Wondering which perennials will thrive in your cool climate garden? Look no further! This list of USDA zone 3 perennials includes shade-loving and sun loving varieties. The shade-loving perennials thrive under the canopy of trees or in other shaded areas, offering a lush green landscape even without direct sunlight. On the other hand, sun-loving perennials revel in the bright light, coloring your garden with vibrant hues throughout the growing season. Both types have adapted to withstand the region’s cold winters and enjoy the cool summers, making them a reliable choice for Zone 3 gardens. Some of these perennials are long blooming wheras others give a good show in the spring and fall back to let summer blooming perennials shine!
To determine your growing zone, check out this USDA hardiness zone map. Protect more delicate zone 3 perennials from winter kill by applying a thick layer of mulch in the fall. Don’t forget to consider soil composition (well-drained soil, poor soil, dry soil, sandy soil, humus-y soil etc.), sun needs (sunny spot, partial shade, full shade) and water needs when planning out your perennial garden. Happy planting!
10 Sun Loving Perennials
Plant these zone 3 perennials in full sun or in a spot with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily for beautiful blooms and foliage.
Alliums (Allium sativum)
Alliums come in a variety of colors and sizes and are a beautiful pop of color in late spring to early summer. I recently planted a Globe Master Allium variety in my garden and it is an absolute show stopper! For a more practical flower, consider planing perennial chives. Their vibrant purple flowers can be made into Chive Blossom Vinegar the whole plant can be used as an addition to any dish. Beautiful, edible, and perennial? Yes please! Alliums make great companion plants, helping to deter pests like deer from snacking on your foliage.
Coneflowers (Echinacea Purpurea)
Also referred to as Echinacea, purple coneflowers are in the daisy family and have beautiful light purple-pink petals. As a bonus, the echinacea flowers can be used medicinally. Check out this post by the National Library Of Medicine for the uses of Echinacea in Medicine.
Daylilies are hardy perennials with beautiful abundant blooms! They can be grown in a variety of soil types and can be grown in part or full sun. More sun = more flowers for daylilies. Blooms begin in early summer and continue into early fall. Precautions may need to be taken in colder areas to prevent winter kill- heavy mulching in the fall and pulling back in the spring will be sufficient.
These herbaceous perennial plants have 1-4 foot stems and colorful flowers that bloom in the summer. Flowers grow in dense spikes and add a great textural element to any flower garden. I had great success starting my perennial lupines from seed; however, they didn’t flower until the second year. They thrived in my soil blocks and were transferred directly to my garden once the threat of frost was gone. Lupines make excellent cut flowers with their long stems.
Irises are great for attracting hummingbirds and other beneficial pollinators. They grow well in many soil types and are generally hardy. Different varieties of irises have different characteristics including height, color (white flowers, purple, blue orange, etc.), bearded/not bearded. Ensure that the variety that you choose is appropriate for zone 3. A few great options include German, Siberian, and Japanese.
Helopsis, also known as false sunflowers and oxeye sunflowers, are sun loving perennials. They are tall, making them great for cut gardens, cottage gardens, and other wild flower patches. They are a less invasive alternative to daisies and their bright yellow flowers attract hoards of pollinators.
Peonies (Paeonia lactiflora.)
Peonies are a classic perennial that have been gracing gardens for decades. Their long stems and colourful blooms make them a great choice for cut flowers or a showy center piece to any flower garden. Peonies thrive in full sun and well draining soil with moderate protection from the wind.
Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
Certain varieties of phlox can be grown in zone 3 gardens. Low lying phlox such as moss phlox or creeping phlox acts as great ground cover, growing along rock walls, rock gardens, or as perennial borders. Phlox flowers in early spring and the blooms can last well into late summer and early fall.
Roses (Genus Rosa L.)
Check out Heirloom Roses for an expansive selection of zone 3 hardy roses including White, light pink and red. Where I live, we are lucky enough to have the “Alberta Wild Rose” (Rosa acicularis) that grows freely, often like a weed! Roses make a great addition to homemade bouquets and give richness to any landscape.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow is one of the zone 3 perennials on this list that is native to North America and can survive harsh winters with ease. White yarrow grows sporadically in the field next to my house and I almost always include its long lasting blooms in my homemade bouquets. There are many varieties of yarrow available that boast beautiful colours ranging from white, yellow, orange, pink, and red. Yarrow is said to have some amazing health benefits, read more about that here.
10 Shade Tolerant Perennials
Plant these zone 3 perennials in the shade or in a spot with at less than 6 hours of direct sunlight daily for beautiful blooms and foliage.
Astilbe (False Goats Beard)
Astilbe is a zone 3 perennial that grows clumps of bright plume-like flowers with fern-type foliage. They prefer shade and moist soil, making them the perfect low-lying perennial for around buildings and trees. Astilbe varieties come in a range of colors including purple, peach, pink, red, and white to name a few. Different varieties can range in heights from 1 to 4 feet.
Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra)
Bleeding Hearts are a hardy, shade loving perennial that boast beautiful, hanging heart shaped blooms along long stems. I started several dicentra plants as bare root perennials in my greenhouse and transferred them to my garden once the soil had warmed up. They continue to come back year after year and I look forward to seeing the bright pink blooms every summer. Bleeding hearts thrive with lush green ferns around them.
Ferns (Polypodiopsida or Polypodiophyta)
These non flowering plants spread through spores and thrive in the shadiest of areas! There are thousands of species of ferns with varying shades of green. A few varieties of ferns that grow well as zone 3 perennials include Athyrium Godzilla Ferns, Maidenhair Fern, Lady Fern, and many more. Ferns make excellent greens for cut flowers.
Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Foamflower plants have small white to light pink flowers that grow on long, thin stems. They thrive in shady, moist areas. They are a native species that thrive in woodland areas. Tiarella cordifolia is the perfect perennial to plant under trees because it can tolerate slightly acidic soil.
Hostas (Hosta plantaginea)
Hostas are a low maintenance perennial that can be grown in a variety of zones. They are a good choice for your shade garden and garden borders. After they are established they require minimal watering and upkeep. Cold hardy hostas benefit from a thick layer of mulch in the fall, before winter temperatures plummit. A few varieties of hostas that thrive in zone 3 include Orange Marmalade, Whirlwind, and Cameo to name a few. Check out this guide by Gardening Knowhow to learn about the best way to care for Cold Hardy Hostas.
Panicle hydrangeas and Annabelle hydrangeas are the most cold hardy variety of hydrangeas available. Annabelle hydrangeas are known for their large ball-shaped showy flowers that come in bright white and contrast well with dark green foliage. The blooms last from June to September, making them the perfect perennial that blooms all season long. They can tolerate moderate morning sun and afternoon shade. Apply a thick layer of mulch around the crown of your hydrangea plant and trim back any dead stalks to prepare them for winter.
Lily Of The Valley (Convallaria majalis)
Lily Of The Valley are extremely cold hardy, surviving short growing seasons, down to Hardiness Zones 2 and 3. It thrives in part to full shade and blooms in both spring and summer months. The blooms are small and white, and it has bell-shaped flowers.
Toadshade Trillium (Trillium Sessile)
This low-lying perennial spreads through rhizomes and grows to be anywhere from 4-12 inches tall. It is characterized by its broad, oval green leaves that sprout right at its base and deep maroon blooms that shoot out the middle. Toadshade blooms throughout the spring months. As the blooms age, they turn yellowish-green.
Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)
Virginia bluebells thrive in shady areas that are quite moist and rich in humus. They bloom in the spring with pink buds that turn into a beautiful purple-blue bloom. It is important to note that these are short-lived perennials and the plants die back and go dormant in the summer heat.
Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)
Wild geranium is a tough perennial that can survive a myriad of growing conditions. It does well with partial shade and humus-rich soil. Geraniums have a 6-7 week bloom time and bloom in late spring/early summer. They are usually pink and light purple.
As I continue to grow and develop my own perennial flower beds and garden, the list of flowers and herbs that I plan to add continues to grow! Be sure to familiarize yourself with your growing zone to ensure that any perennials you plant are zone 3 hardy. Protect delicate plants with mulch over the winter and pull it back in the spring. Add compost and amend soil annually for the best results. For more perennial inspiration, check out this extensive list of long blooming perennial flowers including russian sage and other low maintenance plants.
A few more perennials that are well suited to your zone 3 garden include Butterfly Weed, Iceland Poppy, Sedum, Bugleweed, and Bluerug Juniper (Evergreen ground cover).