant? Tips to Success

Are you wondering if you are in Zone 2, and if so, what you should plant there?

Some flowers, trees, and vegetables do better in certain hardiness zones. How do you know what will grow best in your zone?

USDA Hardiness Zone Map

There are 13 USDA Hardiness Zones. These zones are determined by the average minimum temperatures during the winter months.

The USDA Zones generally run north to south on the national map, but in some areas, such as Alaska, they don’t follow suit.

Your zone will impact the health and development of your plants, as will the typical seasons of the area, the average humidity, the elevation, and the climate.

Each plant is rated to the lowest zone it can survive in. Knowing your zone and understanding what plants will thrive there can help you see success as a gardener.

What is Zone 2?

Zone 2 is one of the thirteen climate zones on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. This map outlines the average temperatures and frost dates of the continental United States, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.

These zone ratings reference where a plant can survive the winter. Each zone is ten degrees warmer or cooler than the adjacent zone. The colder the zone, the lower the number.

Zone 2 is only found in Alaska, which has a tundra-like, dry environment. The winters are long, cold, and snowy, while the summers are cool.

USDA Zone 2 Map

Average winter temperatures drop as low as 50°F below zero, but the summers can warm up a bit, depending on where you live. In Fairbanks, which is located in Zone 2, it can get as warm as 62°F.

Climate and fairbanks temp
Monthly Climate Temperatures of Fairbanks, AK – Source: weather.gov

Each zone is divided into two subzones. Zone 2 consists of Subzone 2A and Subzone 2B.

Fairbanks is in Subzone 2A, where the average minimum temperatures are -50°F to -45°F.

Fairbanks Alaska
Fairbanks is in Zone 2A – Image by Amy Meredith via Flickr

Barrow, on the Northern Coast of Alaska, is in Subzone 2B, where the average minimum temperatures are -45°F to -40°F.

Barrows AK Coastline
Coastline near Barrow, Alaska, in Zone 2B – Image by Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wild Life Service via Flickr

The growing season in Zone 2 is only three months, generally starting in early June and ending somewhere around the end of August. In some areas, such as Barrow, the growing season is even shorter, because daily temperatures may not reach 60°F.

Climate Barrow temp
Monthly Climate Temperatures of Barrows, AK – Source: weather.gov

Many gardeners use greenhouses and other tools to extend their growing season in these areas.

The growing season in Zone 2 depends on so much more than just the average temperatures, however.

You need to pay special attention to the amount of sun and water available in Zone 2. This drought-like environment sees very little sun for days on end, during certain times of the year, and constant sun at other times. This can make gardening challenging.

The night temperatures and soil temperatures also affect your growing season in Zone 2, as does what kinds of plants you are trying to grow.

Where is Zone 2?

USDA Zone 2 in Alaska

Zone 2 can be found only in the middle of Alaska, known as the Alaskan Interior. It is surrounded by seven other USDA Hardiness Zones.

Zone 2 starts at the edge of the North Slope and runs down, stopping just above the Alaska Range. It also extends from the Seward Peninsula on the Western Coast to the Brooks Range. The Western half of the Brooks Range is in Subzone 2A, while the Eastern half is in Subzone 2B.

Parts of the Denali National Park are also in Zone 2A.

Minimum Average Temperatures in Zone 2

Each hardiness zone is divided into two subzones; Zone 2 subzones are 2A and 2B. Each subzone is separated by 5°F.

Zone 2’s average minimum temperatures are:

  • Zone 2: This zone has a minimum average of temperature of -50° to -40°F.
  • Zone 2a: This subzone has a minimum average temperature of -50° to -45° F.
  • Zone 2b: This subzone has a minimum average temperature of -45° to -40°F.

The average minimum temperature for the winter months determines the zone and subset ranges, but the temperatures don’t always fall in this range, since colder temperatures can occur.

USDA Zone 2 Temperature and Frost Dates

Frost Dates in Zone 2

The average first and last frost dates for Zone 2, like the other zones, isn’t set in stone. These dates are vulnerable to unpredictable weather patterns and seasonal changes.

Frost dates for Zone 2 are typically:

  • Last frost date: May 15th – 22nd
  • First frost date: September 1st – 8th

The frost dates can vary by two weeks, from year to year. Use these dates as general guidelines but pay attention to the weather during planting and harvesting.

Zone 2 States

Each state has more than one hardiness zone, depending on the climate in that area. Alaska has eight zones, ranging from Zone 1 to Zone 8.

However, Zone 2 is only found in Alaska. It is the only state that falls within the minimum winter temperature range characteristic of Zone 2.

When to Plant in Zone 2

Gardening in USDA Zone 2 can be very challenging, because the season is short, the environment is often dry, and daylight hours are atypical.

At certain times in the winter, the sun never rises, and during certain points in the summer, it never sets. It might be hard to grow plants that require a lot of sunlight and water.

Because the last frost sets so late, and the growing season is so short in Zone 2, it is best to start most plants indoors.

Raising Tomato Seedlings Indoors

Start your celery, peppers, and kale indoors in the middle of March. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and tomatoes can be started at the end of March. Leafy greens, such as lettuce and swiss chard, can be started in mid-April, and your cantaloupes, cucumbers, pumpkins, and watermelons at the end of April.

Then transplant these crops to your garden outside two weeks after the last frost, usually around the middle or end of May.

Cold weather crops that can be directly sown include radishes, carrots, peas, beats, onions, potatoes, squash, and zucchini. You can start planting these crops in May.

Some areas, such as Barrow, have a year-round risk of frost, even in the summer. You can still plant outside, but you may want to consider using greenhouses, cold frames, high tunnels, or hoop houses. Plastic or tarp also does wonders for heating up your soil and covering plants when a frost hits.

Tips for Gardening in Zone 2

Use our interactive hardiness zone map to decide which plants will grow best in your region. Believe it or not, there is a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and trees that will thrive in the colder climates of Zone 2.

  • Most seeds should be started six to eight weeks before the last frost date. This is usually around mid-April or the beginning of May.
  • Start seeds only for those plants that can transplant well. Carrots and green beans, for example, do not like having their roots disturbed and do not transplant well.
  • Direct sow cold-weather vegetables, such as beans, carrots, and potatoes, in May. Use greenhouses, cold frames, and plastic to extend your growing season and protect your plants from frost.
  • Check the maturation days on the seed packet. This is how long it takes for your plant to grow, from planting to harvest.

You will have the most success if you plan your garden according to your climate zone. Research which plants will grow best in your area and remember that the hardiness zone is not all you need to consider.

Keep in mind the amount of sunlight and water you can offer, and the nutrients in your soil.

High Tunnel in Alaska
High tunnel in Alaska – Image by NRCS Alaska via Flickr)

Choosing Plants for Zone 2

When choosing plants for Zone 2, start by checking out what the local nurseries and garden centers offer. Chances are, they are selling what will grow in your area.

You can also look at the seed packet or the information tag of the plant you are considering. It should have the USDA Hardiness Zone listed. Just remember that this is the coldest area that the plant is likely to survive.

Not all plants and flowers in Zone 2 can survive the cold winter temperatures of -50° to -40°F, however. The hardiness zone tends to apply to perennials that are meant to survive the winter.

You can plant plenty of flowers that are annuals and are supposed to die with the frost. Or you can treat the perennials of a warmer zone as an annual in Zone 2, and let it die with the frost as well.

Some gardeners leave a spot in their flower beds specifically for annuals. It’s fun to shake it up a bit and vary your flowers from year to year.

What to Grow in Zone 2

Because Zone 2 resembles the tundra in some areas, it can be tricky to find plants hardy enough to survive the harsh winters and cooler summers.

This list is a great starting point for your spring planting.

Trees for Zone 2

While many trees can survive the cold Alaskan winters, not all can survive the harsh, cold climate of Zone 2.

These are some of the hardiest fruit trees, flowering trees, and evergreens you can plant.

Fruit Trees

Gooseberries
Gooseberries – Image by Ole Husby via Flickr

Many fruit trees grow in Alaska. These are a few varieties that will survive Zone 2.

  • Apple Trees: Apple trees are a good choice for colder climates. The Norland Apple is a Canadian apple tree that produces great apples for fresh eating or to bake with. The tree grows 15 to 20 feet tall and grows just as wide. It flowers in early spring, with showy, white and pink flowers. Certain cultivated varieties of the Crab Apple, such as First Editions, the Gladiator Crab Apple, or the Chestnut Crab Apple, are all good choices for Zone 2. The Crab Apple is an incredibly hardy tree and grows to be 25 to 50 feet tall and 15 to 40 feet wide. The apples can be eaten fresh, but they are tart and full of pectin. They work best as bakers and for apple sauce. The Yellow Transparent Apple Tree yields fruit at an early age, producing small, pale-yellow apples. These apples are not very good for fresh eating, but they make great apple sauce. They also only last for a couple of weeks, even if refrigerated.

  • Canadian Dwarf Sour Cherry: The apple tree isn’t the only fruit tree that is tough enough to survive the freezing Zone 2 temps.The Canadian Dwarf Sour Cherry has been bred to be cold hardy. It grows eight to twelve feet tall and is more of a shrub than a tree. It is self-pollinating, so you do not need more than one, but it takes four to five years before it starts producing fruit. When it blooms in the spring, it looks like a ball of white flowers. It produces wine-red cherries when fully ripe, and some varieties are sweet enough to eat fresh.

  • Gooseberry: The Gooseberry is more of a shrub than a tree, as well. It grows nine feet tall and six feet wide. The Gooseberry has leaves that look like a maple leaf, and its berries are a black or dark purple. The Gooseberry is often used in teas and for treating colds and flus. If you decide to plant a Gooseberry Tree, check the hardiness zone. The Gooseberry is hardy to Zone 3, but some kinds do survive in Zone 2. Gooseberries can survive in temperatures as cold as -40°F, but Zone 2A can get down to -50°F. Whether or not your Gooseberry survives might depend on which subzone you live in.
  • Other fruit trees: Hudar Pear, Choke Cherry, Saskatoons, Haskaps, and Currants

Flowering Trees

Chokecherry
(Chokecherry – Image by Andrea_44 via Flickr)

There is nothing quite like fun, showy trees after a long, cold winter. These trees are sure to brighten up your home garden!

  • Chokecherry: The Chokecherry Tree grows 35 to 45 feet tall and 15 to 25 feet wide. The leaves are bright green and oval, with a pointed top. The tree produces small bunches of fragrant white flowers in the spring, which give way to small black fruit. The bark of the Chokecherry Tree is just as showy as its flowers. It flakes off to reveal brown, copper or yellow, which is very pretty against the winter landscape. The Chokecherry Tree is also called the Wild Plum, the American Red Plum, the Goose Plum, the August Plum, and the Manchurian Cherry.

  • Siberian Crab Apple: The Siberian Crab Apple grows 15 to 25 feet tall. It produces a beautiful white flower during the spring, and apples in the summer. It is a great choice for an ornamental tree or as a natural windbreak. The Siberian Crab Apple is good for conservation and landscaping, but the wild animals enjoy it as well.

  • Red Osier Dogwood: The Red Osier Dogwood grows seven to nine feet tall and ten feet wide. It is a more of a round tree. The flowers are pink and white, and it flowers all summer long, June through August. The bark and twigs of the Red Osier Dogwood turn red and purple during the fall and stay that way throughout the winter and into the next spring. They turn bright green during the summer. This beautiful tree has smooth, white berries, which attract plenty of birds. The Red Osier Dogwood is used for ornamental purposes or as a windbreak. It is also known as the American Dogwood, the Red Willow, and the Redstem Dogwood.
  • Other flowering trees: American Elm, Balsam Poplar, Shinning Willow, Peachleaf Willow

Evergreen Trees

White Spruce
White Spruce – Image by the real Kam75 via Flickr

If flowering trees will brighten up the spring landscape, then evergreens lend a stately beauty to the long, harsh winters. You might love a little bit of both in your home garden.

  • Tamarack: The Tamarack is shaped like a cone, with a slender trunk. It grows up to 75 feet tall and 30 feet wide. It has bright green needles that turn a gorgeous yellow in autumn, before falling in the winter. This evergreen flowers in April or May. Its lumber is used for building houses and railway ties. The Tamarack is also known as the Hackmatack, the Black Larch, the American Larch, and the Eastern Larch.

  • White Spruce: The White Spruce grows 40 to 60 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide. It has short, silver-green needles and produces small cones throughout the year. It works great as a hedge or a windbreak and makes a wonderful Christmas tree.

  • Red Pine: The Red Pine grows 80 feet tall and 40 feet wide. Its bark turns a reddish brown as it matures. The branches form an open, round, picturesque head and its needles are a dark green. The cones of the Red Pine are thin and brown, and they eventually turn grey. The Red Pine wood is used for buildings and bridges.
  • Other evergreen trees: Tannenbaum Mugo Pine, Norway Spruce, Russian Cypress, Weeping White Spruce, and Fastigiata Spruce

Native Trees

European Mountain Ash
European Mountain Ash – Image by Matt Lavin via Flickr

Native trees are always a great choice, when planning your landscape. If they are native to Zone 2, there is no doubt they can survive.

  • European Mountain Ash: The European Mountain Ash can get as tall as 42 feet and as wide as 26 feet. It produces dense clusters of little white flowers at the end of the branches in the spring, and clusters of red berries in the summer. In the fall, the leaves turn a gorgeous crimson red.

  • Black Spruce: The Black Spruce grows to be 40 to 50 feet tall and 15 to 30 feet wide. The needles of the Black Spruce are a bluish green, and it produces flowers in May and June. The Black Spruce is primarily used for paper pulp and Christmas trees.

  • Quaking Aspen: The Quaking Aspen is a tall, straight tree that grows 25 to 50 feet tall and 20 to 30 feet wide. The leaves turn a beautiful yellow in the fall, and “shake” or “quake” in a slight breeze, giving it its name. The Quaking Aspen produces brown catkins and cottony seeds. It is a used as a windbreak, and the wood is used for paper, crates, and pallets.

  • Other evergreen trees: Dwarf Birch, Crowberry, Tamarack, and Netleaf Willow

Vegetables for Zone 2

Green beans growing on a trellis
Beans Growing on a Trellis – Image by Fern Berg for Tree Vitalize

Planting a vegetable garden in Zone 2 is no doubt challenging. Luckily, vegetables don’t need to survive the cold winters of Zone 2; they only need to make it until harvest time.

With a little extra TLC, it’s possible to grow almost all the typical garden vegetables in Zone 2.

  • Swiss Chard: Swiss Chard is a cool season crop. Although it looks like a lettuce, spinach, or kale, it is actually a member of the beet family. Swiss Chard comes in many colorful varieties, such as red, pink, white, yellow, and orange. Plant your seeds indoors during the first week of May, and then move them outside the first week of June. They do best in full or partial sun and mulching the plants will help to conserve moisture.

  • Carrots: Carrots are another cool season crop that does well in Zone 2. They won’t grow as well if the soil is hard or mostly clay. If your soil is not conducive to grow carrots, try raised beds. Sow the seeds directly into the ground two to three weeks before the last frost date. Your soil temperature needs to consistently be at least 40°F for the seeds to germinate. If your soil struggles to maintain this temperature, try covering the soil with plastic or a tarp, to help it warm up faster. Carrots can be grown in pots, if needed, but your pot needs to be ten to twelve inches deep and as wide as possible.

  • Green Beans: Both pole beans and bush beans are commonly grown in Alaska. It’s best to directly sow them into the ground; beans don’t like their roots to be tampered with. White mold can be a problem, since the summers are cooler. Pole beans do well in Subzone 2, because they can climb a trellis or stake, instead of laying on the garden floor. This keeps the white mold at bay. Plant both bush and pole beans after the last frost date. Placing black plastic on your soil will help warm it up, which also keeps your beans from molding. Bush beans will produce in about 50 to 55 days, pole beans in 55 to 60. Pole beans will produce a couple of times if you keep harvesting, but bush beans require less maintenance.
  • Other vegetables: Beets, cabbage, mustard greens, onion, parsnip, and Valerian

Perennial Flowers for Zone 2

Bleeding Heart
Bleeding Heart – Image by Greg via Flickr

Planting a flower garden can be just as challenging as planting a vegetable garden in Zone 2. When choosing out your flowers, you may want to go for perennials that are hardy to Zone 2. This way you do not have to buy new flowers year after year.

  • Bleeding Heart: The Bleeding Heart is a heart-warming little plant that welcomes the spring after a harsh, cold winter in Zone 2. It grows in bushy clumps, up to three feet tall and four feet wide. It blooms in the late spring and has little pink and white flowers that look like dangling hearts.It prefers the morning sun and afternoon shade, with well-drained soil.

  • Iceland Poppy: As the name implies, the Iceland Poppy grows best in cooler climates. It can be treated as an annual in warmer climates, though. The Iceland Poppy produces showy flowers in gold, red, orange, yellow, burgundy, and white. It blooms during the spring and early summer. The Iceland Poppy prefers full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil.

  • The Common Blue Violet: The Common Blue Violet grows low to the ground, in mounds about five to seven inches high. It has deep, purplish green leaves and lavender flowers. It spreads quickly, so allow plenty of room when planting, or a way to contain it.

  • Other flowers: Oriental Poppy, False Indigo, Jonny-Jump-Up, Pansies, Hollyhock, and Thimbleweed

Herbs for Zone 2

Ginseng
Ginseng drupes – Image by Forest Farming via Flickr

Herbs are a nice addition to any garden. These herbs do well in Zone 2.

  • Ginseng: Ginseng is a small, long-lived herb with pronged leaves. One prong means the plant is young, and four-pronged leaves signify an older plant. The Ginseng produces a little bright red berry that ripen in the fall, and its root looks like a little human. The Ginseng takes about eight years to mature.

  • Goldenseal: Goldenseal is like Ginseng, but it matures in four to five years, rather than eight. It produces bright white or yellow showy flowers around year four or five, and small, red berries that resemble a raspberry.

  • Hyssop: The Hyssop is a short-lived perennial with blue flowers and fragrant foliage. It is an upright, clumping plant that grows two to four feet tall and one to three feet wide. It is in the mint family, and can be used as an herb, an ornamental, or for cut flower arrangements. The leaves smell like licorice and the spiked flowers are edible.

  • Other herbs: Juniper, Lavender, and Turkistan Rose

The Zone is Only Part of the Story

The USDA Hardiness Zone Map uses the average low temperatures for a specific area to help you select plants and trees that can survive the winter months where you live.

The map doesn’t take into consideration other factors, such as rain amounts, soil fertility, and unusual weather patterns. These are all important to plant growth, and should be considered, when gardening in Zone 2.

Planting a successful garden is easier if you know your soil type, how much sun you get, and the general outlook of your landscape, along with your subzone.

Each zone has its own set of challenges. Understanding yours, and how to overcome them, can make gardening a fun, satisfying experience.

Trees to Plant Zone 2