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.