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Gardening in Pennsylvania
(Gardening in a Cold Climate)

See also: Native Plants

USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Input your zip code to find your zone. The city of Pittsburgh will be warmer than outlying areas.

According to the Men's Garden Club of Pittsburgh, the average last hard frost for Pittsburgh is April 20 and for outlying communities, April 30. Because Pittsburgh lies west of the Allegheny Mountains, its gardening climate is often more similar to that of the Midwest than the MidAtlantic, which is tempered by the ocean and not as cold.


Selected Books

Ball, Liz
Month-by-Month Gardening in Pennsylvania
SB453.2.P4 B36 2001
Month-by-Month Gardening in Pennsylvania is packed with information that explains what needs to be done and when it needs to be done in the Pennsylvania garden.
Ball, Liz
Pennsylvania Gardener's Guide
SB407.B287 2002
Contains easy to use advice on the top landscape plant choices (more than 160entries) for Pennsylvania. Recommends specific varieties and provides advice on how to plant, how to grow and how to care for Pennsylvania's best plants.
Bendtsen, Birgitte Husted
Gardening With Hardy Geraniums
q SB413.G35 B4313 2005
Coleman, Eliot
The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
SB324.3.C664 2009
This updated book from Eliot Coleman of Maine is for the serious gardener or professional who really wants to extend the growing season and eat locally produced food year round.
Culp, David L.
The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage
q SB473.C84 2012
David Culp has a garden in Eastern Pennsylvania where he specializes in perennials, grasses, bulbs and other long-lived plants that provide a changing landscape throughout the four seasons. Lots of photos.
Dirr, Michael
Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia
rq SB435.5.H37 1997
Dirr is from the University of Georgia and includes plants that are hardy from zones 3 to 8 (Pittsburgh is zone 5-6).
DiSabato-Aust, Tracy
The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting & Pruning Techniques
q SB434.D37 2006
Tracy DiSabato-Aust lives in Ohio and almost all of the plants she discusses will grow well in Western Pennsylvania.
Fell, Derek
Encyclopedia of Hardy Plants: annuals, bulbs, herbs, perennials, shrubs, trees, vegetables, fruits & nuts
q SB450.95.F44 2007
Check here for varieties of plants that are cold hardy. Fell is also the author of The Pennsylvania Gardener.
Fell, Derek
The Pennsylvania Gardener: All about Gardening in the Keystone State
SB451.34.P4 F45 1995
Derek Fell is a professional garden photographer who lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, at historic Cedaridge Farm, where he cultivates an award-winning garden of flowers, fruits and vegetables.
Fergus, Charles
Trees of Pennsylvania and the Northeast
QK183.F47 2002
This book describes more than 60 species of trees found in Pennsylvania and the northeastern United States.
Harnden, Philip
A Gardener's Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons
SB321.H26 2003
In this book, all aspects of frost are explained to help gardeners start their planting earlier in the spring and extend their growing season later in the fall. You’ll learn what weather systems produce frost, how it damages, or enhances, the flavor of your plants, how to read your garden’s microclimate, and how to design your garden so you can work with frost, instead of against it.
Heger, Mike
Growing Perennials in Cold Climates
SB434.H425 2011
Written for Minnesota gardeners, you won't find any perennials here that will succumb to Pittsburgh's cold. Includes detailed planting and maintenance information.
Kelaidis, Gwen Moore
Hardy Succulents: Tough Plants for Every Climate
SB438.K45 2007x
Anyone who has an Opuntia cactus knows that there are some succulents that survive the snow and below freezing weather just fine.
McIntire, Suzanne
An American Cutting Garden: A Primer for Growing Cut Flowers Where Summers Are Hot and Winters Are Cold
SB405.5.M53 M36 2002
McIntire, a gardener in northern Virginia, shares 200 choice plants and tips for doing the ground work and reaping the rewards of gardens that are small, shady, for fall, and/or for beginners.
Rose, Nancy, Don Selinger, and John Whitman
Growing Shrubs and Small Trees in Cold Climates
q SB435.R67 2001
These Minnesota authors give detailed information on 750 varieties of native and nonnative trees and shrubs. They also give sources for the plants.
Severa, Joan
Creating a Perennial Garden in the Midwest
SB434.S48 1999x
Because it is written by a woman from Wisconsin with a garden in Zone 4, almost all of the plant recommendations will survive in the Pittsburgh area, which is Zone 5. She tells of her experience with her own lot, both failures and successes.
Sternberg, Guy and Jim Wilson
Native Trees for North American Landscapes: From the Atlantic to the Rockies
rq SB435.5.S74 2004
Use in conjunction with Trees of Pennsylvania and the Northeast (above), to identify native trees most appropriate for landscaping in Western Pennsylvania.
Sternberg, Ilene and Alison Beck
Best Garden Plants for Pennsylvania
PENNA SB453.2.P4 S74 2006x
Ilene Sternberg is a resident of West Chester, Pensylvania and writes a bi-weekly garden column for The News Journal in Wilmington, Delaware. The book features annuals, perennials, shrubs, etc. that tend to be failproof.
Tullock, John
Growing Hardy Orchids
SB409.T8485 2005
This Timber Press book offers a catalog of 103 hardy and half-hardy orchids, some can even withstand -50 degree weather.
Whittaker, Paul, 1957-
Hardy Bamboos: Taming the Dragon
SB317.B2 W49 2005
Whittaker is British so what is hardy in Britain isn't the same as what is hardy in Western Pennsylvania. Zone information is included so just look for bamboos that can survive in zone 5.

Browse the Catalog

For additional titles, browse the library catalog under the subjects:


Web Sites





Nearby States

  • Botanical Interests: Second Chances
    After the summer solstice you have a second chance to grow “cool season” crops, often with better success than the first time. Think Head Formers: lettuce, cabbage, radicchio, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, endive, escarole, and bulb fennel; Brassicas: cauliflower, broccoli, rapini/broccoli raab, rutabagas, turnips, romanesco; and Cool Customers: carrots, snow peas, beets, spinach, mustard, kale, kohlrabi, green onions, winter radish, Daikon.
  • Cold Climate Gardening
    This is the blog of Kathy Purdy of upstate New York.
  • Fine Gardening: Shelter Plants from Winter's Worst
    Simple seasonal cover-ups protect young and tender plants to provide an extra zone or more of warmth.

Last updated December 18, 2012