13 Tough But Pretty Perennials That Will Breeze Through Harsh Winters (2022)

Before freezing temperatures arrive, its important to know which cold climate plants are tough enough to survive frost. Here are some top picks for the most reliable, cold-hardy perennials that you can count on to take a polar vortex or two in stride and come back strong in the spring.

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Sedum

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Need a hardy creeper or a colorful tall plant for the back of the border? Look no further than the sedum family, which includes both low-growing types and more upright forms. These rough-and-tumble plants survive both hot summers and cold winters. They're also drought-tolerant perennials, so they're real winners if rainfall is scarce in your area.

Test Garden Tip: Wait to cut down the faded flower stalks of tall sedums until spring. They'll add interest to your winter garden by poking through the snow.

Name: Sedum

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 2 feet tall and wide

Zones: 4-8

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Peony

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Northern gardeners can rely on peonies to provide a spring festival of color. These plants are tough enough to survive long, frigid winters. Peonies are available in a wide variety of flower forms and colors, so you should have no trouble finding one or more that fits in with the rest of your garden's design.

Test Garden Tip: Trim dead peony foliage back to the ground in winter. That way, the new spring foliage won't have to poke through the previous year's dead leaves.

Name: Paeonia

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-8

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Coneflower

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An American native perennial, coneflower is a tough and rugged flowering plant that tolerates drought well. Its large flowers bloom through the summer and fall, drawing pollinators. Varieties are available in a wide range of colors, like pink, purple, yellow, orange, red, and white, plus there are a few different flower forms. Most varieties are hardy enough for cold weather, but some of the modern hybrids aren't very cold weather-tolerant, so check the plant label before you buy.

Test Garden Tip: Help coneflowers and other perennials weather winters better by covering them with a 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch after they go dormant in the fall. Uncover them in the early spring after the soil thaws.

Name: Echinacea

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Zones: 3-8

Buy It: Purple Coneflower (from $30, Etsy)

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Bee Balm

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Bring bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies to the garden with bee balm. This upright, aromatic perennial develops beautiful flowers resembling mopheads that can be pink, red, orange, purple, or white, depending on the variety you choose. This plant belongs to the mint family and like many other mint relatives, it can spread quickly, so place it where it will have room to ramble.

Name: Monarda

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Zones: 4-9

Buy It: Scarlet Beebalm Seeds ($2, Etsy)

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Wild Columbine

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A delightful spring bloomer, wild columbine forms large colonies in partially shady locations. Each plant might only live a few years, but they re-seed easily, so a patch of this perennial will likely sustain itself for decades. Its wiry stems support pink and yellow flowers that bob and dance on spring breezes.

Name: Aquilegia canadensis

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 36 inches tall and 18 inches wide

Zones: 3-8

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Coral Bells

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Pack a ton of color into your shady garden beds with coral bells. Prized for their colorful foliage, coral bells come in shades of purple, green, yellow, orange, red, and multicolored varieties. As a bonus, the plants send up spikes of pink or white bell-shaped flowers in the early summer.

Name: Heuchera

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide

Zones: 3-8

Buy It: Dolce Spearmint Coral Bells ($16, The Home Depot)

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Siberian Iris

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Native to northern Turkey and Russia, Siberian iris isn't bothered when temperatures drop below zero. This reliable perennial puts on a spectacular spring show of blue, purple, lilac, yellow, or white flowers. It also produces thick clumps of dark green, straplike leaves that provides lasting beauty after it blooms.

Name: Iris sibirica

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Zones: 3-8

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'Moonbeam' Coreopsis

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Throughout the summer, 'Moonbeam' coreopsis produces a seemingly endless supply of cheerful yellow flowers. It's also a rugged variety that takes cold winter temperatures in stride. Not all coreopsis varieties are as winter hardy as 'Moonbeam', so check the plant label before you buy.

Test Garden Tip: To keep 'Moonbeam' in top form, dig and divide the plants every several years.

Name: Coreopsis verticillata 'Moonbeam'

Growing Conditions: Full sun in medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 2 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-9

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Baptisia

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Once established, Baptisia can live for decades. Also called false indigo, this hardy prairie native has pretty gray-green foliage topped with sprays of blue, purple, white, or yellow flowers in the spring. Thanks to its prairie heritage, Baptisia can tolerate both summer heat and below-zero winters. This perennial grows slowly, so buy the largest plants you can find if you want a faster flower show.

Test Garden Tip: Baptisia can be a bit fussy when transplanted, so place it in your garden in the early spring. That way the plant will have plenty of time to develop a strong root system before summer's heat kicks in.

Name: Baptisia

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in dry to medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 4 feet tall and wide

Zones: 3-9

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Catmint

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You'll love catmint for its lavender-like flowers in spring and summer, making it an ideal substitute for actual lavender, which is less winter hardy (its leaves are fragrant like lavender, too!). Shear back the plants after the first wave of flowers fades in spring and you'll get a second wave of bloom in late summer.

Test Garden Tip: Catmint starts to bloom almost as soon as it breaks dormancy in the spring, so clip the plants back in the fall to make way for fresh growth the next year. This will also allow snow to accumulate over the crown of the plants, which helps insulate them in the winter.

Name: Nepeta

Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade in dry to medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 30 inches tall and 36 inches wide

Zones: 4-8

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Heliopsis

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An American native, Heliopsis (also called oxeye daisy or false sunflower) produces masses of cheerful yellow flowers all summer long. Heliopsis is a large perennial, so plant it where it can spread out. It isn't fussy about soil type but does need full sun to keep stems upright; it'll flop over if grown in part shade. The blooms make pretty cut flowers and the more you cut, the more the plant will produce.

Name: Heliopsis helianthoides

Growing Conditions: Full sun in dry to medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide

Zones: 3-9

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New England Aster

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Keep your garden colorful through the fall by adding a generous dose of New England asters. These easy-care natives burst into bloom just as other perennials in your garden start to flag. New England asters are also a popular source for nectar for migrating monarch butterflies on their way south each year. Available in shades of pink and purple, asters look terrific paired with ornamental grasses and chrysanthemums.

Test Garden Tip: After asters finish blooming, cut the tall stems back to the ground to prevent them from flopping over under the weight of the snow. This will keep the plant tidier and healthier in the spring.

Name: Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

Growing Conditions: Full sun in medium moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Zones: 4-8

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Hosta

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The Home DepotMake hostas the backbone of your shade garden. Unfazed by cold winters, hostas just keep growing bigger and better every year. Because these hardy perennials are available in a seemingly endless selection of shapes, sizes, and colors, they're a lot of fun to mix and match in your garden. They also make perfect companions for other shade-lovers such as astilbe, deadnettle, barrenwort, coral bells, and bleeding heart.

Name: Hosta

Growing Conditions: Part shade in evenly moist, well-drained soil

Size: Up to 18 inches tall and 30 inches wide

Zones: 3-8

Buy It: Variegated Hosta Plant ($15, The Home Depot)

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