Planting in zones 8 and 9.

Planting in zones 8 and 9.

If your lucky enough to live in a place where it rarely snows, gets very cold, or it never fells all that cold, you probably live in USDA planting zone 8 or 9. Much of the southern part of the country as well as the extreme west coast are all zone 8 or 9. Places like Phoenix, San Francisco, Houston, Orlando, Atlanta, and Portland, Oregon enjoy mild winters where planting shrubs and trees can happen most of the year.


Summertime is a different story though and even though the winters are mild, the summers are hot. Unless you live on the extreme west coast where the summer temperatures are cooler than most of the country, its best to take a break from planting new shrubs and trees during the months of June and July. In places like Miami, Houston, Phoenix, and Dallas, it is super hot all summer long. In these areas of zone 9, it is best to refrain from planting between May 1st and August 15. It is just too hot for new plants to successfully root when the temperatures are consistently above 100 degrees.


I also want to discuss the difference in planting times for shrubs and trees that like lots of water on their roots vs plants that prefer well drained soil or less water on their roots. In zones 8 and 9, you may will have good success with planting water loving plants most of the year. For example, if you would like to plant a hydrangea or hibiscus, you may do so in fall, winter, and early spring. They will grow roots during the cooler months and need very little water since the soil is cool and it rains often. If you plant them in April or May, they should survive the heat of summer but will need daily watering until fall since there roots will be constantly thirsty. 


One the flip side of the coin there is a large group of popular plants that prefer less water on their roots. They include Camellia, Rhododendron, Mountain Laurel, Azalea, and Gardenia. These plants should absolutely be planted in fall or winter in zones 8 and 9. We have a separate blog about this group of plants specifically talking about how and when to plant them. *Hint, use soil conditioner, mulch well, and plant high. I will include a link to that blog posting below.* Starting in September, the heat and humidity begins to subside, the soil cools off and retains moisture better than during the summer months. Plants that prefer less water love this time of year and transition from dealing with the heat to growing roots. They will grow roots throughout the winter without any signs of top growth. By planting in fall and winter, gardeners avoid overwatering the following spring and summer. I know it is tempting to plant in spring when everything is blooming. Many gardeners have moved south from colder states. My advice is to wait! During April and May it is best to look around at what's in your yard, plant a few water loving plants if you like, keep those watered. But for plants that are sensitive to watering, plant them in starting in September and finish up by February. Believe me, your success rate will increase dramatically.


Personally, I live in the famous clay capital North Carolina. I love Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron, I plant a few every year but I always plant them between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I give them good well draining spoil and mulch them and leave them alone. I never water them and they do way better the following spring and summer than if I plant them in May or June. 


So I am posting this on August 8. Its still a little hot but it is time to start thinking about fall and winter planting of just about anything you can think of. Have fun in the coming months and you will have an amazing garden during 2024 and please pass the word. We know a lot of gardeners plant in spring but in your area, fall and winter are way better. Reach out if you have questions or need advice, we are always here to help. Below are a few additional helpful links. 


All plants the thrive in planting zone 8:


All plants that thrive in zone 9:


Planting instructions for evergreens that prefer less water: