However, there are drawbacks to the hardiness zones used without consulting supplementary information such as heat and rainfall.
One problem of the hardiness zones is that they do not consider the reliability of snow cover. Snow acts as an insulator in extreme cold, protecting the root system of hibernating plants. If the snow cover is reliable, the roots are subjected to lesser temperature extremes than indicated on the hardiness zone map.
For plant survival, the hardiness zone considers soil moisture, humidity, number of annual frost days, and the risk of a rare disastrous cold snap. Often this information would be more beneficial than just the average conditions.
Another factor to consider in plant survivability is the day length. It is insufficient or requires a particular duration of low temperature (vernalization). One can go to the library and research gardening books such as Sunset Books that redefine finer detail rather than USDA zones. Sunset Books reflect the hardiness zone as 45 distinct zones which incorporate temperature ranges by season, precipitation, wind patterns, elevation, and length and structure of the growing season.
Hardiness zones are a helpful reference if used in conjunction with other data such as heat zones, humidity, and rainfall distribution.
Below is the American Horticultural Society (AHS) heat zone chart that can be used with the USDA hardiness zone map to make an informed decision on plant survivability in your area.
Source of Information on Hardiness Zones