Growing Zones Guide: Zone 5

Sarah Logie — Jan 05, 2022

If you’re located in Zone 5 and need some planting and care tips, check out our growing considerations and specific plant recommendations for your area below so you can grow confidently!

Where is Zone 5?

The USDA Hardiness Zone 5 stretches from southern Maine and central New England to northern Nevada and western Oregon. The westernmost areas of Zone 5 are sparsely distributed – the bulk of Zone 5 is concentrated in the central United States, comprising Nebraska, Iowa, northern Illinois, and northern Indiana. Zone 5 extends into 32 states, despite this central density, due to mountainous areas in otherwise warmer climates.

USDA Map

Zone 5’s geological features are less diverse than its colder cousin, Zone 4. Some common similarities between the two zones are four distinct seasons, warm and humid summers with heavy precipitation, and cold winters with occasional heavy snowfall. Zone 5 has a medium growing season – although, it’s shorter than warmer zones.

What to Consider When Planting in Zone 5

Annual flowers such as Geraniums and Begonias do well in the summer regardless of zone, but when you purchase perennials, shrubs, grasses, and trees, they must be hardy to Zone 5. This characteristic means that they can withstand the minimum average temperature well enough to thrive each year.

Soil conditions vary throughout Zone 5, so understanding what soil type you have is also vital to ensuring the health of your new plants and trees. For instance, the Tama soil in Iowa is a thick and dark, well-drained soil, while the soil in southern Maine is acidic and contains quite a bit of organic matter.

One last thing to consider is any microclimates on your property, such as areas of broad shade or areas near running water, lakes, or ponds. Take time to observe how the temperatures change in your yard, which places are more windy than others, and how the sun moves throughout the day. Understanding your landscape will help you choose the right spot to plant your new trees and shrubs.

Choosing Plants for Zone 5

Zone 5 plays host to a wide variety of trees and shrubs. Evergreen bushes and deciduous or flowering shrubs anchor gardens and landscape designs and can withstand bouts of harsh winter weather. If you’re adding to your landscape or redesigning your property, take a look at some of the options you can choose from:

Shade Trees

Shade trees provide lush foliage and covering for your property in the spring and summer, then give you stunning autumn colors before falling off the tree and becoming dormant for winter. Whether you want fall color or a fast-growing fruit tree that blossoms in the spring, here’s some varieties that do well in Zone 5:

  • American Sycamore: The American Sycamore’s large green leaves and patterned brown and white winter bark add interest and shade to your yard. Enjoy its beautiful gold foliage in the fall before this beauty allows the sun through for the winter. These trees grow to 70 feet tall at a rate of around 4-6 feet per year, so you won’t have to wait very long for this tree to enhance your yard and beautify your landscape. Tolerant of all soil types, the American Sycamore is hardy from Zones 4-9.
  • Red Sunset® Maple (pictured below): With a height of up to 40-50 feet tall, this drought-resistant Maple develops color early in the fall season, and the foliage lasts longer than other varieties. Featuring a strong branch pattern, it also weathers storms and high winds like a champ. This gorgeous tree grows well in Zones 4-9.
  • Weeping Willow: Despite its reputation for needing a lot of water, the Weeping Willow can grow just about anywhere and can even tolerate some drought. After reaching roughly ten feet tall, the branches begin to sweep downward and create the dramatic cascade for which they’re known. This classic beauty grows quickly to around 30-50 feet tall and wide and is hardy in Zones 4-9.

Red Sunset Maple

Evergreens

The fresh scent of fir trees is familiar in Zone 5, and many evergreen varieties thrive in this climate. Some evergreens create beautiful, natural privacy fences, while others add contrast with their unusual shapes or colors. Here’s some evergreens that do well in Zone 5:

  • Emerald Green Arborvitae: This dense and adaptable Arborvitae creates a medium-sized privacy hedge that requires little maintenance and no trimming. Growing 10-15 ft. tall and 3-4 ft. wide, these trees are disease-resistant and sport a bright color that stays green throughout the year. Their shape adds a pleasing break to boring landscapes, and they’re hardy in Zones 3-8.
  • Fat Albert Colorado Blue Spruce (pictured below): This slow-growing conifer features a silver-blue color that contrasts nicely with other greenery in your garden. The tree grows naturally in a pyramidal shape, only adding around 12-15 inches of growth per year. What’s more is that this Spruce isn’t picky about its soil conditions and is extremely cold-hardy, thriving in Zones 2-8!
  • Austrian Pine: Noted for tolerating high winds and drought conditions, this lush pine tree can also serve in a privacy wall or standalone capacity on your property. The medium-length needles add airiness to this tree, and it can withstand poor soils, including dense clays and high salt content. This fast grower reaches 40-60 feet tall in maturity and is hardy in Zones 4-8.

Fat Albert

Fruit Trees and Bushes

The weather in Zone 5 can support many types of fruit trees, so you can achieve delicious, convenient harvests in your own backyard. However, noting your subzone can help produce a better outcome, depending on which tree you choose. Take a look at some excellent fruit trees suited for Zone 5:

  • Apple Trees: Many varieties of apples grow well in Zone 5, but here’s a few popular types that you’ll be able to enjoy year after year in your area. The delicious Honeycrisp™ has gained a great deal of popularity, and the classic McIntosh combines sweetness and tanginess in one appealing package. Other apples to consider are the tart Granny Smith as a snacking or baking apple, or the sweet Winesap, which is full of tasty flavor.
  • Cherry Trees: Zone 5 can host both sweet and tart cherry varieties. Sweet cherry trees to choose from include the popular Stella, Sweetheart, and Bing varieties. If you prefer more tart varieties, North Star and Montmorency are excellent choices. Many of these trees produce fruit in the first year of planting and also feature beautiful spring blossoms for added enjoyment.
  • Peach Trees: Although the southern United States has a reputation for producing great peaches, Zone 5 is also home to a number of reliable and delicious peach varieties. Again, know your zone before purchasing a peach tree, and choose one that can handle your minimum temps. The Contender Peach is a great choice, as well as the super-sweet Elberta Peach (pictured below).

Elberta Peach

Flowering Trees and Shrubs

Living in a cold climate with a short growing season doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy beautiful flowering shrubs and bushes. Choose from the below varieties and others to add interest, color, and fragrance to your garden and landscape.

  • Dogwoods: When spring comes around, there’s fewer points of beauty than a gorgeous Dogwood in full bloom. Whether you choose white, pink, red, or some of each, these trees break up the landscape with stunning flowers and airy branches for instant elegance. For specific variety recommendations, try out the White Dogwood, Pink Dogwood (pictured below) or Cherokee Chief Dogwood.
  • Crabapples: Make the birds and squirrels happy with a Crabapple Tree that’ll liven up any yard it inhabits. With flowers ranging from deep maroons to pale pinks, varieties like the Profusion Crabapple and Prarifire Crabapple tend to be very hardy, disease-resistant, and non-picky about soil conditions. They also don’t grow very tall, so they make tasteful choices for a corner or a front yard with limited space.
  • Flowering Cherries: If you love the look of cherry blossoms in the spring without having to deal with the fruit, flowering cherry trees make beautiful centerpieces for your yard. Kwanzan Cherries produce abundant, double-petaled, pale pink blossoms in Zone 5, while the ethereal Pink Weeping Cherry blooms profusely on its graceful branches, thriving down to chilly Zone 4.

Pink Dogwood

Perennials

Zone 5 supports a multitude of perennials for a garden that keeps giving year after year. Lilacs, Daylilies, Echinacea, Bee Balm, and Delphinium all do well in cool-climate gardens. And pollinators love finding Lavender along with Salvias, Sedum, and Peonies. Try out some of the below varieties to create a garden of perennial perfection!

  • Bloomerang® Lilac Shrub (pictured below): Beautiful lavender blossoms cover this shrub from spring to winter, and long, upright branches are fountain-like.
  • Phenomenal™ Lavender: Vibrant, versatile and thriving in tough conditions, this bright purple, aromatic Lavender is a reliable and graceful choice for the garden.
  • Fort Hill Creeping Phlox: This low-growing shrub boasts vivid, blush pink blooms that are star-shaped for unique garden appeal. Enjoy its evergreen foliage, drought tolerance and planting versatility.

Bloomerang® Lilac

Planting in Zone 5

When planting, you'll want to keep the first and last frost dates for your area in mind. These dates can fluctuate by a couple of weeks in Zone 5, but in general, September 30th to October 30th is when the first frost date occurs and when you should halt planting. And March 30th to April 30th is when the last frost date occurs and when you can begin planting again.

These dates should be used only as a baseline, as weather conditions can change quickly and from year to year – use these dates as a reference, but check your weather forecasts to determine the ideal time to plant in your area each year.

Final Considerations

The best way to ensure a beautiful landscape is to do your research. Know your soil type and how to properly augment it, purchase plants that'll do well in your location, and understand how to care for your specific varieties. Then, plant after the last frost, choose from the wide variety of shrubs and trees that flourish in Zone 5 (or even 4), and enjoy! With a little bit of work on your end, you’ll be admiring your landscape for years to come.

Other Helpful Resources:

Sarah Logie

As Content Strategist at FastGrowingTrees.com, Sarah is smitten with words and a fanatic for flowers, particularly cut florals and house plants. With a love for curating compelling content, she also enjoys furthering her plant knowledge along the way! A few of her favorite flowers include hibiscus, hydrangeas, peonies and dahlias.

Sarah’s fondness for plants was cultivated through many childhood trips to Longwood Gardens in southeastern Pennsylvania, as well as through her first job out of college at a floral event design company. In her free time, catch her snapping photos of anything and everything, day-dreaming about interior decor, and enjoying the outdoors any chance she gets.

Questions? Contact Sarah at information@fastgrowingtrees.com.

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