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Plants for Zone 3 – 24 Perennials & Annuals That Will Thrive!

Plants for Zone 3 – 24 Perennials & Annuals That Will Thrive!

If you reside in a colder climate suitable for gardening, do not be discouraged! Even with colder temperatures, there are still numerous plant choices for your garden. By considering the sunlit areas and moderate zones within your garden’s unique climate, you can find a plethora of attractive and suitable plants.

Here’s our pick of the best perennial AND annual plants for your Zone 3 garden.

Best Perennial Plants for Growing in Zone 3

1. Bee Balm

Purple bee balm in full bloom.

Favorites of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, this vibrant plant produces colorful spiky clusters of several tubular flowers rising high above mid-green oval leaves.

  • When To Plant: In spring or fall
  • Mature Size: 2-4 feet tall, 2-3 feet wide
  • Flowering: Lilac, deep-purple, red, white, or pink blooms from early summer-early fall
  • Light Requirements: Full to partial sun

2. Asiatic Lilies

Pink Asiatic lilies blooming profusely in a home garden.

This show-stopping lily variety features bowl-shaped or trumpet-shaped flowers in various colors! Blooms grow from straight dark-green stems with multiple skinny strap-like leaves.

  • When To Plant: In early fall, (a few weeks before frost)
  • Mature Size: 2-3 feet tall, 0.9 feet wide
  • Flowering: Pastel and saturated orange, yellow, red, white and bicolors from early-midsummer
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade

3. Iris

A close look at a light-purple iris flower.

Short-lived but stunning, irises feature elegant upright and hanging petal formations in various colors and patterns. The light-green stems may be solid or hollow with erect blade-like leaves.

  • When To Plant: September-November
  • Mature Size: 1-4 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
  • Flowering: Purple, blue, black, red, orange, yellow, white (and bicolors) between May-July
  • Light Requirements: Full sun

4. Peonies

Gorgeous magenta peonies blooming with hazy sunlight in the background.

Pretty peonies send out large fluffy heads of single and double flowers in rich and soft pastel shades.

The blooms sit atop deeply lobed dark-green leaves with a slightly glossy texture. Plant them in organic, well-draining soil for best results!

  • When To Plant: Fall or spring
  • Mature Size: 3 feet tall and wide
  • Flowering: Red, rose pink, yellow, white, and orange blooms from late spring-early summer
  • Light Requirements: Full sun

5. Delphiniums

Tall, deep-blue delphiniums, or larkspur, in full bloom.

Delphiniums, or larkspurs, boast tall, slender flower spikes in saturated shades that stand out beautifully against their dark-green stalks and maple-like leaves.

Provide a support stake/cage if planting in a windy spot.

  • When To Plant: Spring or early summer
  • Mature Size: 5-6 feet tall, 2 feet wide
  • Flowering: Violet, blue, lavender, pink, coral, and white blooms from June-July (and again in August-September with proper pruning)
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to light shade

6. Foxglove

Pretty foxglove flowers in purple and white blooming in a shady garden.

This stunning plant produces slender stalks adorned with pendulous bell-shaped flowers. At the base are large, downy leaves with a broad spear shape and puckered surface.

  • When To Plant: Spring or early fall
  • Mature Size: 2-5 feet tall, 1-2 feet wide
  • Flowering: Purple, yellow, pink, red, and white blooms the following summer
  • Light Requirements: Full to partial sun

7. Goldenrod

A close-up look at the feathery flower of the yellow goldenrod plant.

A subtle but sweet pollinator favorite, goldenrod plants bear pretty sprays of golden-yellow flower spikes on slim mid-green stalks bearing downy and toothed lance-shaped leaves.

  • When To Plant: Spring or fall
  • Mature Size: 2-5 feet tall, 1-3 feet wide
  • Flowering: Golden yellow florets bloom from late summer-fall
  • Light Requirements: Full to partial sun

8. Ostrich Fern

Pretty ostrich fern in filtered sunlight.

This unusual but attractive filler plant sends out lush feathery fronds that grow close together in vase-shaped clusters. The tips of each new fern frond remain tightly curled, resembling baby seahorses!

  • When To Plant: Fall
  • Mature Size: 3-6 feet tall, 5-8 feet wide
  • Flowering: None
  • Light Requirements: Part shade or dappled sunlight

9. Hostas

A garden bed of green hosta plants with yellow leaf edges.

These gorgeous, bushy plants come in thousands of varieties of large heart-shaped leaves of light-dark green, yellow, or cream with beautiful detail on their veins and margins.

Plant hostas in sandy soil to get the best out of them.

  • When To Plant: Anytime besides midsummer (due to dry soil)
  • Mature Size: 0.5-3 feet tall, 0.5-5 feet wide
  • Flowering: Tiny pink/purple lily-like blossoms between May-September
  • Light Requirements: Part shade (or full sun for some varieties)

10. Bleeding Hearts

Lovely blooms of bleeding heart plants.

This eye-catching plant produces a line of drooping heart-shaped flowers hanging from slender arched stems above lacy bright-green foliage. Opt for rich, moist soil for fuller results!

  • When To Plant: Fall or late spring
  • Mature Size: 0.5-3 feet tall, 1-3 feet wide
  • Flowering: Deep-pink, red, and white blooms between April-May
  • Light Requirements: Part to full shade

11. Snowdrop Anemone

Snowdrop anemone flowers blooming freely.

A low-maintenance, shade-loving beauty, snowdrop anemones produce pristine cup-shaped flowers with yellow centers.

Blooms rise tall on long maroon stems from a mound of lacy, feathery mid-green leaves.

  • When To Plant: Early to mid spring
  • Mature Size: 1 foot tall, 2-3 feet wide
  • Flowering: Pristine-white and sunny yellow blooms from late spring
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade

12. Creeping Phlox

Phlox stolonifera or creeping phlox.

This beautiful groundcover plant produces a mat of bright candy-colored flowers in tight clumps among mid-green needle-like foliage.

Control weed growth before the phlox fully blooms to prevent nutrient competition.

  • When To Plant: Mid spring
  • Mature Size: 0.5-1 foot tall, 1-1.5 feet wide
  • Flowering: Bright pink, purple, and white blooms from spring-early summer
  • Light Requirements: Full to partial sun

Best Annual Plants for Growing in Zone 3 

13. Forget-Me-Nots

Two blue forget-me-not flowers up close.

The neat and teensy pale-blue flowers of this classic wildflower grow on central dark-green stems surrounded by branched stems of other blooms, creating a stunning display of mini bouquets.

  • When To Plant: Between late spring and late summer
  • Mature Size: 1 foot tall and wide
  • Flowering: Blue or pink with white/yellow centers blooming between May-October
  • Light Requirements: Full or partial sun

14. Sweet William

Healthy pink-and-white dianthus blooming in a garden.

Sweet Williams adds texture and life to shady areas with their ruffled, frilly-edged petals and bright color combos. The evenly-spaced blooms sit among a dense bush of strappy dark-green leaves.

  • When To Plant: Direct sow between May-August
  • Mature Size: 1-2 feet tall, 0.5-1 foot wide
  • Flowering: Red, pink, purple, lilac, white and bicolor blooms from May-October
  • Light Requirements: Full sun or partial shade

15. Pansies

Colorful mix of pansies.

Flowers with a “face,” colorful pansies have eye-catching overlapping petals with distinct center markings that seem to follow you around the garden!

They also have broad dark-green leaves with softly serrated edges.

  • When To Plant: Late summer to mid fall
  • Mature Size: 5-8 inches tall, 4-6 inches wide
  • Flowering: White, yellow, blue, purple, violet, red, orange, and bicolor blooms from spring-summer
  • Light Requirements: Full or partial sun

16. Sweet Alyssum

A large group of purple sweet alyssum flowers.

This dainty and fast-growing groundcover plant produces a colorful carpet of tiny four-petal flowers branching off from narrow, hairy stems and leaves of grayish green.

  • When To Plant: Direct sow early spring-early summer
  • Mature Size: 3-10 inches tall, 2-4 inches wide
  • Flowering: White, dark purple, pale pink, and peach blooms from June-September
  • Light Requirements: Full or partial sun

17. Petunia

A variety of colorful petunias in full bloom.

Pretty petunias offer great variety with their trumpet-shaped blooms that can feature patterns or solid colors, smooth or ruffled petals, and compact or trailing forms.

They’ll perform best in rich, slightly acidic soil.

  • When To Plant: Late spring or early summer
  • Mature Size: 0.5-2 feet tall, 2-3 feet wide
  • Flowering: Saturated blue, red, orange, purple, pink, and variegated blooms from summer-early fall
  • Light Requirements: Full sun

18. Coleus

A variety of brightly colored coleus plants thriving in a garden.

Dubbed “painted nettles,” this plant has stunning variegation in its broad heart and spade-shaped foliage, from smooth or quilted texture leaves to pink, maroon, and lime green markings!

  • When To Plant: In May (or after last frost)
  • Mature Size: 1-3 feet tall and wide
  • Flowering: Nonshowy blue or white flower spikes appear late summer-early fall
  • Light Requirements: Part to full shade

19. Snapdragon

Pretty pink snapdragon plants in full bloom.

Profusely blooming snapdragons send out multiple brightly colored flower heads in the shape of a dragon’s snout that begin blooming from the base of their tall bright-green stalks of spiraling leaves.

  • When To Plant: Direct sow February-April or September-October
  • Mature Size: 1-4 feet tall, 1 feet wide
  • Flowering: Various color blooms appear from spring-fall
  • Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade

20. Nemesia

A variety of nemesia flowers in full bloom.

Delicate nemesia flowers resemble mini orchids with their upright and lower petal structures.

The small blooms grow among a bushy mass of small spear-shaped dark-green leaves with toothed edges.

  • When To Plant: Early spring to summer
  • Mature Size: 0.8-1 foot tall, 1 foot wide
  • Flowering: Pink, purple, blue, orange, red, white, and bicolor blooms from late spring-early fall
  • Light Requirements: Full sun (with afternoon shade)

21. Cornflower

Close-up look at blue cornflower blooms.

This vibrant super-saturated flowering plant features long frilly-edged petals and dark, contrasting centers. Blooms grow fairly tall on long branching stems with spindly gray-green leaves.

  • When To Plant: Direct sow early-mid spring
  • Mature Size: 2-4 feet tall, 1 foot wide
  • Flowering: Blue, white, pink, and purple blooms from spring-early fall
  • Light Requirements: Full to partial sun

22. Busy Lizzies

Pink and red Busy Lizzie impatiens.

These romantic shade-happy plants come in all the colors of the rainbow and feature rounded or irregular-shaped five-petaled flowers growing in contrast to their dark-green, slightly glossy foliage.

  • When To Plant: May to June
  • Mature Size: 1-3 feet tall and wide
  • Flowering: Purple, pink, orange, red, white and bicolor blooms from June-September
  • Light Requirements: Full sun or partial shade

23. Sapphire Flowers 

Browallia speciosa, or sapphire flower, with dew early in the morning.

This pretty flowering plant features dazzling blue star-shaped blooms with dark inner ridges on the petals, creating a jeweled look.

They grow on a mound of bright-green narrow leaves and come in compact or trailing varieties.

  • When To Plant: Direct sown after last spring frost
  • Mature Size: 1.5-2 feet tall, 0.8 feet wide
  • Flowering: Mostly blue or yellow, green, and purple blooms from mid April through May
  • Light Requirements: Part to full shade

24. Wishbone Flower

A variety of differently colored torenias in full bloom.

These distinctive trumpet-shaped flowers resemble a cross between pansies and snapdragons with striking dual-tone colors and inner petal markings.

Flowers are borne on bright-green stems and oval leaves with finely toothed edges.

  • When To Plant: In spring after last frost
  • Mature Size: 6-12 inches tall and wide
  • Flowering: Violet, deep blue, pink, yellow, white, and bicolor blooms from late spring-early fall
  • Light Requirements: Partial shade

Wrapping It Up

As you can see, Zone 3 gardens can foster some incredibly varied plants from multicolored leaves to flamboyant flowers in all sizes, shapes, and color palettes!

Just be sure to have some frost-protection measures in place as the fall chill approaches, or consider overwintering your favorite flowering plants in containers indoors.