The first frost. It’s a spectre that looms over the head of every cold climate gardener. It wipes out sensitive plants, like peppers and tomatoes, and it heralds even colder killing frosts to come. For gardeners in very cold climates, it always seems to come much too soon. Short of building a hoop house or a greenhouse, there’s not much you can do to stop the march of winter. You can, however, choose cold hardy plants that can fight back against it. In places with cold winters, they’ll last long into the season, and in milder places they should last straight through until spring!
Here are our top 5 plants for cold climates:
1. Pansies – These flowers thrive in cool temperatures and will keep on blooming well below freezing. Once temperatures fall lower than the mid 20s, pansy flowers and buds will die back. The plants will survive, though, and with heavy mulching they’ll last through a mild winter to bloom again in a few months!
2. Snapdragon – These tall spires of complex flowers can usually be grown as perennials in climates as cold as zone 7. With some heavy mulching, the roots of snapdragon plants may survive and come back in the spring in even colder zones. The flowers can handle a light frost and will keep blooming through the fall pretty much anywhere.
3. Calendula – Also known as pot marigold, these brilliant yellow flowers will keep blooming through the frost with attractive daisy-like flowers.
4. Kale – Not all cold hardy ornamentals are flowers. Kale is extremely resistant to low temperatures and comes in a surprisingly beautiful range of colors. Ornamental kale is a popular choice, but even the commonly eaten varieties can be found in awesome shades of red, purple, blue, and green.
5. Turnips – While less on the ornamental side, turnips are almost as cold hardy as you can get. (There’s a reason they’re always eating them in those Old Russian novels). Turnips can be harvested basically as long as the ground isn’t frozen solid. They actually taste best when the weather is cool, with nighttime temperatures in the 40s.