For gardeners in colder areas, the choice of plants is limited to those that will reliably survive the most ferocious winters. Snow cover can help by providing an insulating blanket over the plants, but all too often the icy weather comes first and snow comes later. Fortunately, the following five perennials are as tough as they are lovely—they even work as far north as USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 3, which can get down to -40°F in the dead of winter.
Invaluable for bringing rich lavender-blue coloring to the normally orange and rusty shades of the fall garden, Arendsii has leathery dark green leaves that set off the short spikes of flowers beautifully. The tuberous roots are easily divided, but all parts of the plant are poisonous, so be sure to wear gloves. They grow best in full sun.
Jack Frost is one of the most impressive new perennials of recent years. The heart-shaped, shimmering silvered leaves with their neat green veins are topped in spring with dancing forget-me-not-blue flowers. Similar to the 51 Plants That Don't Need A Lot Of Sun To Thrive, these flowers are happy in shade in any reasonable soil and tolerant of dry shade once established. They also smother weeds and work well in a container garden.
For sheer drama, it’s tough to beat one of the large coneflowers. Ruby Giant has flowers 4-inches across that open reddish pink and mature to silvery pink, each completed with a rounded red-and-honey central cone. The stems on this butterfly magnet branch out so well that each plant features an impressive display.
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The Bleeding Heart is an intriguing perennial, with the arching growth of its succulent stems and pendant pink-and-white flowers. It may get damaged by late frosts but will always recover. Also look out for the lovely pure white form.
It seems unlikely that a plant with such succulent foliage could be so frost-hardy, but it’s not for nothing that sedums of this type are sometimes called ice plants. Broad, deep pink, and slightly domed flower heads open in late summer and fall and turn russet brown as they remain on the plant for late autumn and winter viewing.