Everything You Should Know About Gardening Zones in the UK

For many people, gardening proves to be a relaxing and productive pastime. Both younger and older generations enjoy landscaping and growing their food, but few are familiar with gardening zones and how they can impact any outdoor area’s success. 

Gardening zones are also known as hardiness zones, and they’re essential to learn about if you want to grow plants that will flourish. As we know all too well, the British among the most volatile in the world.

According to an NFU survey, two-thirds of farmers in the UK have found the weather conditions increasingly tricky in the past ten years. Approximately 57% of farms are impacted by water damage or severe flooding. 

While we cannot control the weather, there is a way to grow plants and vegetables that will survive. Let’s take an in-depth look at gardening zones.

What are Gardening Zones? 

Gardening zones or hardiness zones are worldwide references that measure different plants and vegetables’ suitability based on a country’s climate. It originates from the USA and has 13 areas of reference. 

In 1938, Donald Wyman published the first hardiness zone map and updated it in each following decade. The United States Department of Agriculture published its first map in 1960, which confused the public because both gardening zone maps contradicted each other. 

Then, in 1990 the USDA issued a detailed map that looks at data from 14,500 weather stations through 12 years. The detailed zones and updates made the data more realistic, and other countries saw the benefits of zoning their regions according to the lowest temperature. 

In simple terms, garden zones tell people what they can grow in an area. For example, in the average garden, tropical plants won’t flourish without a greenhouse and specialist knowledge. But more humid countries can grow plants that need heat to thrive in their outdoor spaces. 

How Are Gardening Zones Graded?

Gardening zones are graded depending on the minimum winter temperatures. The coldest countries will be zone one, while the hottest is zone 13. In the UK, our gardening zones range from 7 to 9 with parts of Scotland in zone 6. 

The area in which you live will depend on your gardening zone. For example, the North and East of England experiences cooler summers and harsher winters than the South and West. If you move from a warmer area to a cooler one, you might find your plants don’t grow as well as they used to. 

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Gardening Zones in the UK

When you understand which gardening zone you belong to, you can save time and money on buying seeds that won’t flourish. While many gardening enthusiasts use greenhouses and special equipment to grow exotic plants and foods, in most cases a back garden will prove too inconsistent for novice gardeners. 

Gardening zones make it easier for each country to analyse its potential to grow vital food and plants. But, there is also a distinct disadvantage of relying on hardiness zones. 

As we mentioned previously, a gardening zone is defined by its lowest temperature. Countries like Canada are in the lower zones, while The Middle East has some of the world’s highest zones. 

While the map focuses on minimum temperature, it doesn’t focus on other essential factors that impact plant growth. 


Plants need sunlight to flourish, but a country’s temperature doesn’t always define how much natural light it receives. The quality of light and how much a plant receives can also impact its growth. 


Plants and crops need water to flourish, and areas with optimum precipitation levels always have more success in growing plants than others. The hottest countries in the world produce less precipitation, impacting how well crops and plants grow. 

While zoning maps have their drawbacks, they can be useful in a country like the UK. We’re lucky because there are four distinct seasons, with adequate rainfall. So, what can you grow in your back garden with minimal effort? 

Things to Grow in the UK 

There are many plants and vegetables you can grow in the UK. If you’re starting, it’s probably better to stick to things that require minimal technical skills. Remember, gardening tools such as greenhouses mean we have the opportunity to grow exotic plants we never thought would be possible in our climate, but start slow and develop your skills first. 

The Best Vegetables to Grow in the UK

Salad Leaves & Lettuce 

It might seem easier to purchase bags of salad from the supermarket, but they have a short shelf life. It’s also more expensive than buying seeds and containers. Better still, you can grow romaine, iceberg and round lettuce indoors. 


Onions are a staple of the English diet. We use them to flavour our food and eat them on their own because they’re so delicious. As long as you plant onions six weeks before the last frost, they’ll continue to grow with little maintenance. 


One of the easiest vegetables to grow, peas don’t mind the cold at all. As long as you plant them correctly and continue to provide your peas with the right nutrients, they’ll flourish. 


Carrots are simple to grow and sprout within 21 days, as long as you plant them in fertile soil. 

Easiest Plants to Grow in the UK

You can grow a range of colourful plants in the UK, and it’s a wonderful way to add some colour to your garden. Flowers also attract bees, ladybirds and other wildlife. 

The top choices for plants include: 

  • Fuchsia
  • Hydrangea 
  • Sunflower 
  • Geraniums 
  • Helenium
  • Periwinkles 
  • Lavender 
  • Roses 
  • Pelargonium

The Bottom Line 

Knowing your UK gardening zone means you can plant a range of colourful plants and delicious vegetables. Once you know the basics of gardening, you can begin to grow exotic fruits, vegetables and plants. The choices are endless! 

If you’d like more information on creating a suitable garden for exotic plants, we can help you with our bespoke garden design service. Whether it’s a specific area for planting or a greenhouse, our team will work with you to develop the garden of your dreams.

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