Best Cold-Hardy Perennials for Fall and Winter

The thick of the winter season can be brutal, with harsh wind chills and frigid temperatures that dip below zero at times. Such conditions can cause severe damage to and even kill plants that aren't capable of handling these types of environments - even perennials that go into a dormant state for the winter.

There's no question perennials come in many different species, but it's important to not whether your perennials are tender or hardy as this will help you determine which plants are best suited for your living environment. Tender perennials are sensitive to frost and cold temperatures, while hardy plants can adapt and withstand an assortment of weather and soil conditions - the hardier the plant, the better.

The first order of business, though, is to identify the plant hardiness zone where you live before you plant or select any flowers. You can reference the United States Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone map if you're unsure.

After you determine your planting zone, you can select the most appropriate cold-hardy perennials for your garden, and hopefully prevent any damage to existing plants that aren't suited for winter.

Whether you live in the Midwest or the South, consider some of these cold-hardy perennial flowers that can take on fall and winter so you can enjoy a full, blossoming garden when the weather breaks come spring.

  • Black-eyed Susan: Equipped for the majority of planting zones, these perennials produce vibrant yellow/orange blossoms and are great for attracting butterflies. Black-eyed Susans also require little maintenance and are easy to divide. 
  • Aster: These flowers come in different varieties and colors, including shades of pinks and purples, and can weather various temperatures and conditions. Asters are also known to attract birds and butterflies, and should be watered steadily throughout their blossoming season to keep them looking perky and healthy.
  • Sedum: Typically used as ground covers and in containers, sedum requires little to no care and offers a wide variety of flower types. You can also dry cuttings for home decor and arrangements. Whole some cut down sedum - depending on the type - in preparation for winter, others leave them in ground, as they change to deep, warm shades of red and orange once the seasons change.
  • Hosta: A classic choice among many gardeners, hostas love the shade and serve as great ground covers for the yard. They are also drought-tolerant perennials, and their blossoms can also be used as fresh-cut flowers. Hostas can grow in most zones and should be fertilized at the beginning of the planting season. For best results, use organic compost material.

After these cold-hardy perennials lose their foliage, be sure to cut them back to help prevent disease and encourage growth in the spring. You can also help protect perennials (in the ground) from freezing conditions by adding a layer of mulch on top of them, once the needed end-of-season pruning is completed.