USDA Zone 8: Where is it? What to Plant? Tips to Success
For gardeners in the United States, getting familiar with the USDA hardiness zone you live in is key. And for gardeners in zone 8, there is plenty to learn and understand.
Zone 8 has a pleasantly long growing season, capped by a mild winter. However, summers in this zone are hot, which can require certain precautions and proactive measures for gardeners. Let’s take a look at zone 8, including average temperatures and planting options for the year ahead.
Zone 8 is one of 13 zones prescribed by the US Department of Agriculture. These are known as USDA hardiness zones, or growing zones, and they are detailed on the USDA Plant Hardiness Map. These zones cover every part of the continental United States, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
Each USDA hardiness zone is defined by the minimum average temperatures and frost dates that occur in these areas. For the most part, these zones run in latitudinal lines across the United States, and each zone is 10 degrees F warmer or cooler than the zones adjacent to it.
Zone 8 is on the warmer end of these zones. While it is not as hot as zones above 10, it is noticeably hotter, with long summers and warmer fall weather, than the zones below it.
This zone begins in the southwest, sweeping down through the upper parts of the southern US and lower parts of the midwest, before climbing up the east coast and ending in Maryland.
In winter temperatures will typically dip as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Jackson, Mississippi, which falls under zone 8, sees average high temperatures of 91.9 degrees F, and 3 months with temperature ranges of 70-85 degrees F.
Zone 8 has a comfortable growing season of at least six months, between the first and last frost dates.
Zone 8 begins in the Northwest, starting in Washington and down along the west coast, through Oregon and California, and parts of the west, namely Utah and Nevada. It then runs through much of the south and southwest, all the way from Arizona and New Mexico, through to Florida and North and South Carolina.
Some parts of the southern coast of laska also come under zone 8, mainly in the eastern and western pockets of the south coast.
USDA hardiness zones are defined by the minimum average temperatures that occur in these regions during winter.
All 13 growing zones are also divided into two subzones, A and B. Both zones are separated by 5 degrees F.
- Zone 8: covers minimum average temperatures ranging from 10 to 20 degrees F.
- Zone 8a: covers minimum average temperatures ranging from 10 to 15 degrees F.
- Zone 8b: covers minimum average temperatures ranging from 15 to 20 degrees F.
Though there are specific temperature ranges to differentiate each zone, it’s important to remember that the minimum average temperatures are only a guide. From year to year, it is possible for temperatures to drop lower, particularly during harsh winters and as a result of unpredictable weather patterns.
Frost dates predict when the first and last periods of frost will occur. As a result, they tell gardeners when to start growing plants, particularly crops, that cannot survive the winter temperatures. They also indicate when to stop planting.
- Last Frost Date: March 7th – March 31st
- First Frost Date: November 15th – December 1st
Like minimum average temperatures in winter, frost dates are just a guide and are not set in stone. Depending on annual weather patterns, frost dates can fall earlier or later than the dates above.
Frost dates in any zone will be slightly earlier or later than frost dates in adjacent zones.
The states covered by zone 8 include:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
Zone 8 appears in 21 US states. Though zone 8 can technically be found in the west, southwest, southeast, and northeast, it is most prevalent along the west coast and in southern states. For example, along with zone 9, it is the predominant hardiness zone in states like Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, etc.
Every state has areas with varying climates. The only state that falls under just one climate zone is Delware, the entire state is classified as hardiness zone 7. If you’re unsure of which growing zone your home falls under, enter your zip code into our interactive hardiness zone map to find out.
As a rule, planting for both cool-season and warm-season crops happens after the last frost dates, with the exception of some frost-hardy vegetables. Once the frosts have passed, the soil will be warm enough for seeds to germinate, though some will need to be planted later in spring or summer when temperatures creep up.
In zone 8, the last frost dates typically come in mid to late March, so most crops will be planted outside in April or later. However, many vegetable seeds can be planted indoors 4-8 weeks before the last frost. This is a useful tactic if you want to grow certain crops twice a year to maximize yield.
Due to its long, hot summers, warm-season crops like eggplants, tomatoes, pumpkin, squash, zucchini, etc will grow best. However, the shoulder seasons are cool enough that cool-season plants like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and carrots will do well.
With an 8 months growing season, there is plenty of time for seeds to germinate and plants to mature. Cool-season vegetables can be planted indoors as early as the start of February before being moved outdoors in April, along with tomatoes and onions. In contrast, most warm-season crops can be started indoors in April and transplanted outdoors in May.
While the USDA hardiness zone guidelines will tell you about the minimum average temperatures of your region, there are more important things to take into consideration when planting trees, flowers, vegetables, and other plants.
The things you should focus on when gardening in zone 8 are frost dates, soil temperatures, growing requirements, and how long it will take your plants to reach maturity. Here are some things you do to ensure your garden survives and thrives in zone 8.
- Plant cool-weather plants, like carrots, collards, lettuce, and spinach indoors in late winter or early spring before transplanting them outdoors to get an early harvest. This way you will be able to plant them again in late summer and early fall. Warm-weather crops like green beans and eggplants can also be replanted in summer for a second harvest.
- Check the backs of your seed packets for maturation dates. This will tell you when to plant indoors or outdoors, and how succession planting might work in your landscape.
- Summers in zone 8 are long and hot, so make sure to provide shade to your garden beds when the weather is at its hottest. You can do this with a structure, such as a pergola or shade cloth, or with natural shade via tactical planting.
- If you don’t have a greenhouse or enough indoor space to plant seeds early, consider purchasing starter plants. That way you can get a headstart on the growing season without having to make room for seed trays.
Gardeners who reside in zone 8 are blessed with long growing seasons, hot summers, cool springs and fall, and mild winters, all of which make for excellent growing conditions. There is an incredible variety of trees, flowers, herbs, and vegetables one can plant.
But where do you begin choosing the ideal plants for your garden or landscape? Well, there are a number of places you can start.
The first places to begin are plant nurseries and garden centers in your area. They will sell a wide range of plants that thrive in zone 8, and staff may be able to help you with information regarding planting in your area.
For more info, talk to knowledgeable gardeners around you about local weather patterns and microclimates that may affect your garden. Books and garden guides will also help.
Purchasing seeds from online companies is another option. Here you can find virtually anything you want to plant, and their websites and seed packs should give you the necessary information such as hardiness zones and growing requirements.
Ask yourself what plants work best for your circumstances: for example, are you a beginner gardener? If so, perennial plants and native trees may be better options since they tend to require less maintenance in the long term.
Now that you better understood when and how to start your zone 8 garden, you can finally choose the plants you are going to grow. Thankfully, we’ve compiled a list of our recommended trees, vegetables, herbs, and perennial flowers to help you get started in zone 8.
Whether you want abundant fruit trees, showy flowering trees, hardy natives, or ornamental evergreens, you are spoilt for choice when it comes to trees that will grow and thrive in zone 8.
Who doesn’t want a set of bountiful fruit trees on their property? These lovely trees will provide delicious produce and add significant seasonal interest to your zone 8 property.
- Peach Trees: One of the most highly recommended fruit trees for zone 8 is the peach tree. These self-pollinators typically produce delicious, juicy fruits and abundant pink spring blossoms. It can take 3 to 4 years before your peach tree will produce fruit, which is why many people choose to purchase and transplant young trees. If you want to plant a peach tree in zone 8, consider these varieties: the abundant ornamental dwarf cultivar Bonanza II, the round red-skinned Redglobe, the adaptable and super-sweet Sentinel, and the highly productive Fayette with its large fleshy fruits.
- Apple Trees: Apple trees are the most widely grown fruit tree in the US. Zone 8 is the warmest zone where apple trees will thrive, so for that reason, some popular varieties will not be available. However, you can still grow plenty of delicious apple varieties such as the classic Granny Smith, both the Golden and Red Delicious, the sweet Gala, the crisp Fuji, and many more. Remember that apples are not self-pollinating, so if you want fruit-bearing trees you will need to purchase several trees.
- Satsuma Trees: One of the more cold-hardy citrus fruits, the satsuma is a type of mandarin originating in Asia. These fruits are very juicy, sweet, and convenient due to their loose, easy-to-peel skin. Satsuma trees can be potted, but potted trees are likely to have a much shorter lifespan as they are more vulnerable to pests and disease. The best satsuma varieties for zone 8 are the early-ripening Silverhill, the seedless ornamental Owari, and the cold-hardy Changsha.
- Other trees: plum varieties such as the Methley, Morris, Byrongold, and Ruby Sweet. Pear varieties such as the Baldwin, Spalding, Kieffer, Moonglow, Dawn, Warren, and Starking Delicious. Orange varieties such as the Summerfield, Ambersweet, and Washington. Fig varieties such as the Celeste, Alma, and Hardy Chicago. Other fruits include the Meyer Lemon, Bing, and Montmorency cherries, Bryan, Hungarian, and Moorpark apricots, Ruby and Redblush grapefruits, Nagami and Marumi kumquats, and the Dancy, Clementine, and Ponkan tangerine.
Planting trees provide a number of useful benefits for your property, such as restoration, preventing erosion, and attracting local wildlife. But they can also provide simple beauty and color to the landscape. No trees do this better than flowering varieties, and there are plenty to choose from for zone 8.
- Flowering Dogwood: These mid-sized understory trees can be found growing throughout the US, and there are a number of flowering dogwood cultivars that can be grown in zone 8 and display either red, white, or pink flowers in early spring. They provide excellent four-season appeal, including brilliant fall foliage and growth that stands out in a stark winter landscape. They tend to grow to 20-40 feet with a wide growth habit. Gardeners should be careful when growing flowering dogwood, as they can easily fall victim to pests and diseases such as powdery mildew and borers.
- Carolina Silverbell: With its delicate, uniform growth habit and eruption of beautiful bell-shaped white flowers, the Carolina silverbell is a beautiful specimen plant for any zone 8 property. Native to North Carolina, it can be grown as a small tree or shrub and needs acidic, well-draining soil. It is also a fairly adaptable tree with few issues when it comes to pests, disease, and soil quality. According to the North Carolina State University Extension, its biggest pitfall is salt or compacted soil.
- Black Locust: Not only is this flowering tree beautiful and useful as a shade tree or for erosion control, but it can also be very lucrative. The flowers of the black locust can be used to make excellent acacia honey and its wood is highly valuable as a source of firewood, lumber, flooring, fenceposts, and more. From an ornamental perspective, it provides long clusters of creamy white flowers in spring that also smell fantastic. The black locust is hardy, adaptable, and can thrive in almost any soil type.
- Other trees: American Fringe Tree, Southern Magnolia, Tulip Tree, Crape Myrtle, Flowering Cherry, Japanese Lilac Trees, Crabapple, Japanese Maple, Red Buckeye, Mimosa, Chinaberry, Royal Empress, Honey Locust
Evergreen trees will retain their bright foliage throughout the year, adding some much-needed color and texture to your zone 8 landscape in late fall and winter.
- Hicks Yew: The evergreen hicks yew may be a cold-hardy shrub, but it can grow in areas as warm as zone 8. This plant is a hybrid of both the Japanese and English yew and is most often used as a screen or short hedging, or in the background of a landscape due to its narrow, uniform growth habit. They can be pruned easily into shape but will take time before they are established. They prefer cooler climates and may need some extra care to thrive in zone 8.
- Korean Boxwood: Whether grown as a specimen or in a mass, the broadleaf evergreen Korean boxwood makes a lovely addition to domestic landscapes. These shrubs are small and low-growing, only reaching heights of around 2-3 feet, with a width of 4-6 feet. They even grow fragrant green-yellow flowers in spring, though they tend to be very small. It is easily pruned and trimmed into any shape you prefer, and they are very low-maintenance.
- Prague Viburnum: This dense evergreen has a multitude of uses in landscape gardening, and provides plenty of seasonal interest. Its thick foliage can be easily pruned and sheared to set up hedges, privacy screens, and windbreaks on your property. Its bright berries attract many birds and in spring its clusters of profuse white flowers make their mark on the landscape and bring in plenty of pollinators. While they typically grow upward of 10 feet tall, they can be pruned down if preferred.
- Other trees: Juniper, Hemlock, Leyland Cypress, Sequoia, Eastern White Pine, American Holly, Queen Palm, Evergreen Magnolias, Emerald Arborvitae
Native trees are an excellent choice for your property, as they tend to grow easily with little maintenance, even in less-than-ideal conditions. These trees that are native to the US can be found in different regions of zone 8.
- Longleaf Pine: In the southeastern US the longleaf pine is a highly valuable source of timber and pine straw mulch. But aside from their commercial appeal, these uniquely beautiful evergreen pines also work well as specimen and shade trees for landscape gardeners. They can grow as high as 100 feet tall, live for over 150 years, and don’t do well being transplanted, so make sure to choose your longleaf planting site carefully.
- American Sweetgum: Who wouldn’t fall for the distinctive star-shaped leaves of the native American Sweetgum? This majestic tree, with its stunning show of golds, yellows, purples, and reds in fall, makes an excellent focal point for your garden. Just be wary of where you plant the sweetgum, as its spiky fruits, also known as ‘gumballs,’ can cause a mess. This can be avoided by choosing cultivars such as the ‘Rotundiloba.’ Otherwise, it is an easy-growing tree.
- Southern Catalpa: This flowering native is striking due to its profuse, creamy white blossoms and its broad, almost heart-shaped light green leaves. It makes an excellent shade tree and is guaranteed to draw in pollinators in spring, and other wildlife seeking shelter. The catalpa can grow to around 60 feet tall and is very adaptable and unfussy, so much so that it is almost considered a weed plant due to its ability to spread quickly.
- Other trees: Sassafras, Virginian Witch Hazel, Hardy Pecan, Sourwood, Red Maple, Leyland Cypress, Tropical Ash, Osage Orange, Tulip Tree, Sweetbay Magnolia, Loblolly Pine, American Sycamore, Eastern Cottonwood, Live Oak, Black Locust, Giant Sequoia
Vegetables for Zone 8
- Cucumbers: These warm-weather vegetables are planted right after the last frosts, and their seeds are sowed directly into the soil. So in zone 8, they can be ready to plant by April. Cucumbers typically take around 50-70 days to mature from seed and to be ready for harvest. These vegetables will thrive between 75 to 85 degrees F, and should be composted once they begin blooming and fertilized mid-season for an ideal harvest.
- Tomatoes: No garden produce screams summer quite like the bright, juicy tomato. These plants thrive in warm, long zone 8 summers, and you can sow their seeds directly into the soil as early as April. Keep in mind that they will not grow in temperatures below 50 degrees F. Typically tomatoes take 100 days to mature, but some varieties only need 50-60. Consider one of these varieties if you want to plant twice a year.
- Carrots: These are cool-weather crops, so consider planting your carrot seeds or starter plants in spring or fall in zone 8. Ideally, you should start your seeds indoors in February or March, 2 or 3 weeks before the last frost before planting outside, so they have plenty of time to mature before summer. For a fall harvest, start carrot seeds indoors in August and plant them outdoors in late August or early September. They prefer averages of 75 degrees F during the day and 55 degrees at night.
- Other vegetables: kale, asparagus, cabbage, squash, peas, green beans, radishes, peppers, eggplants, beets, carrots, lettuce, spinach, onions, corn, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, okra, arugula, pumpkin
Perennial Flowers for Zone 8
- Gaillardia: Also known as the blanket flower, the gaillardia is a fast-growing perennial that looks similar to a daisy, but presents in fiery, brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow. There are over two dozen varieties of gaillardia that vary in size, color, and growing requirements, so you are sure to find one that suits your needs. They can be grown in garden borders and containers and will thrive in poor-quality soil. Their seeds can be sown directly outdoors, once the last frosts have passed completely.
- Bleeding Heart: These heart-shaped perennials bloom in late spring, in shades of pink, red, and/or white. Each flower has a single drooping petal growing from the bottom, hence the name “bleeding heart”. These plants and flowers are just as delicate as they look, so consider planting them near a windbreak to protect them from breakage. The bleeding heart dies back after they finish flowering, in early to mid-summer, but don’t fear – they will grow back next spring.
- Ox-Eye Daisy: These small, delicate perennial daisies will add a spot of cheer to any garden. Though they grow wild in many parts of the US, they can be seamlessly integrated into your garden beds, borders, around patios, and in open meadows. As lovely as these yellow and white daisies are, keep in mind that they can be invasive in some areas as they spread easily from planting areas. Make sure that they are not listed as invasive in your state before you consider planting.
- Other flowers: Bee Balm, Bleeding Heart, Columbine, Daylily, Tall Garden Phlox, Bugleweed, Spotted Deadnettle, Creeping Thyme, Stargazer Lily, Reticulated Iris, Dahlia, Red Hot Poker Plant, Yarrow, Siberian Bugloss, Asiatic Lily, Astilbe, Mexican Petunia
Herbs for Zone 8
Many herbs that can be grown in zone 8 are both useful for cooking and for their ornamental value. There are a number of viable herbs, both annual and perennial, that will thrive in your garden or landscape.
- Lamb’s Ear: A lesser-known herb that is part of the mint family, the lamb’s ear is named for its soft, fuzzy leaves that look somewhat similar to real lamb’s ears. This drought-resistant herb is fast-growing, and though it is edible (often eaten as a salad green, or steamed and fried), it is usually grown for its ornamental value. It does well grown as a groundcover or as a border plant, and in rock gardens. They are usually evergreen in mild climates.
- Bay Laurel: Though the bay laurel is technically a tree, its leaves are a valuable aromatic herb often used in cooking around the world. The bay laurel tree is an evergreen Mediterranean shrub hardy to zones 8 to 10. These trees can be grown indoors and outdoors, and are prized for their ornamental value, due to their deep green, oval leaves, and pyramidal canopy that can be easily pruned. Be careful when choosing a site for the bay laurel – its root system grows thick and fast and can easily extend beyond where it is planted.
- Oregano: A useful all-purpose culinary ingredient, oregano is a prized addition to any herb garden. They are perennial ground-hugging plants that look attractive when grown in containers and used as ground cover near walkways. They also provide small white flowers in summer. Oregano needs full sun for optimal growth and should be grown in spring or even later, as long as soil temperatures have reached atleast 70 degrees F. Once the plants reach 4 to 5 inches tall their leaves can be picked for usage.
- Other herbs: sage, rosemary, bay laurel, basil, mint, oregano, lavender, thyme, chamomile, dill, anise, borage, chervil, chives, parsley, tarragon, coriander, wormwood
Knowing which USDA hardiness zone you live in, and how that will affect when and what you grow, is essential for US gardeners. But it is only the beginning of the story – now that you understand zone 8 frost dates and average minimum temperatures, there is still plenty to learn before you start planting.
A successful garden requires detailed knowledge of local weather patterns and microclimates, the type of soil you are working with, and the growing requirements of everything you wish to plant.
Now that you know what zone you live in, figuring out how to meet all of your plant’s needs is the most important step to building a successful (and abundant) zone 8 garden.
Trees to Plant in Zone 8
Fern has planted and currently cares for over 100 different native and exotic fruit, nut, and ornamental trees.
She also cultivates an extensive vegetable garden, several flower gardens and cares for an ever-growing happy family of indoor plants.
Fern has a special interest in biodynamic farming, food production and closed loop agriculture.
Fern founded Tree Vitalize to help guide others with an interest in tree planting, identification and care.