Winter Nail-Biter

Azaleas blooming.

A couple of weeks ago, I was shopping for foundation plantings, and I was completely taken in by Encore Azaleas – those lovely azaleas that bloom two (and sometimes three) times a year. In the back of my mind, I had a fuzzy memory of Encore Azaleas not being completely winter hardy in my area, but they were so gorgeous that I bought seven of them and went home to learn more.

This week’s article is about Hardiness and Heat Zones – those handy little numbers that help us decide if a plant will survive the winter cold, or the summer heat, in our area. I pored over the hardiness zone maps, not quite trusting the pocket of Zone 7 that seemed out of place in the middle of Zone 6. I consulted the Encore Azalea web site. I consulted online gardening forums. I read obscure user-submitted lists of plants that grow here. I worried for several days, and I finally gathered enough evidence that yes, Encore Azaleas are hardy in my zone. So I planted them, and I forbade myself from worrying about it any more.

As I was watering them, I got a phone call from a Master Gardener friend who lives on the coast. I told her what I was doing, and she said doubtfully, “Will those survive the winter up there?” Sigh.

I decided that they were pretty enough to take my chances.


  1. Hardiness zones are not the last word. It’s possible for your front yard and your back yard to be different zones. The concept of “microclimates,” I believe, makes more sense. The only true way to tell if you can grow something in your area — is to try it.

  2. You’re so right! Especially in the mountains (where these shrubs are going), factors like elevation and exposure make a huge difference, even from house to house or from front yard to back. Of course the location I needed to plant these (along the foundation of the house) isn’t the most protected in the yard, but I remain optimistic!


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