11 Best Fun Plants to Grow in Cold Climates

Bleeding heart plant with pink heart-shaped flowers hanging off branch over leaves

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

There are numerous fun plants to grow that feature bold blooms, large leaves, or otherwise quirky features. But the problem is that many of them are tropical plants and thus don’t tolerate cold well. So gardeners must either grow them exclusively as houseplants or bring them indoors when cold weather arrives. Fortunately, there are several cold-hardy plants that offer fun foliage, flowers, and more. They can add plenty of visual interest to gardens in cooler climates, and they don’t require any special care when it comes to temperature as long as you’re within their growing zones. 

Here are 11 fun plants to grow that are cold-hardy.

Warning

Many plants on this list are toxic to people and/or pets. Before planting anything in your garden, ensure that you and your family will be safe.

  • 01 of 11

    Crown Imperial (Fritillaria imperialis)

    Crown imperial blooms

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Some gardeners say they object to the smell of crown imperial. But many gardeners are more than willing to hold their noses as they lap up the dazzling color of this entertaining spring bulb plant. Sow the bulbs in the fall, and then get ready to behold the show come spring. This tall plant is great fun to watch as the flower buds start to open. The downward-facing flowers are big, so there is lots of drama. And they are topped with a "crown" of leaves.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Red, orange, yellow
    • Light: Full, partial
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, loamy, moist but well-drained, acidic to alkaline
    • Mature Size: 1 to 3 feet tall, 1 foot wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 02 of 11

    Purple Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia purpurea)

    Purple pitcher plant

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    The purple pitcher plant is a fascinating specimen to grow in a small pond. It packs a ton of fun into a small frame. It is actually a carnivorous plant that traps insects in its pitcher-shaped leaf structures. The pitchers form a visually appealing rosette, and purple flowers rise above them in the springtime. As this plant thrives naturally in boggy areas, it’s critical to keep it in moist soil.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6 to 8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Purple
    • Light: Full, partial
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, moist, acidic
    • Mature Size: 8 to 12 inches tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 03 of 11

    Ambassador Allium (Allium 'Ambassador')

    Ambassador Allium

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    The allium varieties with big flower heads, such as 'Ambassador', are great fun to grow in the garden. This plant sports globe-shaped flower heads in the late spring to early summer that stretch roughly 6 to 8 inches across. On them are hundreds of tiny star-shaped blooms. If you live in the cooler parts of this plant’s growing zones, plant your bulbs in October. But if you live in the warmer parts, you can wait until later in the fall.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Purple
    • Light: Full
    • Soil Needs: Sandy, loamy, well-drained, acidic to neutral
    • Mature Size: 4 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 04 of 11

    Snake Lily (Amorphophallus konjac)

    spathe and spadix of snake lily

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Snake lily can only tolerate temperatures down to zone 6. But it's still incredibly fun to grow in the garden for a couple of reasons. First, there's the dramatic development of its spathe and spadix during its blooming period in the spring (which emits a strong, unpleasant odor). And then there's the emergence of its enormous leaves in the summer. In colder climates, you can dig up the corms in the fall to store in a sheltered spot over winter.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6 to 10
    • Flower Color Varieties: Maroon
    • Light: Partial
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, moist, acidic to alkaline
    • Mature Size: 4 to 5 feet tall, 3 to 4 feet wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

    Mayapple plant before its leaves unfurl

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    An unusual plant native to New England is Mayapple. An alternate common name for it is American mandrake. That name echoes European mandrake, a peculiar plant whose freaky roots sometimes take on a human form. Mayapple is fun to grow not only because of the "apple" it eventually produces. It also puts on a show when it pushes up in the spring and its foliage opens like an umbrella. Aim to keep the soil moist when growing this plant, and note that it goes dormant in the summer months.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Flower Color Varieties: White, pink
    • Light: Partial
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, moist but well-drained, acidic
    • Mature Size: 12 to 18 inches tall, 9 to 12 inches wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 06 of 11

    Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)

    bleeding heart flower

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Bleeding heart is a fun plant to grow because of its unusually shaped flowers. Arching stems rise up in the spring that carry several dangling heart-shaped blooms. Unlike many flowering plants, bleeding heart can tolerate some shade—though too much shade can minimize blooms. And in the coldest parts of its growing zones, it can handle full sun. Just be sure to keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Pink, white
    • Light: Partial
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, moist but well-drained, acidic to alkaline
    • Mature Size: 1 to 3 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 07 of 11

    Hardy Kiwi Vine (Actinidia arguta and Actinidia kolomikta)

    Arctic kiwi vine leaves

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    The hardy kiwi vine is true to its name in that it can tolerate cool temperatures. It’s the cold-hardy cousin of the kiwi plants that produce the familiar fruit sold at grocery stores. But this plant is grown primarily as an ornamental ground cover, though it also looks beautiful on trellises and other support structures. On some varieties, the foliage has incredibly fun coloring of green, white, and pink.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Greenish-white
    • Light: Full, partial
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, medium moisture, well-drained, acidic to neutral
    • Mature Size: 12 to 20 feet long, 6 to 10 feet wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 08 of 11

    'Secret Lust' Coneflower (Echinacea 'Secret Lust')

    'Secret Lust' coneflower bloom

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    ‘Secret Lust’ is a cultivar of Echinacea that puts on quite a fun show. It blooms from late spring to late summer in tall clumps, and you might even get a few more flowers until frost hits. The flowers have both pink petals that droop downward, as well as a red-orange double center cone. You don’t have to deadhead this plant, but if you do remove the spent blooms it can help to encourage further flowering.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Pink to orange-red
    • Light: Full, partial
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, sandy, well-drained, acidic to neutral
    • Mature Size: 2 to 3 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Italian Bugloss (Anchusa azurea)

    Italian bugloss flowers

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Italian bugloss features an evolving flower color. The buds start out pink in the spring and then open to a pinkish-lavender flower. Eventually, this turns to a vivid true blue. This plant is a perennial in cold climates, but it’s fairly short-lived. However, it does self-seed to create new plants. And if you deadhead the spent blooms, you can prolong its flowering period. 

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Flower Color Varieties: Blue
    • Light: Full
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, sandy, well-drained, acidic to neutral
    • Mature Size: 3 to 5 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 10 of 11

    Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

    jack-in-the-pulpit berries

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Jack-in-the-pulpit, also known as bog onion, sports incredibly interesting blooms in the spring. The actual flowers are small, but they’re surrounded by a large, curved hood called a spathe. The spathe can be purple or green and often has a striped pattern. Plus, the flowers give way to bright red berries toward the end of summer. In the colder parts of this plant’s growing zones, it’s ideal to mulch it in the winter to protect it while it's dormant. 

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Green, purple, white
    • Light: Partial
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, moist but well-drained, acidic to alkaline
    • Mature Size: 1 to 2 feet tall, 1 to 2 feet wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 11 of 11

    Doll's Eyes (Actaea pachypoda)

    Doll's eyes (white baneberry)

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Doll's eyes (Actaea pachypoda) is also known as white baneberry to distinguish it from red baneberry (Actaea rubra). The latter is also a nice native plant for shade gardens, but it lacks the novelty Actaea pachypoda has. Doll's eyes features white berries from late summer into fall with black dots that look like pupils—hence the plant's name. This plant is quite low-maintenance; just be sure not to let the soil dry out.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9
    • Flower Color Varieties: Yellow, purple, white
    • Light: Partial, shade
    • Soil Needs: Loamy, moist but well-drained, acidic to neutral
    • Mature Size: 1 to 3 feet tall, 2 to 3 feet wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes

Tip

If you live in a cool climate right on the border of a plant's growing zones, consider growing it in a container. That way, if the temperature dips too low, you can always bring it into a sheltered location.

Watch Now: 19 Timelapses Perfect for Plant Lovers

Article Sources
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