See updated information in the Nov. 21, 2023 article: Your Western New York garden may be in a new plant hardiness zone
by Connie Oswald Stofko
When you’re buying perennials (or trees and shrubs), you want plants that will survive the winter and come back the next year. What plants will work for you depends on where you live.
The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map is the standard that helps you determine which plants are most likely to thrive in your location. You can look at the map to find your zone, or you can type in your street address. (You can also see a map for Ontario here.)
The zones in Western New York are 5a, 5b, 6a and 6b.
The map is based on the average annual minimum winter temperature. The zones go from coldest to warmest. Each zone is also divided into “a” and “b.”
Zone 5a has average low temperatures from -20 to -15 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmer Zone 6b has average low temperatures from -5 to 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you see a plant tagged as Zone 6, and you live in Zone 6, the plant should make it through the winter. However, if you live in the colder Zone 5, it’s less likely that plant will survive the winter.
On the other hand, if you live in the warmer Zone 6 and see a plant labeled for the colder Zone 5, that plant should have no trouble making it through your milder winter.
Note that temperatures in Western New York have been getting warmer due to climate change. The 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map takes that into account, using data from 1976-2005. The 2012 map replaced the earlier 1990 map.