Cold Hardy Plants

Inspiration / Problem Solving Plants

Cold Hardy Plants

Thanks to one of our founding independent growers, Sheridan Nurseries and their sales representative Brianna Hastie for sharing this article on cold hardy plants!  Sheridan Nurseries is located in Georgetown, Ontario so they know cold hardy plants!


After coming out of a severe cold snap with temperatures of -30°C(-22°F) it is hard to imagine that anything could survive outside exposed, with out protection. Luckily for us, some plants are as tough as nails and are prepared for when mother nature gets in one of her harsh moods. We call these plants Cold-Hardy and they are particularity appreciated up here in Ontario where today the temperature hovers around a toasty -22°C with the windchill.


Plants are tested to be Cold-Hardy, to survive a typical winter, based on geographically defined Zones, established by the United States Department of Agriculture. The lower digits indicate colder temperature Zones and the average temperatures of each Zone increase as the digits increase. For example, Zone 1 is the coldest Zone (think Arctic Tundra) and Zone 9 is more like the Sunshine State of Florida. Since the title of this article is ‘Cold-Hardy Plants’, we will not be focusing too much on Florida. Instead, let’s turn our attention to some tried and trusted plants, certified by Handpicked for You®, that thrive in Zones 2, 3, 4 & 5.


This time of year, it is easy to get wrapped up in the scenery. The majestic Spruce and Pine that dominate the winter landscape make us think they are the only plants capable of holding their own during the colder months but there is a wide selection of plants that will not back down. Cold-Hardy perennials are a terrific way to add a variety of texture and colour to the garden. Some perennials have extremely tough root systems that can survive through the freeze by letting their top growth die back to the ground and sprouting new growth in the Spring. Firewitch Cheddar Pinks (Dianthus gratianopolitanus 'Firewitch’) are a wonderful choice for mass plantings. They showcase delicate bright pink flowers above mats of long, thin baby blue foliage. Another option that offers more height is False Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis). This native perennial stands 3-4 ft. tall and in the Spring, produces strings of indigo-blue flowers on each stem. It is recommended to do a yard clean up of your perennials in the early Spring, before anything begins to sprout. Clear away dead material from the previous Winter and re-mulch your garden if necessary.


There is also a selection of hardy woody shrubs. Shrubs, such as Miss Kim Lilac, will give volume and substance to the garden. The Miss Kim Lilac (Syringa patula 'Miss Kim') is a modest maintenance shrub with dense, deep green foliage and fragrant icy blue blooms in Spring. It is recommended that the Miss Kim lilac be pruned immediately after flowering. However, this plant will reward the labour with an abundance of blooms the next season. Another cold hardy shrub is the Red Sprite Winterberry (Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite'). The foliage is a deep green throughout the summer months but this shrub showcases most of its splendor in the Fall and Winter when bright red berries are present. The colour contrast between the berries and a fresh snowfall is beautiful. These berries are a feast favourite for the birds. Hopefully their beauty can be enjoyed before they are taken away.


Along with variety and substance in the garden, another common desire for the landscape is privacy screening using hedging plants. To achieve this, we often look to the infamous Emerald Cedar. However, this may not be the best choice for your garden. When Emerald Cedars are exposed to West Winter winds it wicks the West side of moisture and causes the Cedar to go entirely brown on the one side. Alternatively, the Handpicked for You Cold® Hardy Plants for this job include Blue Point Juniper and the Green Giant Western Arborvitae/Cedar. Blue Point Juniper (Juniperus Chinesis ‘Blue Point’) has dense blue-green foliage and is great for wind breaking as well as privacy. It has an upright pyramidal form reaching 8-12 ft. tall and 3-5 ft. wide. If a formal garden is more your style and you require a stout garden hedge, then keep and eye out for Green Velvet Boxwood. Green Velvet Boxwood (Buxus x Green Velvet) is a dense, slow growing shrub and has small lustrous dark green leaves that hold their dark colour well during the winter months. This broadleaf evergreen will eventually reach a height and width of 2-4 ft. and takes very well to shearing and easily trained into a lush hedge to frame your garden.


These plants are just a few that answer “Yes.” to the question: Will it survive my Winter? To see more information on the plants listed here as well as other landscape plants that stand up to the cold be sure to click here to check out all the Handpicked for You® cold hardy plants.


Gardening for any condition, including a colder climate, cannot be demystified in any one article but the Handpicked for You® Trustmark and the Horticultural Professionals at your local Independent Garden Centre are making it easier to know what to choose for your garden. Before you know it, you will be the expert of your own Oasis.


For more information please visit one of our participating Garden Centres - click here to find one near you!