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Thriving Plants & Hardiness Zones: Tips from Landscapers

When it comes to growing your own plants, one of the most important things for you to consider is your environment.

This is something that landscaping experts around the world would recommend that you think about, so you can choose the best plants for your local climate.

Not all plants will thrive in every growing situation, which is why you will need to ensure that you are selecting the right plants if you are going to have any chance of successfully growing them.

Thriving plants & hardiness zones: tips from landscapers

We are going to explain everything that you need to know about this here, including what you need to know about landscaping in Portland.

In this article, we are going to explain more about location-based landscaping, as well as taking a look at the different climate zones and hardiness zones.

For those that don’t already know, these are two things that will work to help categorize which plants can thrive in various different locations.

Just keep reading to find out what you need to know. 

Landscaping in Portland

Landscaping in Portland is very popular, and experts would be well aware of the fact that the area is a gardener’s paradise.

Portland is very well known for its luscious greenery, and lots of different plant species are able to thrive there.

However, even in this thriving location, it can become difficult to determine which plants will be the most successful.

Portland is subject to a long rainy season, which is one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to landscaping in this location. Not all plants will be able to withstand this season, although there are many that can. 

Although the temperatures in Portland are typically quite mild throughout most of the year, this location is known to experience freezing temperatures for a few weeks out of the year. This can make it even more difficult for certain plants to survive. 

However, rather than wasting time trying to guess which plant species will be able to survive these conditions. You can take a look at the hardiness zone rating of a plant to find out everything that you need to know instead.

What Are Hardiness Zones?

Hardiness zones can often be quite confusing at times, and this is because there are two specific classification systems that are used in order to determine the hardiness of a plant, like its ability to survive a cold winter.

We are going to explain both of these systems to you below:

USDA Plant Hardiness Zones

The USDA plant hardiness zone schema was redeveloped back in 2012 with the aid of a group of researchers from Oregon State University.

This updated system was released in 2012, and it uses GIS mapping data. It provides you with detailed information about the average minimum temperatures for each state.

The information that USDA Plant Hardiness Maps have to offer can help you to determine if a certain plant will be able to survive through the winter in a certain hardiness zone.

Sunset Hardiness Zones

The alternative is Sunset Hardiness Zones, which are produced by Sunset Gardening Magazine.

These hardiness zone maps are typically much more detailed than the previous ones that we have mentioned.

This is mostly due to the fact that they will include a wider variety of factors, including things like elevation, humidity, latitude, ocean influence, microclimates, and more.

Which Zone is Portland In?

For those that don’t already know, Portland is categorized as USDA hardiness zone 8b, with average low temperatures that range between 15 and 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

The more central part of Portland can also be categorized as 9a, with average low temperatures of between 20 and 25 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. -4 °C).

The Sunset rating system would consider Portland and the entire Willamette Valley to be a zone 6 location.

Something that is interesting to take note of is the fact that the updated version of the 2012 USDA hardiness zone map shows a trend of average warmer temperatures since 1975.

Thriving plants & hardiness zones: tips from landscapers

Where to Plant

Another important factor to consider is exactly where you are planning to plant, as not every location is going to be the best suited for the plant that you are trying to grow.

Portland is an area that is subject to microclimates, which means that the hardiness guides are simply a recommendation.

The best thing that can help you when it comes to landscaping in Portland and deciding which plants will be able to survive the winter is the gardening experience. 

If this is something that you want to do, then it is really important to have a good understanding of your local microhabitat. This can be really beneficial when you are deciding which species you want to plant.

Gardeners that are aware of the conditions that they are going to be met with are going to have the best chances of success. 

You will need to consider the varied landscape too, as those that are used to the conditions of the valley floor might not find it easy to grow the same species at the top of Council Crest.

This is because the elevation at the latter location is around 1000 feet (0.3 km), and the conditions are going to be much different.

Even your own backyard can vary significantly, and it will also contain microclimates too.

An example of this would involve a shady corner of your backyard, which is not going to warm up as quickly or as much as a sunny spot in your garden.

Although these may seem like small considerations, they are going to greatly impact your success, so it is all really important to think about before you get started.

Some areas will offer more shade and shelter than others, some will get more rain than others, and some locations will get more sunlight than others. 

When you are thinking about all of these things, you should also consider more temperature-sensitive plant species, as some may work better in certain locations around your yard than others.

Experience is something that can only be gained through knowledge and practice, and this is going to take some time. So, if you are still learning, it may take some trial and error before you become an expert. 

The success of your plants will ultimately come down to a few different factors.

The gardening care that you are able to provide, the type of soil used, the nutrients that are available, proper irrigation, and much more. This is why it is essential to be aware of what each plant needs. 

Being aware of all of this information will also help you to choose the best location for your plant, where it will be most likely to thrive.

You can also use the information that is provided by the USDA and the Sunset Gardening plant hardiness zones, so you can make well-informed decisions about which plants you should include in your garden.

Hardiness Zone Tips from Experts

According to the Sunset hardiness system, Portland resides in zone 6. This means that you can make use of a long growing season from around the middle of March to the middle of November.

However, you will also need to deal with cold weather and long winters.

Seasonal storms are also something that can be unpredictable, but the summers are generally dry and hot, whereas the winters are typically wet and cold.

Plants to Grow in the Sun

There are various perennials and shrubs that will thrive in the full sun, including:

  • Bee Balm
  • Purple Cone Flowers
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Coreopsis
  • Lavender
  • Coral Bells
  • Daisies
  • Daylilies
  • Geraniums
  • Salvias
  • Yarrow

Plants to Grow in the Shade

On the other hand, some of the plants that will thrive in the shade include:

  • Hostas
  • Astilbes
  • Ferns
  • Solomon’s Seal
  • Hellebores

Shrubs That Can Thrive in Portland

Some of the shrubs that often thrive in the conditions that Portland has to offer include:

  • Rhododendrons
  • Azaleas
  • Dogwood
  • Forsythia
  • Blueberries
  • Butterfly Bushes
  • Hydrangeas
  • Witch Hazel
Thriving plants & hardiness zones: tips from landscapers

Trees That Can Thrive in Portland

Different types of coniferous and deciduous trees of various shapes and sizes can also grow here, including:

  • Alders
  • Birches
  • Beeches
  • Pines
  • Douglas Firs
  • Cedars

A type of tree that Portland is famous for is Monkey Puzzle Tree. These plants first arrived in 1905 with the Lewis and Clark Exposition.

This was an event in which dozens of these trees were handed out to residents in Portland. Other shrubs like Mahonia and red flowering current can also do really well in this area.

Great Plant Picks

Great Plant Picks is a site that is part of the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden and contains more than 900 different plants that have been selected specifically for gardeners that live west of the Cascades.

This is a great resource that includes a handy list of plants that can thrive in both the sun and the shade, and it has lots of information about participating nurseries, other additional resources, and alternative organizations. 

If you do find a certain plant that you love, and it isn’t designed for growth in your area, you might still be able to introduce it to your garden. You will need to give it some extra love and attention, but this isn’t always possible.

You might get lucky with a mild winter that allows your plant to survive, but it could also go the opposite way. 


Even the best gardeners can lose some plants throughout their time gardening, and even the plants that are supposed to thrive the most can find themselves on a downward spiral.

As long as you carefully consider the growing conditions and arm yourself with as much information as possible, you will have the best possible chances of success. 

If you are more than sure that a certain plant will not survive outside throughout the year, something else that you can do would be to plant it in a pot outside and then bring it indoors throughout the winter.

Ian richardson

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