Florida’s New USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map: A win for Tropical Fruit Growers
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released their updated Plant Hardiness Zone Map for Florida, and it’s brought about some significant changes for tropical fruit enthusiasts in the Sunshine State.
- Zone 10a has expanded significantly: This zone, which was previously limited to the southernmost tip of Florida, now encompasses much of the state’s coastline, including Tampa Bay and Orlando. This means that a wider range of tropical fruit trees can now be grown successfully in these areas
- Zone 9b has shrunk: Conversely, Zone 9b has shrunk considerably, with most of its territory now falling within Zone 10a. This means that some previously borderline-hardy tropical fruits may require less protection during colder winters.
- New zones introduced: Two new zones have been introduced: 10b and 11a. These zones are the warmest in the country and are limited to a few small pockets in the Florida Keys and Miami-Dade County. These zones can support the growth of even the most frost-sensitive tropical fruits.
What does this mean for tropical fruit growers?
For many tropical fruit enthusiasts, the expansion of Zone 10a is welcome news. This means that a wider variety of fruits, such as mangoes, avocados, guava, sugar apple, breadfruit, and badea (passiflora quadrangularis), can now be grown successfully in more parts of the state.
Fruits that will grow easier in Florida
Sugar apple, also known as sweetsop, is a delicious and nutritious fruit with a creamy texture and a sweet, custard-like flavor. It is a good source of vitamins C and B6, and it is also high in fiber. Sugar apple trees grow well in warm climates and are relatively drought-tolerant.
Breadfruit is a versatile fruit that can be eaten cooked or raw. It has a mild flavor and a starchy texture, similar to potatoes. Breadfruit trees are fast-growing and can produce a large amount of fruit each year. They are also relatively tolerant of pests and diseases.
Badea, also known as giant granadilla, is a large, sweet fruit with a tangy flavor. It is a good source of vitamins A and C, and it is also high in fiber. Badea vines can grow up to 30 feet long and can produce a large amount of fruit each year. They are relatively pest-resistant and can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions.
Planting these fruits and other tropical fruits will be better for growers for several reasons:
- Increased income: Tropical fruits can be sold at a premium price, especially if they are grown organically. This can be a great way to supplement your income or even start a small business.
- Improved food security: Having your own source of fresh fruit can help you to save money on groceries and ensure that you always have access to healthy, nutritious food.
- Reduced environmental impact: Tropical fruit trees can help to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and they can also provide habitat for wildlife.
- Increased biodiversity: Planting a variety of tropical fruit trees can help to increase the biodiversity of your landscape, which can attract beneficial insects and pollinators.
- Personal satisfaction: There is something very satisfying about growing your own food and enjoying the fruits of your labor.
- The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) offers a wealth of information on tropical fruit growing in Florida, including zone recommendations and specific care instructions.
- The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) also provides resources for fruit growers, including information on pest and disease management.
The updated USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map for Florida presents both opportunities and challenges for tropical fruit growers.
With careful planning and research, growers can take advantage of the expanded range of suitable zones and continue to enjoy the bounty of fresh, homegrown tropical fruits.
I encourage you to consult the new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map and make any necessary adjustments to your growing practices. With careful planning and research, you can continue to enjoy the bounty of fresh, homegrown tropical fruits.