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Tips on Selecting a Cold Hardy Plant

Selecting the right plant and placing it in the right location is one of the most important tips a UF/IFAS extension agent and Master Gardener can tell you. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to select the wrong plant for this area. Not all plants grow well here in Central Florida. Often we see pygmy date palms, crotons, ti plants or other tropical plants turn to “toast” when we get our first hard freeze. These plants do not survive freezes because they are suited to a much warmer environment, such as South Florida. Counties such as Orange, Polk and even Lake County are in a totally different cold hardiness zone than Sumter County. Sumter County’s minimum temperatures average between 20-25 degrees, while Lake County average 25-30 degrees. Five degrees from Lake County does not seem like much, but can make a difference in success and failure in certain plant species.  Sumter County is located in a hardiness zone of 9A. If you purchase a plant that is not suited to this zone and it is freeze sensitive, then you may have to take measures in protecting it from a hard freeze or frost. Hardiness zone not only applies to plants susceptible to freeze, but plants that cannot tolerate our long warm growing season or blistering hot and humid summers. Residents who move to Florida may find growing common plants such as hostas, Japanese maples and tulips very hard to do on Sumter County. Some of these plants may fare well in Ocala or Gainesville, but these plants typically have a hard time in Sumter County. For more information, please visit