USDA Zone 7: Where is it? What to Plant? Tips to Success
Knowing your USDA hardiness zone is essential when preparing your home garden. And if you’re located in growing zone 7, there’s plenty you should know.
Zone 7 is comprised of temperate climates and a moderately long growing season. Both of these factors mean that zone 7 gardeners have access to a wide range of plants that will grow well there.
But first, let’s get acquainted with the average minimum temperatures, frost dates, and locations that fall under this hardiness zone.
Zone 7 is one of 13 climate zones set out by the USDA Plant Hardiness Map. Each zone is defined and divided by the minimal average temperatures and frost dates that occur in every region of the continental US, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
These hardiness zones run latitudinally across the continent. Each adjacent zone is 10 degrees warmer or cooler than the one above (cooler) or below (warmer).
The lower the zone number the colder it is, and any plant that can survive the coldest winter temperatures in these regions are “hardy” to those zones.
Zone 7 achieves an excellent balance between hot and cold weather, making it an enjoyable climate to live in. While it certainly has long stretches of temperate and warm weather, its winter temperatures can still drop to significant lows.
It offers around 6 to 7 months in the gardening season, which will give most plants plenty of time to mature and reach harvest.
In coastal Delaware, which is the only US state to fall entirely under zone 7, summer is hot but breezy with average temperatures of 80 to 90 degrees F. While its winters can be cold they lean mild, with average winter temperatures of just 20 to 30 degrees F.
This is quite different from the minimum average temperatures of zone 7, which is why it’s important to consider your own local weather patterns.
Zone 7 stretches through a significant portion of the country.
In many of these regions, zone 7 is only scattered through the states and found in certain pockets of these regions.
USDA hardiness zones are split into two subzones, A and B. These subzones are all divided by 5 degrees F.
Zone 7 is divided into subzones 7a and 7b, which represent the three temperature ranges for landscapes in zone 7.
- Zone 7: covers minimum average temperature spanning from 0 to 10 degrees F.
- Zone 7a: this subzone covers minimum average temperature spanning from 0 to 5 degrees F.
- Zone 7b: this subzone covers minimum average temperature spanning from 5 to 10 degrees F.
These growing zones and subzones are determined by the average minimum temperatures of the winter months in these locations. However, it can be colder depending on the year. These minimum average temperatures are just a guide, not a hard fact.
Every zone has expected frost dates that tell gardeners and landscapers when seeds can be germinated and when plants should be planted, and vice versa. These are the typical range of frost dates for areas in Zone 7a and 7b.
- Last frost dates: March 15th to April 15th
- First frost dates: October 15th to November 15th
Of course, like minimum average temperatures, frost dates are not fixed. Seasonal changes and unpredictable weather patterns can cause frosts to settle earlier or later by a couple of weeks. Keep an eye on your local weather forecasts when preparing to plant and harvest.
All US states have varying climate types within their borders. For this reason, no state can be encompassed by a single hardiness zone (with the exception of Delaware, which sits in 7a and b), as every single one contains minimum temperatures from multiple zones. Take New Mexico, for example – while almost half of the state comes under zone 7a and 7b, the rest comes under zones 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9.
These are all the states that fall into zone 7:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
As you can see, zone 7 appears in more states than most hardiness zones in the US, though in some states it only covers very small areas. While many of the 33 states encompassed in zone 7 come under both subzones a and b, several states such as Illinois, Kentucky, and Kansas only come under one subzone.
If you’re unsure as to which subzone your property falls under, put your zip code in our interactive hardiness zone to find more information.
The general rule for planting, in zone 7 and beyond, is to plant your seeds after the last frosts have passed. But exact planting times can vary depending on the plants and the minimum average temperatures each year. It’s also important to keep in mind that frost dates are estimates, and actual weather patterns and temperatures can vary.
As a rule, the last frost dates in zone 7 usually fall around late March to mid-April. So late April into May is the best period to begin planting outside as the soil begins to warm up.
The planting season for zone 7 is moderately long, so there will be enough time to plant many crops straight into the soil to grow from seed to harvest. However, some seeds will do better planted indoors prior to the last frost and then moved outdoors to transplant.
Cool-season crops like broccoli, kale, onion, spinach, and celery should be planted indoors and transplanted outside directly after the last frost date. Some cool-season vegetables can be planted as both spring and fall crops.
Warm-season crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, and beans can be planted from May onward.
For further help refer to your seed packets when planting – they should tell you when each crop can be sown either indoors or outdoors.
The USDA hardiness zone guide will show you which plants, trees, herbs, and vegetables grow best in your environment. But once you have established your first and last frost dates, there are a number of other things you can do to ensure the best results in your zone 7 garden.
- The best way to safeguard against unpredictable weather patterns and fluctuating frost dates is to start your vegetables indoors approximately 6-8 weeks before the last frost date.
- Pay attention to the maturation dates on your seed and starter packets. This will give you a clear window of time to understand if your plants will fall in between the frost dates.
- The zone 7 growing season is long enough that you can plant cool-weather crops in both early spring and late summer, giving you two harvests. This includes carrots, celery, spinach, cabbage, and kale. Make sure to plant your first crop indoors before the last frost to extend the growing season.
- Though zone 7 is generally very temperate, warmer seasons of the month can cause issues if you aren’t prepared. Keep an eye on ideal temperatures for your crops and if you know the spring and summer highs may negatively affect your crops, consider adding row covers and shade cloth, or plant them in areas that will receive natural shade during the hottest times of the day.
Cool-weather crops especially are at risk of unexpected weather patterns and temperature changes.
Now that you know when to plant in zone 7, it’s time to figure out what to plant. Luckily for you, zone 7 is one of the best zones to live in when it comes to choosing from a wide range of plants for your landscape.
One of the easiest ways to find a variety of seeds and starter plants to choose from is by heading to your local garden centers and plant nurseries. These places will typically offer the widest range of plants that are suitable to your growing zone and grow well in your region.
You can also buy seeds and starter packs online, as seed companies will provide all of the basic information you need about hardiness zones and temperature requirements.
Before you choose your plants consider reaching out to people who are experts in the local climate or consult books written on gardening in your area to get a better understanding of local weather patterns and micro-climates.
To make your decisions easier, ensure that you know whether you want to plant annuals and perennials, the former of which needs to be replanted every year, and the latter of which needs to survive average minimum temperatures to make it through winter. Planting native trees will also help to simplify the process, as they tend to be very adaptable and low maintenance.
Now that you understand the basics of gardening in a zone 7 landscape, it’s time to choose the perfect plants and trees for your property!
Luckily you have a wide range of excellent trees, shrubs, flowers, herbs, and vegetables to choose from. Here are some of our best recommendations for zone 7 planting:
Who doesn’t want beautiful, bountiful fruit trees in their backyard? While they can be tricky to grow correctly, fruit trees are some of the most rewarding things you can grow. Thankfully, zone 7 gives you plenty of options.
- Pear Trees: Relatively easy-growing, pear trees are a great option for beginner fruit tree growers in zone 7. If you’ve considered growing apple trees but feel daunted by the pest and disease management that comes along with them, pear trees are the perfect alternative. Consider these excellent cultivars: the versatile Gourmet, the ornamental Summercrisp (best grown for fresh eating only), the handsome semi-dwarf Parker, and the aptly-named Luscious.
- Apricot Trees: Delicate and delicious apricot trees make excellent flowering ornamentals on top of providing lovely summer fruits. They are particularly suited to the warmer areas that come under zone 7, where the weather is consistent year-round without getting too hot or too cold. Apricots are also self-fruiting, so you only need one to reap its tasty rewards. For apricot varieties that thrive in zone 7, consider the Scout, Moongold, Sungold, and Moorpark as four of your best options.
- Nectarine Trees: As a fruit tree that thrives best in zones 6-8, nectarine trees fit zone 7 like a glove. The hot summers that most zone 7 regions enjoy are perfect for these smooth, juicy stone fruits and their trees that add color and texture to your landscape. Be mindful that nectarines require a degree of planning and maintenance in order to thrive. Ideal cultivars for zone 7 include Red Gold, Fantasia, Carolina Red, and Sunglo.
- Other Trees: Apple trees such as the Granny Smith, Fuji, McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Snow Sweet, Empire, Cortland, Jonathan, and Wealthy. Fig trees such as the Celeste, Marseilles, Turkey, Greenish. Cherry trees such as Bing, Rainier Sweet, Montmorency, Stella, Mesabi, and Black Tartarian. Peach trees include the Redhaven, Reliance, Elberta, Contender, and Saturn. The Fuju, Jiro, and Hana Gosho persimmon. And plenty of plums from the Mount Royal and Methley to the Stanley and Superior, among many others.
While zone 7 winters aren’t the coldest, there are enough periods of wintry weather that an evergreen tree is useful in brightening the landscape. These evergreen trees are some of the best options for a zone 7 property.
- Korean Fir: These compact conifers have the classic pyramidal shape that people love fir trees for, as well as short, delicate dark green needles with a silver underside. They add texture and color to your winter garden. They are small trees, reaching approx. 15-30 feet tall, so they fit well into any landscape. As long as they are planted in the right conditions they will be very low-maintenance throughout their lives. Silver and Golden Korean fir are two popular that both grow well in zone 7.
- American Holly: This versatile holly cultivar is a popular landscaping choice due to its glossy evergreen leaves, eye-catching red berries, and natural resistance to pests and diseases. It can be grown as a small tree or shrub, used as neat, dense hedging for privacy, or simply used as an ornamental specimen to brighten up the landscape. Keep in mind that you will need to cross-pollinate if you want your holly tree to bear its bright berries, so be sure to plant male and female trees in your landscape.
- Southern Magnolia: Though it prefers consistently warm weather, southern magnolia can be found in both the north and south, which is why it fits so well in a zone 7 landscape. These trees bear thick green leaves all year round, as well as rich white flowers from late spring to early fall. They are an effortlessly beautiful addition to any zone 7 garden, and can even be grown as a privacy tree due to their dense year-round foliage.
- Other Trees: Weeping White Pine, Japanese Umbrella Pine, Fraser Fir, Canadian Hemlock, North Pole Arborvitae, Malonya Arborvitae, Moonglow Juniper, Hinoki Cypress, Japanese Cedar, Spartan Juniper, Eastern Red Cedar, Balsam Fir, White Pine, Evergreen Dogwood, Madrone Tree, Emerald Green Arborvitae
Native trees are an excellent choice no matter which zone you live in, as they tend to be very low-maintenance, adaptable growers that can thrive in a range of conditions.
- Black Gum Tree: The black gum is certainly one of the most beautiful US natives, with its rich, two-toned foliage, neat and uniform growth habit, and brilliant shades of red in fall. They also produce clouds of small white blossoms in springtime. And of course, the nectar of its flowers and the tiny fruits they produce are a beneficial source for local wildlife. Overall, you can’t go wrong in choosing this slow-growing native for your garden or backyard.
- Sassafras: This unique native is a fantastic addition to your zone 7 garden for a number of reasons. They have unusually-lobed leaves, and their leaves, flowers, and even bark emit a delightfully sweet fragrance that will attract all matter of wildlife including small and large mammals and birds, and other pollinators. In fall it lights up in stunning multi-colored shades. Sassafras is also known for being a very hardy tree used for restoration, naturalized planting, shade, and sometimes informal hedging.
- Bald Cypress: The very picture of a hardy and adaptable native, the bald cypress is a unique deciduous conifer that provides plenty of shade and eye-catching red foliage in fall. Though it tends to grow in low-lying wet areas, particularly swamps and bayous, it can also grow well in dry areas. According to the Clemson Home & Garden Information Center, the bald cypress is a particularly good choice for urban environments due to its tolerance for air pollution and dry, compact, soil with poor drainage.
- Other trees: American Basswood, Sycamore, Southern Crabapple, Eastern Hophornbeam, Pond Pine, Loblolly Pine, Virginia Pine, Pitch Pine, Large-Tooth Cottonwood, Chestnut Oak, Yellow Oak, Pin Oak, Northern Red Oak, Eastern Hemlock, American Elm, American Beech, Green Ash, Black Ash, White Ash, Green Hawthorn, Sweetgum, Tulip Poplar
Vegetables for Zone 7
With cool temperate springs that start early, hot summers, and autumns that don’t become chilly until later in the year, zone 7 has a sizeable growing season. Gardeners in zone 7 are spoilt for choice when it comes to planting and harvesting vegetables.
- Broccoli: This nutrient-packed cool-season crop is planted in spring, and takes 80-100 days to go from seed to harvest. Start your broccoli seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost date – so in the case of zone 7, approx. mid to late February. You can then transplant them outside in early April. Broccoli seedlings prefer to be planted in soil temperatures of 40 degrees F or higher. If temperatures creep up past 70 degrees, consider mulching around the plants to keep temperatures down.
- Pumpkins: The ideal fall vegetable, the pumpkin does well in zone 7’s long growing period. Since the spring is warm enough they do not need to be started indoors and can be put straight into the ground in early May. Pumpkins will reach maturity after 75-100 days, so this gives them enough time to fruit before the first frost dates. Keep in mind that they should only be sown in soil temperatures between 65° and 95°F.
- Celery: While celery is relatively easy to grow, it takes a long time, up to 100-130 days. Therefore they need to be started indoors first and planted early after the last frost. Start your celery seeds indoors in early February to germinate, before transplanting them outside in late April. Celery is very sensitive to temperature, so make sure to plant outside when temperatures have reached 50 degrees F or higher. As you head into summer, provide some shade for your celery at the hottest times of the day.
- Other Vegetables: Beets, Arugula, Tomato, Eggplants, Parsnips, Onion, Cucumbers, Radishes, Turnips, Spinach, Kale, Peas, Carrots, Peppers, Corn, Collards, Beans, Cabbage, Lettuce,
Perennial Flowers for Zone 7
Nothing brightens up a garden like perennial flowers, so why not add a few lovely combinations to your zone 7 garden? Here are a few types you can plant.
- Rose of Sharon: If you’re looking for a summer-blooming perennial to pick up the slack once spring is over, consider the Rose of Sharon. These deciduous hibiscus shrubs produce prominent blooms through summer and fall, and can even be pruned into small trees depending on your preference. Rose of Sharon comes in many colors and varieties, including the intense violet “Blue Satin”, the “Lil Kim” dwarf cultivar, and the delightful “Sugar Tip.”
- Forget-Me-Not: These classic flowers often grow wild near rivers and streams, so zone 7 gardeners with a backyard water feature can’t go wrong with a patch of forget-me-nots. Its blue flowers bloom from May to October. They are small and delicate, and grow on tall 2ft stems that add simple charm and volume to your garden. Take note that these flowers self-seed freely and can sometimes spread and grow in unwanted places, so expect a degree of maintenance.
- Lupine: The towering lupine shoots up to four feet high, adding a spire of bright color to your garden in spring and summer. Though they are well-known as vibrant wildflowers, they are adaptable and relatively easy-growing, and domestic varieties can come in blues, pinks, purples, and yellows. Continue to remove dead flowers during bloom time to encourage a second flowering.
- Other Flowers: Coneflower, Black-eyed Susan, Shasta Daisy, Creeping Flox, Rose of Sharon, Daylily, Forget-Me-Nots, Sedum, Trumpet Vine, Butterfly Weed, Crysanthemum, Aster, Iris, Columbine, Peony, Painted Daisy, Yarrow, Verbena, Dianthus, Basket of Gold, Lupine
Herbs for Zone 7
Whether annuals, biennials, or perennials, there are plenty of aromatic herbs you can grow in zone 7, for year-round or seasonal use.
- Dill: Hailing from Europe and Asia, dill is a herb usually grown for culinary usage, but it can also be grown for its ornamental value. It has bright, feathery foliage, and fragrant yellow flowers that bloom in summer and fall. Dill is a very hardy plant, able to thrive in most zones from 2 to 11. Similar to herbs like Basil, this plant will grow thicker and larger when its tips are pinched, so you are encouraged to gather from your dill plants regularly.
- Chamomile: Hardy to zone 3 to 9, chamomile is a cool-growing plant that should be planted in spring and thrives in dry conditions and moderate temperatures. Chamomile comes in two varieties: Roman, which is a ground cover perennial, and German, which is a tall-growing annual plant. German flowers are more often used for tea and herbal remedies, while Roman is often used to soften edges in gardens. Both require little maintenance once they are established.
- Sage: This shrubby, gray-green plant is used widely around the world for both culinary and spiritual purposes. It is typically planted in spring or fall and thrives in moderate temperatures of around 60 to 70 degrees F. Seeds can be started indoors or outdoors but should only be planted after the last frost. Common sage is the most conventional type used in gardening and the hardiest, but there are other varieties such as the ‘Tricolor’ and ‘Aurea’ that vary in appearance but have great culinary value.
- Other herbs: Marjoram, Mint, Parsley, Oregano, Rue, Lemon Balm, Thyme, Tarragon, Feverfew, Comfrey, Echinacea, Catnip, Chives, Basil, Rosemary, Lavender, Dill
Understanding the USDA hardiness zone that your landscape falls under is important in understanding what plants you can grow, when you can grow them, and when you should stop growing. But understanding the minimum average temperatures and frost zones in your area is only the beginning.
There is much more to take into consideration if you want your zone 7 garden to grow and thrive. Getting familiar with the local weather patterns and micro-climates where you live, the soil conditions you are working with, and understanding the specific requirements of the plants you want to grow to see how they will work in your environment.
Developing an understanding of the climate alongside these contributing factors will set you on the right track, allowing you to grow a successful home garden in zone 7.