If you’re located in Zone 8 and need some planting and care tips, check out our growing guide below so you can grow with confidence in your location!
Where is Zone 8?
USDA Zone 8 spans mainly from coastal Virginia to central Texas, including the entirety of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. It then extends through a large part of central Texas and forms a slender meandering path north through western California and up the west coast on the ocean side of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains.
Since Zone 8 comprises so many states, its geology can vary greatly. However, there’s a reason that southern states are depicted in photos and on film with an abundance of dense, red clay soil. It’s vital to augment your garden soil if you live in one of these southern states to help your plants along and let their roots breathe.
What to Consider When Planting in Zone 8
Zone 8’s minimum average temperatures, like the other USDA zones, are ten degrees warmer than those of Zone 7. It’s also divided into two subzones: 8a and 8b. The minimum average temperature of Zone 8a is 10-15° Fahrenheit, and the minimum average temperature of Zone 8b is 15-20° Fahrenheit. Unusual weather patterns and events can cause these temps to fluctuate, and despite the averages, the coldest temps in Zone 8 rarely fall below 32°.
Any perennials, shrubs, grasses, and trees you decide to plant must be hardy to Zone 8, meaning that they can withstand the minimum average temperature well enough to thrive each year. Some annual species can over-winter with the addition of mulch to keep frost and cold out, and it’s not unusual for plants such as tomatoes to spawn volunteers from seeds dropped the year before.
Before choosing plants and growing them, it’s important to observe both sunny and shaded areas on your property, as well as damp and dry zones. These observations play a big part in whether your landscaping will work well and if your plantings succeed.
Choosing Plants for Zone 8
Zone 8 has hot summers and mild winters and can host a wide variety of flowers, trees, shrubs and perennials. The southern coastline is home to several semi-tropical species, and southern Zone 8 can support several citrus varieties not found further north.
Along with the Zone 8 heat comes a need for shade protection and, often, wind protection from strong storms. Landscapes benefit from large trees and showy but hardy shrubs, and landscapers can enjoy countless design possibilities through attractive foliage and architectural plant forms.
Here are some plant suggestions for beautifying your Zone 8 landscape:
Speaking of shade, here are some terrific choices for shade trees that will help keep you more comfortable outdoors and your house cooler during hot summers:
Southern Red Oak Tree: Oak trees are the quintessential shade trees. They grow large and robust and never fail to look good and offer shade. This Southern Red Oak has gorgeous red foliage in the fall, grows quickly to 60-80-feet tall, and thrives in the heat and humidity of Zone 8, although they are hardy in Zones 6-10.
Patmore Green Ash Tree: This low-maintenance and fast-growing Ash Tree is the strongest Ash available. This tree grows 50-70 feet tall, is cold-hardy and disease-resistant, and offers bright yellow fall foliage when the seasons change. The Patmore Green Ash grows 50-70 feet tall and thrives in wet or dry soil. As a bonus, it sports a symmetrical growth pattern that doesn’t need pruning, making it easy to care for and a pleasure to look at.
Live Oak Tree (shown below): Arguably the most iconic of southern trees, the Live Oak Tree grows wider than it does tall. With small leaves and intricate limb patterns, you see them often festooned with beautiful Spanish moss, lining long driveways and adding to the landscape of low-lying areas. These elegant trees grow a canopy of around 100 feet wide and 30-40 feet tall. These beautiful trees are hardy in zones 7-10.
Even in warm climates, evergreens add shape and a lovely scent to a landscape. They also provide privacy and can add visual architectural interest when planted in groups. Here are some evergreens that do well in Zone 8:
Hollywood Juniper Tree: Deer resistant and drought-tolerant, the Hollywood Juniper Tree grows to about 15 feet tall in graceful spirals that visually enhance boring walls, fences, and entranceways. Singularly attractive when planted by itself, it also makes a formidable windbreak or privacy screen when planted in rows. And, since it is drought- salt- wind- and cold-tolerant, it is easy to grow anywhere.
Sylvester Palm Tree: In Zone 8, some tropical species grow very well, so if that’s your aesthetic, the Sylvester Palm Tree makes an excellent choice. These palm trees grow in full sun, produce both male and female flowers, and produce sweet, small dates that can be used for preserves, wine, or eaten by themselves. The Sylvester Palm grows to about 25 feet tall at maturity and delivers beautiful blue-green foliage that catches your eye no matter where it grows.
Monkey Puzzle Tree (shown below): The interesting foliage and unique branch structure of this conifer add a unique point of interest to any landscape in Zones 6-10. The Monkey Puzzle Tree grows to about 70 feet tall and is an excellent choice for gardeners looking for something different to adorn their landscape. The tree requires full sun and is deer resistant and low maintenance.
There’s many fruit trees that thrive in Zone 8 - too many to list! The near-endless choices include everything from apples to cherries to figs and even some citrus varieties. Take advantage of these warm-weather picks, in particular:
Harvey Lemon Tree: These gorgeous lemons are useful for all culinary purposes and have the added advantage of being very cold-hardy. They’ve been known to withstand temperatures down to 20° and even a couple of degrees colder than that. This nearly seedless variety is packed full of juice, making it a terrific choice for making lemonade. And it’s resistant to lemon tree diseases too. The Harvey Lemon grows to 12-14 feet tall, unpruned, and is known to produce fruit in its first year.
Lane Late Navel Orange Tree: While most orange trees produce fruit in the winter, the Lane Late Navel Orange produces fruit in late spring, and the fruit stays ripe on the tree for months. This long-lasting harvest makes a satisfying choice for summertime and enjoying fresh-squeezed orange juice on a hot day! Hardy in Zones 8-11, this small 8-foot tree also produces showy, dark, evergreen foliage and can be planted in groups for a dramatic effect and an increased yield.
Dwarf Cavendish Banana Tree (shown below): If the beautiful, 4-foot, dark-green leaves aren’t enough, this tree produces loads of fantastic bananas packed full of potassium and fiber. The fruit emerges in January, and this tree grows quickly to 8-10 feet tall. Bananas are a beautiful landscape tree, adding a tropical canopy for shade and dramatic shape and interest to the yard. The Dwarf Cavendish Banana Tree is hardy outdoors in Zones 8-11.
Zone 8 is a wonderful climate for growing flowering trees and shrubs. From gorgeous, dinner-plate-sized, fragrant magnolias to showy, colorful hibiscus shrubs, the possibilities for a beautiful, aromatic garden are nearly endless. Here are just a few choices that will provide stunning blooms and interest to your landscape:
Southern Magnolia Tree: This beautiful tree provides drama year-round, producing shiny, dark-green foliage and highly scented, creamy-white flowers. This southern belle is also drought-tolerant and flood-resistant, thriving in most soil types. Growing 30-50 feet tall at maturity, these magnolias feature moderate growth and are hardy in Zones 7-9 outdoors.
Crape Myrtle Trees: These summer bloomers are everywhere in the south and come in colors from white to pink to deep red to purple. They feature smooth bark and a graceful limb structure that brightens and beautifies any landscape. These summer bloomers are easy to grow, attract hummingbirds, and are generally a joy to have in the yard.
Butterfly Bushes (CranRazz™ Butterfly Bush shown below): Like Crape Myrtles, Butterfly Bushes come in a variety of colors from purple to orange to white and attract pollinators in addition to butterflies and hummingbirds. They tend to be drought- and heat-tolerant and are easy to care for. Growing to 4-6 feet tall and hardy in Zones 5-10, these shrubs are a great choice for borders and corners and provide hours of butterfly watching.
The warmer climate of Zone 8 allows many flowers that are annuals in other zones to come back year after year because the roots don’t freeze and die. Varieties such as dahlias, Asiatic Lilies, and cannas can bloom year after year with showy blossoms and fragrance. Shasta Daisies (Becky Shasta Daisy shown below), peonies, coneflowers, lavender and verbena also overwinter well in Zone 8. As in any planting zone, observe the amount of sun your yard or landscape gets during the day so that you can choose flowers that will grow successfully in those areas.
Planting in Zone 8
Before planting, be sure to check your frost dates. These can vary in Zone 8, but in general, the first frost date is typically sometime in November, and the last frost date usually occurs in March. These dates should be a baseline, as weather conditions can change quickly, so always check your weather forecast before planting. It’s also crucial to learn your plants’ specific needs, as this will set your landscape up for success. Always research your plants’ specifications before purchasing and planting so you can be well prepared.
Zone 8 offers tremendous planting opportunities for both the professional landscaper and the home gardener. The warm coastlines allow tropical and unusual species to thrive, while the interior land delivers an excellent climate for growing fruits and vegetables. Give your plants and trees the best advantage by knowing soil types, sun and shade conditions, and the general environment of your property. Doing your due diligence for your landscape will greatly help with the success of your design and allow you to truly enjoy your property!
Other Helpful Resources:
- Growing Zones Guide: Zone 4
- Growing Zones Guide: Zone 5
- Growing Zones Guide: Zone 6
- Growing Zones Guide: Zone 7