When spring arrives, gardeners are ready to buy plants, and many times we are trying something new and different.
View full sizeIllustration by Kenneth Harrison / The Times-Picayune
One of the most important aspects of gardening successfully in south Louisiana is choosing plants that will thrive in our climate.
Typically, we focus on the specific growing conditions that a plant needs to flourish, such as the proper amount of light, water requirements and soil characteristics, such as pH, drainage and texture.
But on a larger scale, we must first make sure that the plants are suitable for the overall climate, which is determined by the average annual rainfall, how cold it is in the winter and how hot it is in the summer.
Based on rainfall, the southern United States is divided into the arid Southwest and the humid Southeast. The generous amount of rainfall we receive in Louisiana, around 60 inches annually, provides for lush growth.
Although you may be tempted during our area’s occasional droughts to consider using plants that prefer dry conditions, it’s important to remember that most plants adapted to a dry climate will eventually rot and die during periods of heavy rainfall.
So the plants we grow must be happy with a year-round moist, humid climate.
Average temperatures are also important. It wouldn’t make much sense to use a tree, shrub or anything you expect to be a long-lived part of your landscape if it couldn’t survive the winter.
Temperatures fall below the freezing point in southeast Louisiana, and plants that are expected to be long-lived, such as trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials and ground covers, must be hardy enough to withstand those temperatures. Hardy plants are those that can survive typical winter temperatures where you garden.
For permanent structural plants, such as trees and shrubs, to be considered completely hardy in southeast Louisiana, they should be able to survive temperatures of about 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
Because winter hardiness is a concern to gardeners around the country, the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed a Plant Hardiness Zone Map based on the average minimum temperatures experienced in different areas of the United States.
The zones range from 3 to 11, starting with the lower numbers in the colder Northern states and the higher numbers in the milder Southern states.
Louisiana includes just two zones, 8 and 9. The northern, central and some of the southern portions of the state are Zone 8, and coastal areas are Zone 9. The average minimum temperature in Zone 8 is 10 to 20 degrees and in Zone 9 is 20 to 30 degrees.
Know your zone
Looking at the zone map, we see most of Orleans Parish is in Zone 8. But anyone who lives here knows that it is unusual, certainly not average, for winter temperatures to drop below 20 degrees.
Despite the map, gardeners on the south shore should firmly place themselves in Zone 9. (Supposedly, the Hardiness Zone Map is being revised, and most of south Louisiana will be Zone 9 in the revision.)
I generally tell gardeners to not focus so much on the map as on your own experience and knowledge of how cold it generally gets where you live. Based on your experience, you can do a better job of deciding which zone you are in than the zone map does.
Because our winters are relatively mild, cold hardiness is rarely, if ever, a major concern for us; if we didn’t plant so many tender tropicals in our landscapes, it would never be an issue.
You will often see the hardiness zones listed after a plant name in catalogs, books and magazines, such as Hydrangea ‘Forever Pink’ (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Penny Mac’) Zones 5-9. That means the farthest north this plant will be reliably hardy is Zone 5.
You might think that as long as the plants you choose are hardy where you garden, that would be the end of it.
But there is still one more factor: how hot it is during summer.
The flip side
Extreme summer heat has a significant effect on how plants grow. Indeed, it is our long, hot, humid summer that primarily determines what trees, shrubs, ground covers, turfgrasses and perennials we can grow here, not winter’s cold.
In this case, the hardiness zones are not much help. Knowing that a plant is hardy enough to survive our winters does not mean it’s tough enough to survive our intensely hot summers. As a result, the hardiness zones have been pressed into a service they were never really meant to provide.
Looking at the hydrangea example, note that the zones following the name are 5 to 9. Why is it limited to Zone 9? If the hydrangea is hardy in Zone 9, surely it would be hardy south of Zone 9. In this case, the hardiness zones are not just telling you how far north the plant can be grown, but also how far south the plant could be expected to thrive.
Although this is commonly done, and is often quite helpful, there is still a problem. The climate in Hardiness Zone 8 in Louisiana is very different from, for example, the climate in Hardiness Zone 8 in the state of Washington.
Many plants that would thrive in Seattle would die in Louisiana. Why? Because our summers are much hotter. So if you see a plant recommended for Zone 8, you cannot always assume it is suitable for our area.
‘Heat Zone’ help
The American Horticulture Society has addressed this issue by developing a Plant Heat-Zone Map, viewable at www.ahs.org/publications/. The zones are based on the average number of days per year the temperature reaches 86 degrees or higher.
The usefulness is clear when we see that Covington is in Heat Zone 9 (120 to 150 days) and Seattle is in Heat Zone 3 (7 to 14 days).
Because the heat zones have not been around as long as the hardiness zones, and perhaps because much of the country obsesses more over hardiness than heat, the heat zones are still not widely used in plant descriptions.
But here in the Deep South, where summer heat is a major determining factor in what plants we can grow, these heat zones will be helpful. As time goes by, you may begin to see the heat zones used more often in plant descriptions.
Don’t let the zones get you too confused; they are most helpful when unfamiliar plants are considered for use.
But for good, dependable plant recommendations for our area, you can rely on plants included in books, magazines and literature written for our area or printed materials from the LSU AgCenter.
You will also find that the majority of the hardy plants you find at your local nursery or garden center are well-adapted to our overall climate.
DAN GILL’S MAILBOX
I was curious about these pear trees that bloom beautiful white flowers in the spring time. How long does the flowering last? What is their growth rate? How much do they cost?
They are Callery pears (Pyrus calleryana) grown for their white spring flowers, brilliant fall color and fast, upright rate of growth. Many that you see are an old variety called Bradford. The nurseries are mostly carrying Cleveland Select these days. It looks very similar but is less prone to breakage, a problem with these trees. They generally bloom for about two weeks. Because they are fast-growing and that saves time in production, these trees are generally reasonably priced.
Every summer, only in my backyard, I get big, round, brown spots in several places in my centipede grass. I do not have trees, and it gets plenty of sun. I have a watering system and fertilize often. I really take care of my yard, and because of this I have to rebuild the backyard every year. Thanks for any help.
Be careful not to fertilize too much. Centipede requires less fertilizer than other types of lawn grasses. An application in early April is generally sufficient, with an optional mid- to late summer light application. The spots may be fungal infections, and fungal diseases are encouraged to attack generously fertilized lawns. So try fertilizing less. Also, don’t overwater, as this also encourages fungal problems. Only water if the weather has been quite dry and the grass begins to show slight drought stress. If the problem shows up again this year, contact me then. Then we could help determine what is going on.
I bought a five-gallon naval orange tree today, and it is already in bloom. My question is, should I leave it in the container this summer and get a few oranges, or stick it in the ground now? I know this is the right time to plant, but I hate to lose the blooms.
Go ahead and plant it. Production is not important this first year; getting the young tree to survive and establish is the main goal. Commercial citrus farmers strip the fruit from young trees the first year or two after planting so a tree will put effort into growing strong roots, stems and leaves, which is more important when it is young. Home gardeners generally cannot bring themselves to do this, and you can allow the young citrus tree to ripen what fruit it will, if you like. But in the first three to five years after planting when a young tree is establishing, production is often erratic. Young trees often drop their fruit. Don’t let this alarm you — it is considered normal.
Something is putting hundreds of holes in my young live oak trees. The trees are about 12 to 15 feet tall. Why are they attacking the trees? What should I do?
This is damage from a bird called the sapsucker. It pecks shallow holes through the bark in spring when the sap is moving in the tree. The sap bleeds out of the holes, and the sapsucker comes back to feed on the sugary sap and any insects that were attracted to it. Although it looks bad, the holes are small and shallow and quickly heal (although scars remain). The birds will migrate north out of the area following spring. You could wrap the trunk with burlap, black plastic or even aluminum foil for the rest of the month, and that should discourage more feeding. But the damage does not really threaten the health of the tree in most instances, and covering the trunk is not considered critical. As the tree ages, the bark will thicken, and the sapsuckers will leave it alone.
Dan Gill is extension horticulturist with the LSU Ag Center.
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Many people have heard the term Plant Hardiness Zones. What does this really mean? In 1960 the USDA came up with a national zoning map to help consumers determine if a certain variety of plant was cold hardy in their area. Colder than average winters occurred frequently after 1960, so the USDA slightly revised the map in 1990. The Baton Rouge area was originally designated to upper zone 9 (9a) but was revised to lower zone 8 (8b) in 1990. Zone 9 is an area of the country that’s coldest temperature of the winter drops between 20 and 30 degrees in an average year. Zone 8’s temperatures get down to a year low of 10 to 20 degrees. Most winters we never drop below zone 9 temperatures but in our past winter and the winter of 2010 we did get into the teens multiple times. The bottom line is, any plant with a cold hardiness from zone 8 to zone 1 should be winter hardy in our area.
But, that’s not the whole story. To know if a particular plant will grow in our area, the cold hardiness is only HALF the story. What about the plants heat tolerance? Many plants can take our winters but what about our summers? That’s why in 1997 the American Horticultural Society teamed up with the Meteorological Evaluation Service to create the Heat zone Map. This map goes from zone 1 to 12, with zone 12 being the most extreme heat. The different zones are determined by how many days on average a year the temperatures rise above 86 degrees. Baton Rouge is heat zone 9, getting above 86 degrees 120 to 150 days a year. So, if you want to find out if a specific plant is hardy in our area look for plants with a cold hardiness zone 8 or lower and a heat hardiness zone of 9 or higher. Remember, almost all plants that we carry in our shrub and tree areas fall in both acceptable zones. The big exception being our blooming tropicals, like Hibiscus, Mandevilla, Bougainvillea, etc. These plants love our heat but sometimes die during colder than average winter.
Plant Hardiness Zone Map used from the USDA Website.
Louisiana Planting Zones
Because it has low lying topography and low latitude, Louisiana’s humid subtropical climate weather patterns means hot, long, very humid summers and relatively mild, short winters. This makes the Louisiana planting zones pretty consistent across the state. The state’s climate is overwhelmingly influenced by the Gulf of Mexico, which is no more than 200 miles away at any point. Rain is common throughout the entire year, but summers are wetter than the rest of the year. Thunderstorms result from the heat of summer days and there are often quick but intense tropical downpours. Winters are generally fairly warm in the southern parts of the state. The northern regions are mildly cool, with average lows remaining well above freezing and average highs at right around 59 degrees. The state regularly sees tropical cyclones and major hurricanes.
The United States is divided into sections known as planting zones. These zones help define and dictate both what types of plants will grow well, as well as when to plant them. Louisiana planting zones are in the 8a to 10a range. Check out Gilmour’s Interactive Planting Zone Map to see which zone you are in. The southern part of the state, closest to the Gulf of Mexico, is on the warmer end of the range. It is very important to know what Louisiana planting zone you will be planting a garden in so you can decide on plants that have the highest chance for success in your area. Reference Louisiana growing zones ranges to know exactly when to plant each type of vegetable, plant or flower you want to grow, too. It is safe to plant anything rated for the zone a plant will be growing it or lower. So, if planting in zone 8a, plants rated for zones 1 to 8 should be able to survive winter conditions.
With its tropical climate and abundance of rainfall, many gorgeous flowers and tropical plants do very well all over the state. However, do be sure to seek out heat- and humidity-tolerant plants for the best show and chance of survival. Wishbone flower, angelonia, pentas, begonias, coleus, impatiens, blue daze and narrow-leaf zinnia all do well in the area. Plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra and beans in a vegetable garden that will produce a bounty of vegetables to enjoy all season long.
USDA plant hardiness zone map shows La. changes
News Release Distributed 02/03/12
By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings
When the U.S. Department of Agriculture released its updated Plant Hardiness Zone Map in January, it prompted quite a bit of conversation in the horticultural world. The new map had been long-awaited and was the first update since 1990. It indicates the average minimum winter temperatures for all areas of the United States. As you may know, one way plants are categorized is by the hardiness zones for which they are best adapted.
The new version of the U.S. map includes 13 zones, with the addition for the first time of zones 12 (50-60 degrees) and 13 (60-70 degrees). Each zone is a 10-degree temperature band, further divided into 5-degree zones – a and b.
The new map also offers a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based interactive format and is specifically designed to be Internet-friendly. The map website also incorporates a “find your zone by ZIP code” function. Static images of national, regional and state maps also have been included to ensure the map is usable by those who lack broadband Internet access. The new hardiness zone information from USDA is located at http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov.
In developing the new map, USDA requested that horticultural and climatic experts review the zones in their geographic area, and trial versions of the new map were revised, based on their expert input.
So, what does the map show compared to the 1990 version? Hardiness zone boundaries have shifted in many areas. The new map is generally one 5-degree Fahrenheit half-zone warmer than the previous map throughout much of the United States. This is mostly a result of using temperature data from a longer and more recent time period; the new map uses data measured at weather stations during the 30-year period 1976-2005. In contrast, the 1990 map was only based on temperature data from 1974-1986.
The previous map had Louisiana located in USDA hardiness zones 8 and 9. Average minimum temperatures are: zone 8a – 10 to 15 degrees, zone 8b – 15 to 20 degrees, zone 9a – 20 to 25 degrees and zone 9b – 25 to 30 degrees. We are still located in these hardiness zones, but with several noticeable changes.
In the prior map, all of northern Louisiana along I-20 was located in hardiness zone 8a. Now, a significant portion of northeast Louisiana is comfortably in hardiness zone 8b. Portions of Caddo and Bossier parishes are also now located in zone 8b.
Hardiness zone 9a extends more northerly up I-49 from the Lafayette area, and all of the metropolitan areas of Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Lake Charles are in hardiness zone 9a. The previous map had these areas on the border between zones 8b and 9a. The new map also shows a warmer New Orleans area, which is now in zone 9b and surrounded by zone 9a, while in the previous map it had been in zone 8b. Zone 9b is the warmest zone in the state and includes the coastal regions of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Lafourche and Terrebonne parishes.
When the 1990 USDA hardiness zone map was released, the decade of the 1980s had been brutally cold in Louisiana, culminating in the devastating freeze of December 1989. So it was not surprising that the new 1990 hardiness zone map tended to move zones south from where they had been. In Louisiana, for instance, zone 9 dropped from just south of Alexandria to only a few locations along the coast (and an odd blob to the west of Lake Pontchartrain).
So, what does all this mean? Many weather observers have been saying that the climate is warming. On the other hand, although the new map is quite different from the 1990 map, it is strikingly similar to the USDA map used prior to 1990.
Based on this new map, we have to revise our approach for horticulture, gardening purposes. Citrus are growing more reliably in areas of Louisiana where many home gardeners did not grow citrus before due to the possibility of cold damage. Recommendations for fruit tree variety growing regions may need to be adjusted because trees such as figs, peach, pears, plums, apples and others have chilling hour requirements. Tropical plants are also overwintering in more northern areas in the state.
The bottom line is, we need to keep in mind that the temperatures posted in the new map are average minimum temperature; however, colder weather can still occur. So we need to be sure to continue to consider growing conditions like hardiness zones when selecting our ornamentals, fruit trees, vegetables and other plants.
Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
This climate is characterized by relatively high temperatures and evenly distributed precipitation throughout the year. This climate type is found on the eastern sides of the continents between 20° and 35° N and S latitude. In summer, these regions are largely under the influence of moist, maritime airflow from the western side of the subtropical anticyclonic cells over low-latitude ocean waters. Temperatures are high and can lead to warm, oppressive nights. Summers are usually somewhat wetter than winters, with much of the rainfall coming from convectional thunderstorm activity; tropical cyclones also enhance warm-season rainfall in some regions. The coldest month is usually quite mild, although frosts are not uncommon, and winter precipitation is derived primarily from frontal cyclones along the polar front.
The Köppen Climate Classification subtype for this climate is “Cfa”. (Humid Subtropical Climate).
The average temperature for the year in New Orleans is 68.7°F (20.4°C). The warmest month, on average, is July with an average temperature of 82.4°F (28°C). The coolest month on average is January, with an average temperature of 52.4°F (11.3°C).
The highest recorded temperature in New Orleans is 102.0°F (38.9°C), which was recorded in August. The lowest recorded temperature in New Orleans is 11.0°F (-11.7°C), which was recorded in December.
The average amount of precipitation for the year in New Orleans is 61.1″ (1551.9 mm). The month with the most precipitation on average is June with 6.4″ (162.6 mm) of precipitation. The month with the least precipitation on average is October with an average of 3.2″ (81.3 mm). There are an average of 115.0 days of precipitation, with the most precipitation occurring in July with 14.0 days and the least precipitation occurring in April with 7.0 days.
In terms of liquid precipitation, there are an average of 114.0 days of rain, with the most rain occurring in July with 14.0 days of rain, and the least rain occurring in October with 6.0 days of rain.
In New Orleans, there’s an average of 0.2″ of snow (0 cm). The month with the most snow is February, with 0.1″ of snow (0.3 cm).
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By Dan Gill, LSU AgCenter horticulturist and Times-Picayune gardening columnist
Don’t you just love the recent cooler weather? We wait all summer for relief from the heat. Now, in the flower garden, it’s time to turn our attentions to cool-season bedding plants.
Even with the cooler temperatures, it’s likely that many of your warm-season bedding plants — such as periwinkle, blue daze, purslane, scaevola, impatiens and begonia — are still hanging in there at this point. If that’s the case, leave the beds alone and enjoy the display until next month. But, by mid-November, it’s time to pull them up.
It’s important to get cool-season bedding plants into the ground by late November or early December at the latest. This will give them a chance to get established before the coldest part of winter arrives.
These plants thrive in the cool days and chilly nights of fall, winter and spring. Most will easily tolerate temperatures around 20 degrees or even colder with little or no damage. Most will bloom in fall and early winter, and then produce a tremendous display in the spring, finally fading out in May as the weather gets hot.
Why plant cool-season bedding plants in the fall rather than in the spring? In addition to the extended period of bloom you get for your investment, fall-planted ones outperform spring-planted bedding plants by several orders of magnitude. After growing strong roots and stocky plants through the winter, these large, well-established plants produce more flowers than anything you plant in March or April.
Nurseries and garden centers offer a wide selection of cool-season transplants and seeds. Transplants are small, blooming-size plants that provide color to your garden right away.
A few cool-season annuals — including sweet peas, larkspur and the poppies (Shirley, Iceland, California and peony-flowered) — resent transplanting and are best direct seeded where they will grow in October or November.
Plant transplants or seeds of the following cool-season bedding plants:
Before you plant either seeds or transplants, decide where you want them to grow them and prepare the soil. Cool-season bedding plants will bloom best in well-drained locations that receive six hours or more of sun daily. Generally, the more sun they receive, the more they will bloom.
For areas that do not receive full sun, pansy, viola, nemesia, columbine, diascia and alyssum will bloom fairly well in partly shaded areas (about four hours of direct sun).
Cyclamen, foxglove, nicotiana, forget-me-not, lobelia and primrose are good for the shadier spots (about two hours of direct sun or dappled light).
Do a good job of bed preparation as this makes a tremendous difference in the performance of the plants. Remove any weeds and turn the soil to a depth of 8 inches. Spread a 2- to 4-inch layer of organic matter (compost, soil conditioner or rotted manure), evenly sprinkle a general purpose fertilizer over the bed and thoroughly mix everything into the soil. Rake the bed smooth, and you’re ready to plant.
When planting seeds, rake the surface of the bed smooth, and carefully follow the directions on the back of the seed packet as to planting depth. Most seeds are fairly small, and planting depth is shallow. Especially fine seeds, such as alyssum and poppies, are simply sprinkled onto the prepared soil, pressed down and watered in. They settle into the soil without covering.
Larger seeds, like nasturtiums and sweet peas, are planted about one-quarter to one-half inch deep. Plant plenty of seeds, and once the seedlings come up, thin them to the proper spacing indicated on the package.
Because they are quick, easy and give instant results, most gardeners favor the use of transplants. Plant transplants at the proper spacing, being careful to place them at the same depth they were growing in the cell pack or pot. Planting too deep often leads to crown or stem rot. It’s a good idea to water in newly planted transplants with a soluble fertilizer to get them off to a good start.
Mulch your beds to prevent weeds, conserve moisture and provide some protection against freezing temperatures. Any mulch would be beneficial. Leaves (especially chopped or shredded), pine straw and pine bark are all suitable and attractive.
Although mulch will conserve moisture, additional water will be needed during the first few weeks after planting while the plants get established. After they’re established, these plants typically need little watering during winter. But, watering will become increasingly important again as the weather becomes warmer next spring.
Select cool-season bedding plants so that the colors are harmonious. Colors should be grouped together in masses and try not to use too many different colors in the same bed. A single color or a select few colors grouped together are more visually effective than a sprinkling of many colors, especially if the bed is to be viewed from a distance.
Cool-season bedding plants will help keep your flowerbeds colorful and exciting through the fall, winter and especially next spring. Careful bed preparation and thoughtful planning will help make sure you’re pleased with the results of your efforts.
Dan Gill is a horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter. Email questions to [email protected] or add them to the comment section below. Follow his stories at www.nola.com/homegarden, on Facebook and @nolahomegardenon Instagram.
CST (Central Standard Time)
Offset: CST is 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) and is used in North America
Countries: It is used in following countries: Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, El Salvador, United States
Principal Cities: The largest city in the CST timezone is Mexico City from Mexico with population about 12.294 million people. Other major cities in the area are Chicago, Houston, Iztapalapa, Ecatepec
Daylight Saving: This is a standard timezone, however during summer some places switch clocks for one hour forward when daylight saving comes into effect and observe Central Daylight Time (CDT).
Start: CST starts annually on the same date and time. and clocks were set one hour back on Sunday, November 3, 2019, at 2:00 (2:00 am) local time.
End: CST ends annually on the same date and time. and clocks are set one hour forward on Sunday, March 8, 2020, at 2:00 (2:00 am) local time.
French: HNC – Heure Normale du Centre
Spanish: CT – Tiempo Central Estándar, CT – Zona Centro
Monroe, Louisiana, USA timezone map
W3C/ISO-8601: International standard covering representation and exchange of dates and time-related data
- -06 – basic short
- -0600 – basic
- -06:00 – extended
Email/RFC-2822: Internet Message Format Date Standard, typically used for timestamps in email headers
- -0600 – sign character (-) followed by a four digit time providing hours (06) and minutes (00) of the offset. Indicates six hour and zero minutes time differences to the west of the zero meridian.
Military/NATO: Used by the U.S. military, Chinese military and others
- Sierra – Military abbreviation for CST
- S – short form of ‘Sierra’
IANA/Olson: Reflects CST time zone boundaries defined by political bodies, primarily intended for use with computer programs and operating systems
CST Abbreviation: Several time zones share CST abbreviation and it could refer to these time zones
- Central Standard Time – UTC -6
- China Standard Time – UTC +8
- Cuba Standard Time – UTC -5
Time zones with the GMT -6 offset:
- CST – Central Standard Time
- CT – Central Time
- MDT – Mountain Daylight Time
- EAST – Easter Island Standard Time
- GALT – Galapagos Time
- S – Sierra Time Zone
- -06 –
- MWT –