Gardening Zone 9

Susan Patterson
Sweet smelling lavender thrives in zone 9.

According to the Sunset growing season map, Zone 9 includes the thermal belt of California's central valley. In this growing region gardeners don't worry about cold hardiness like they do in other parts of the United States. The bigger concern of Zone 9 gardeners is the summer heat.

USDA Zones vs. Sunset Zones

There are many factors that affect the success of a plant in a particular area. It is the culmination of these factors that determines whether or not a plant will thrive. The USDA provides a growing season map that takes into consideration winter lows in an area. This helps gardeners decide on which plants are cold hardy enough for their zone. However, within a particular USDA zone there exists numerous other factors that result in a great amount of variance within zones. These factors are not part of the USDA equation. Sunset's zone map, on the other hand, takes a multitude of factors into consideration, thus giving the gardener a wealth of information regarding the overall climate of a region.

Sunset Zone Considerations

  • Elevation
  • Latitude
  • Microclimates
  • Ocean Influence
  • Mountains, hills and valleys
  • Continental Air Influence
  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • Rainfall
  • Wind

Characteristics of Zone 9

Weather in the thermal belt is affected by both coastal and interior weather patterns. Hot and very dry air is pushed in from the inland while the ocean provides cool and moist air. This area is widely known for its citrus crops due to its hot summers and rare winter frosts. Plants that prefer cool and moist summers are difficult to grow in this region, whereas heat-loving plants thrive with minimal attention. Although there is some variation within the zone that gardeners should pay attention to, the majority of the area shares similar characteristics. Understanding these characteristics makes it easy to choose plants that will do well in this region. Common characteristics include:

  • A growing season that begins in late February and lasts through December
  • Winter low temperatures that range from 28 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit, although frost is rare
  • Very hot summers
  • Rain between November and April, averaging 2-inches per month
  • Constant sunshine during the growing season

What to Grow in Zone 9


The temperate climate allows for a wide variety of plants to be grown. The fruits, vegetables and flowers listed below are examples of some of best performers for this gardening region.


  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Kumquats
  • Peaches
  • Cherry
  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelons


  • Petunias
  • Morning Glories
  • Inpatients
  • Coleus
  • Scarlett-Creeper Vine
  • Love-Lies-Bleeding

Perennials for Sun

  • Butterfly Bush
  • Cone flower
  • Cana Lily
  • Lavender
  • Gazinia
  • Sage
  • Carnations
  • Black-eyed-Susan
  • Hibiscus
  • Wisteria
  • Sedum

Perennials for Partial Sun

  • Honeysuckle
  • Phlox
  • Passion Flower
  • Yarrow
  • Geranium
  • Hollyhock
  • Bea Balm

Perennials for Shade

  • Violet
  • Hydrangea
  • Ferns
  • Fuchsia
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Coral-Bells
  • Lungwort


  • Asparagus
  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • Beets
  • Bok Choy
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Garlic
  • Green Beans
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Salad Mix
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Winter Squash
  • Zucchini

Native Plants

Consider planting native plants in your landscape for color and beauty. Native plants are naturally tolerant to the climate and are usually less susceptible to disease and pests. Native plants have been adapting to their environment for thousands of years and require only minimal care once planted.

Yellow Monkey Flower
Yellow Monkey Flower
  • Coyote Mint
  • Columbine
  • Monkey Flower
  • Douglas Iris
  • Western Wild Ginger
  • Hairy Purple Bells
  • Pacific Bleeding Heart
  • Giant Chain Fern
  • Wood Fern
  • Native Sword Fern
  • Indian Mallow
  • California Juniper

Prolific Gardens

Growing Zone 9, as defined by Sunset, offers the opportunity for a year round garden bursting with color and a four-season harvest. Those new to gardening should check with their local Cooperative Extension Office for a guide to gardening in this region.

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Gardening Zone 9