Las Vegas Zones: USDA 9 or Sunset Climate Zone 11

Why is Las Vegas in two different zones, you ask? It’s because the USDA bases their zones on the extreme minimum temperature in an area, while the Sunset climate zones system uses the heat in a region as the main factor. Since we’re fortunate enough to experience extreme heat and extreme cold, Vegas falls into two different planting zones.  The USDA chart puts us in zone 9 and the Sunset climate zones have us in 11. 

So who should you go by?

They’re both technically right, so it’s really more important that you know which zone is being referenced with regards to a specific plant. Say you find a plant with information that says it’ll work great in zone 11. What you need to know is if the source that’s saying that is referring the USDA zone chart or the Sunset climate zones.  If it’s using Sunset’s zones, you’re golden. If it’s going by the USDA charts, that plant is gonna be hating life in Vegas come about December or  January. Come to think of it, it’ll probably be dead by then. Does that make sense?

What if you really want to plant something that’s not zoned for Vegas?

I say do it. Nobody’s calling the plant police. There are plenty of things that fall outside our zones that’ll do just fine here. It’s mostly going to be a science experiment as to whether or not the plant makes it, but you can certainly increase your odds of success by being smart about where you put the plant and how you take care of it.

For example, if you want to put in something that wouldn’t like our colder temperatures, put it in a pot, so you can bring it inside for the winter. Or put it in a protected spot. Or cover it with burlap. Or build a little hothouse over it in the winter months. There are any number of strategies that you can employ to help a plant make it through the cold.

If you’re looking to put in a plant that can’t take a lot of sun, put it in a place where it gets a little morning sun and then shade for the better part of the day. This is another time when a container is a good idea, since you can easily move it to a more sheltered spot if it seems like it’s getting too much sunlight. Don’t have shade? Make some! Use shade cloth or a larger, hardier plant to create a microclimate that’ll be easier for your desired plant to handle.

I think you’ll be amazed at what you can get to grow in Vegas. It just comes down to how hard you’re willing to work for it.

To find out what USDA zone you’re in without any doubt, you can enter your zip code here.

To look up your Sunset Western Garden zone, click here.

33 Comments

  • I have tropical guava tree growing in my yard I live in las vegas for the las 10 years and jacaranda tree they both do fine I just cover the guava tree in winter and in summer I get about 20 lbs of guava fruit from it..

    • That’s awesome, Jose! Your trees are living proof that you really can grow anything in Vegas. You just have to want it bad enough 🙂

      Thank you for being patient with my reply. I’ll be posting new material soon. I hope you’ll stop by to check it out!

    • Hi Shivon, you should be able to keep your Meyer lemon tree outside with no problem at all. If it’s young, I’d move it to a covered patio or up against a wall that faces south. You might also cover it with burplap or another fabric that allows air to flow (not plastic!). You could also wrap it with a strand of incandescent Christmas lights to keep it warm when we get a freeze. Depending on where you are in the valley, a mature Meyer may not need much in the way of protection from the cold though. Good luck with your lemon growing!

  • Hi,l was wondering why my tangerine tree leaves are curling and have little black spots on them.l water them deep by hose every 4 to 5 days during hot summer months

    • Hi Susan,
      Citrus leaves can curl for a number of reasons in Vegas. It’s usually that the plant’s not getting enough water but cold can do it too. Little black spots on the undersides of the leaves could be aphids or mites. My best guess without seeing it is that it’s the water. A good deep drink is exactly what you want to give your tree, but maybe a bit more often. If you’re hand-watering, just feel the top of the soil every couple of days and once it’s dry on top, you can soak it again. You might try rinsing the leaves with water as well in case you do have a pest problem. If it’s not a bad infestation a good rinse will normally do the trick but you might need to use insecticidal soap if water doesn’t knock em out. Good luck!

    • Oh Kat, I wish I could tell you about some giant Hydrangea I’ve seen tucked away somewhere in a courtyard with the perfect conditions but I can’t. My co-worker at the nursery used to tell people “This just ain’t Hydrangea country” when they’d ask about planting them outside here in Vegas. Honestly, my experience with that particular plant pretty much begins and ends with caring for the stock that would come into the nursery’s houseplant section in spring for Easter(?), Mother’s Day(?) and they reaaaaallly did not seem to care for the dry spring winds that would tear through the store. Aside from that they would hate our soil with a passion you probably didn’t even know Hydrangeas could muster. The good news is that they make nice houseplants in a sunny window and it’s much easier to control the soil quality in a container than it is in the ground. I hope this helps a little bit 🙂

  • Hi there,

    Any idea if I can grow a Haas avocado tree in Henderson Nevada? We are at 4,000 elevation. Never lived in the desert and moving here in the fall. I am quite confused what zone we would be due to the elevation, thanks!

    • Hi Kelly,
      I’m sorry to tell you that avocado trees don’t really dig much about the desert and at the elevation you’ll be at the cold could easily do one in. If you’re at 4000 ft I’m guessing you’ll be on the west side of town in one of the newer developments. Bear in mind that those lots are often pretty exposed to desert without much to serve as a windbreak and if that’s the case the hot, dry air would fry those big avocado tree leaves. On top of that, they don’t tolerate our nutrient-deficient soils well at all. They grow much better in places like California and Florida with more stable temperatures and rich soils. Hate to be the bearer of bad news but you can grow pomegranates and figs here like nobody’s business. I hope that helps a bit 🙂

  • I am experimenting with growing avocados here in Henderson. I am at 2300 feet and am using the southern exposure with filtered light (when young they are too vulnerable to our sun). It survived this past winter if you want to call it that. I believe it is a Fuerte which is cold tolerant. The big problem here is salt in the soil they need deep watering and a good organic mound to plant it in above grade. The roots do not like to be too wet for too long so drainage is important. Your microclimate location is key.

    • Hi Peter, thank you for letting me know about your avocado experiment. I’m definitely agree with you- the microclimate is key with this tree and the salts in the soil would do a real number on its foliage. My best guess is a container would be the safest way to try to grow an avocado here. You can control the soil quality and where it is at different times of year if need be. Please keep me updated. I’d love to hear about your experience!

  • Will do. I really like your blog, it is nice to know there are others out there who are gardening and not just tending plants.

  • First time ever I’ve bothered to subscribe to something willingly. Thanks for l your great advice. After living here for 14 years I’ve kinda gotten stuck with the tried and true for color primarily lantana. I’d like to expand my horizons.

    • Thank you, Joan. I’ll work on getting some more color suggestions in. Lantana’s great but there’s a whole world of beautiful plants that’ll work here. 🙂

  • I too, would be very interested in hearing your suggestions about putting a little color in our gardens. I know Mexican Bird of Paradise are beautifully colorful and seem to love the sun and the heat and I have a trumpet vine that I put in 15 years ago that has red and yellow flowers that are wonderful. Love to try some new plants though!

    • Hi TJ, color is definitely my favorite part of the garden so I’m really happy to hear your looking to add some to our valley. Any of the desert birds-of-paradise will put on a spectacular summer flower show but there are also plenty of other options. Look for Tecomas, commonly known as bells, at the local nurseries. Some of them can get pretty big though so I try to stick with the Lydia bells and the Bells of Fire as they both stay a little smaller (4’x4′). If you’d like another flowering vine that looks good year round, the Tangerine Beauty crossvine (Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’) would serve as a nice complement to your trumpet vines. For plants that’ll bloom off-and-on throughout the year, check out Santa Barbara daisies (Erigeron karvinskianus), Angelita daisies (Tetraneuris acaulis) and Indian blanket flowers (Gaillardia grandiflora). All of these plants can take full sun and all can benefit from being cut back in the spring or fall when they get rangy. Thank you for reading!

  • Hi all. Going to experiment in Mountain s edge (2600ft) with Guatemalan Haas Avocados. Using pots initially with a wide west facing side yard covered in sun shades. The shades do let some direct sun in as they are not perfectly square. So far my myer lemon and lime trees love this area. Wish me luck and updates to follow….

    • Hi Jan,
      Thanks for letting us all in on your experiment. I’m looking forward to updates! Good luck 🙂

  • Jan make sure your stems / trunks are shaded or paint them with a watered down latex white paint. These trees are a successional tree meaning that they start out in shade. If the soil is salty you will see leaf Browning. So much you need to know and watch out for.

  • Any body try to grow Lions Tail? There was a write up in the RJ this past Saturday and they seen like they should be appropriate in the desert.

    • Hi Peter, I don’t know it but thanks for the tip! I’ve asked one of the smartest horticulturists I know about it and she’s familiar with Leonotis leonurus from her time in California. She suggested giving it a more regular water here and avoiding planting it in rock. We’re going to give it a try on a couple of projects so I’ll definitely let you know how it goes. Thanks again!

  • I have a peach, apricot & apple tree in my backyard in Las Vegas. The apple & apricot are doing fine, but, my poor peach tree shriveled up this summer. It has a lot of tiny fruit. I have it set for watering early morning and late evening + I was pouring water from my kitchen use. I also put a towel on it to give some shade from the hot sun. Are peaches suitable for this Vegas weather? Or maybe I should replant it on a different side of the yard.

    • Hi Sudha, your peach tree should be fine in the sun but it could have a fungus based on what you’re describing. I’d avoid the evening water and just make sure you’re giving it a long drink of water in the morning. Fungicide may be needed but be sure to read the directions on whatever you use since some products can’t be used until if cools off a bit more. Also, you mentioned you were pouring water from your kitchen use on it? Nothing with soap or anything like that, I hope. If you have pictures of the leaves, that helps a lot with diagnosis. Good luck!

  • What do you have to do to grow vegetables in Vegas? I have tried and tried but the sun burns them up and if they serve the sun they don’t produse.

    • Hi Lindaw, your veggies can take a full day of sun from fall through spring but if you provide them with a little afternoon shade you can extend your growing season by a bit. Shade cloth from the nursery will usually do the trick. Make sure they’re getting plenty of water when it’s really hot too! Good luck 🙂

    • Hi Gloria! Both Acacia and olive trees do well in Las Vegas but fruiting olives are banned due to pollen concerns. The most common fruitless varieties are Wilson and Swan Hill and you can usually find them in the local nurseries. Good luck!

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