Plant Hardiness Zones in Canada
The Plant Hardiness Zones map outlines the different zones in Canada where various types of trees, shrubs and flowers will most likely survive. It is based on the average climatic conditions of each area. The first such map for North America, released by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1960, was based only on minimum winter temperatures. In 1967, Agriculture Canada scientists created a plant hardiness map using Canadian plant survival data and a wider range of climatic variables, including minimum winter temperatures, length of the frost-free period, summer rainfall, maximum temperatures, snow cover, January rainfall and maximum wind speed.
The New Map
Natural Resources Canada's Canadian Forest Service scientists have now updated the plant hardiness zones using the same variables and more recent climate data (1961-90). They have used modern climate mapping techniques and incorporated the effect of elevation. The new map indicates that there have been changes in the hardiness zones that are generally consistent with what is known about climate change. These changes are most pronounced in western Canada.
Interpreting the New Map
The new hardiness map is divided into nine major zones: the harshest is 0 and the mildest is 8. Subzones (e.g., 4a or 4b, 5a or 5b) are also noted in the map legend. These subzones are most familiar to Canadian gardeners. Some significant local factors, such as micro-topography, amount of shelter and subtle local variations in snow cover, are too small to be captured on the map. Year-to-year variations in weather and gardening techniques can also have a significant impact on plant survival in any particular location.
Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Forest Service is now "Going Beyond the Zones" and trying to develop potential range maps for individual species of trees, shrubs and perennial flowers by collecting species specific information. Check out more about this project at http://planthardiness.gc.ca/index.pl?&lang=en and see how you can get involved. Maps for 100s of individual species are available.
Download 1967 Plant Hardiness map postscript file
Download 2000 Plant Hardiness map pdf file
Going Beyond the Zones. View plant specific zones and/or enter your plant survival data.
D.W. McKenney, Kesteven, J.L., Hutchinson, M.F. Venier, L.A. 2001 Canada's Plant Hardiness zones revisited using modern climate interpolation techniques. Can. J. Plant Sci.
Vol. 81, Number 1, 117-129.
Ouellet, C. E. and Sherk, L. 1967 Woody ornamental plant zonation. I. Indices of winter hardiness. Can. J. Plant Sci. 47, 231-238.
Ouellet, C. E. and Sherk, L. 1967 Woody ornamental plant zonation. II. Suitability indices of localities. Can. J. Plant Sci. 47, 339-349.
Ouellet, C. E. and Sherk, L. 1967 Woody ornamental plant zonation. III. Suitability map for the probable winter survival of ornamental trees and shrubs. Can. J. Plant Sci. 47, 351-357.
The production of the new Plant Hardiness Zones map was made possible through a collaborative effort by scientists at Natural Resources Canada's Canadian Forest Service, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Natural Resources Canada's National Atlas of Canada:
D.W. McKenney, L.A. Venier, K.L Campbell, K. Lawrence, Y.Q. Yang, J-Ch. Vlasiu, K. Farr, of the Canadian Forest Service;
M.F. Hutchinson and J.L. Kesteven of the Australian National University;
P. Schut, D. Pagurek, and A. Bootsma, of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada;
K. Lightfoot, A. Murray and R. Brooks of the National Atlas of Canada.
For further information on the departments that have collaborated on this map, visit the following sites: