Plants That Will Make Your Garden Better: Wildflowers for Cold Climates

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This article was originally published by Jule Romans on

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These North American native wildflowers will do extremely well in extended cold winter conditions. They bloom nicely in the warmer months and survive harsh winters. Many will feed songbirds if you leave the stalks and seedheads standing past fall cleanup. As a bonus, they will also often drop seed and create lots of little “volunteer” plants nearby. Taking advantage of the hardiness of these native plants, you can quickly fill a lot of garden space with strong and hardy flowers.

Blue and Purple Wildflowers That Are Good in Cold Climates

The wildflowers listed here are all North American Natives, which means they can grow and thrive without additional water fertilizer, or special tending, when planted in the right conditions. Growing native plants is a rewarding hobby that is really easy to begin because there is always room to experiment with new plants. Growing from seed is the best way to establish native plants.

Blue Flax (Linum Lewisii)

This hardy perennial is also known as Prairie Flax. This is one of the easiest wildflowers to grow because it needs almost no extra care. It doesn’t even need to be watered. In fact, the only way to fail with Blue Flax is to over-water it. Just put it in a dry spot, and let it thrive on its own It prefers part-shade, but will also grow in full sun. Blue Flax must have dry soil.

Blue Flax offers a mass of light blue flowers early in the season.
National Park Service

Bluebell Bellflower (Campanula Rotundifolia)

This perennial is also known as Bluebell-of-Scotland or Harebell. It does well in both sun and shade, as well as part-shade. Bellflower requires dry soil. Do not over-water this plant.

Bluebell Bellflower resembles balloon flower, in a petite version
NPS, Wind Cave National Park

Jacob’s-Ladder (Polemonium Pulcherrimum)

Jacob’s Ladder is also known as Skunk leaf. This plant that does very well under trees because it can tolerate partial shade and dry soil.

Jacob’s Ladder has fernlike foliage and small blue flowers.
Walter Siegmund

Columbian Monkshood (Aconitum Columbianum)

This is a good perennial flower for shade. It grows best in moist soil. This is an excellent choice for perking up shady areas.

Columbian Monkshood has a spray of blue flowers.
Walter Siegmund

Purple Aster (Symphyotrichum Ascendens)

Also known as Pacific Aster, Western American-Aster, or Western Aster. Purple Aster is a perennial wildflower. It grows in full sun and requires moist soil.

Smooth Aster has small daisy-like petals in light lavender.
Matt Lavin
Asters often take on the appearance of very small daisies.
Brewbooks, Seattle

Purple Fringe (Phacelia Sericea)

Also known as Silky Phacelia. This is a biennial flower that prefers part-shade environments. First Nature shares a great description of this unusual-looking wildflower:

The more closely you inspect this amazing-looking flower, the more complex and beautiful it becomes….Purple Fringe often grows in clumps of up to five flowers which resemble mad frothy bouquets.

Purple Fringe has a unique look that becomes more striking in large clumps.
Rocky Mountain National Park

Fireweed (Chamerion Angustifolium)

Also known as Narrow-leaf fireweed. Fireweed prefers full sun and moist soil. Fireweed can sometimes appear lavender or bright purple. The pink tones will appear best in contrast with other plants or the environment.

Fireweed can grow well near water.
Robert Flogaus-Faust

Yellow and Orange Native Wildflowers for Cold Climates

You might want to create a wild spot in your garden, grouping different colors of plants without regard for height or color. Just plant them in the correct soil and sun conditions, and let them grow together. This strategy works well in raised beds because the structures create a sense of containment. Raised beds also make weeding easier when you are using a mixed planting.

Use Native Wildflowers as Accent Plants

Bear in mind that native wildflowers don’t have the exact same look as the plants you may buy at the garden store. They are a bit larger, more wild-looking, and sometimes have irregular flowers. That is the nature of wildflowers. If you prefer a more structured garden, use these lovely wildflowers toward the back , or as accent plants within a carefully planned flowerbed.

Cowslip (Caltha Palustris)

Cowslip is also known as Marsh-Marigold or Yellow Marsh Marigold. Marsh Marigolds grow well in partial shade. They need very wet soil, so streambanks and ponds are good options to start these plants. They will spread well on their own, once established.

Marsh marigold is low-growing and blooms in swampy areas early in the Spring.
NPS/Gordon Dietzman

Perennial Wildflowers

Most of the plants on this list are perennial wildflowers. That means that the top of the plant will die back in the winter, but the roots will continue under the soil. The leaves and stems will grow back when the temperature warms. Some of these perennials will also re-seed if allowed to stand over the winter months.

Golden-Aster (Heterotheca Villosa)

Golden Aster is also known as Hairy False Golden Aster. It grows very well in full sun. This plant prefers dry soil.

Golden Aster blooms freely, but also has a wild-looking appearance.
Matt Lavin

Smooth Yellow Violet (Viola Glabella)

This plant is also known as Pioneer Violet. These plants will grow in both shade and part-shade. They can tolerate wet and moist soils well. They require plenty of water, so plant them in a moist location or plan to irrigate.

Viola Glabella is yellow rather than purple. In the right conditions, it will spread under shade trees.
Walter Siegmund

Alaska Spiraea (Luetkea Pectinata)

Partridgefoot is another name for this plant. It is good for part-shade areas that have moist soil. Low-growing, it has multiple blossoms on short stalks.

Partridgefoot has low-growing habit and small blossoms with prominent yellow.
Walter Siegmund

Golden Monkey-Flower (Mimulus Guttatus)

Also known as Seep Monkeyflower, Seep Monkey-Flower, or Common Monkeyflower. These plants are annuals. They complete their full life cycle in one year. Annual wildflowers tend to re-seed very well, so they often reappear year after year in the same location. The mimulus prefers to grow in part-shade locations with moist soil.

Mimulus blossoms are trumpet-shaped, with at least three per stem.
Anne Burgess

Heartleaf Arnica (Arnica Cordifolia)

Also known as Heart-Leaf Leopardbane. This plant grows in part-shade and likes moist soil. the blossoms look like daisies, in closeup.

In close-up, Arnica looks like a yellow daisy.

Red and Pink Native Wildflowers for Cold Climates

A great way to enjoy these plants is to group them by color and surround them with a sharp, clean border of stone or fencing. The sharp edge contains the plants and makes a nice contrast. The single color of the grouping provides a unifying effect. Be sure to check the soil and sun requirements to have best results with grouping plants by color.

Crimson Columbine (Aquilegia Formosa)

Also known as Western Columbine, Scarlet Columbine, or Red Columbine. Crimson Columbine will grow in sun or part-shade. It is good in both moist and dry soil. A spring-bloomer, this plant is exceptionally hardy.

Crimson Columbine blooms in early spring, with vivid colors.
Walter Siegmund

Purple Monkeyflower (Mimulus Lewisii)

Also known as Great Purple Monkey-Flower or Lewis Monkey-Flower. Monkeyflower is a very hardy perennial flower with rich purple blooms. Grows in part-shade. Needs wet soil.

Mimulus offers a splash of purple without being overly tall.
Teresa Prendusi

Farewell to Spring (Clarkia Amoena)

This plant is an annual which is also known as Farewell-to-spring or Herald-of-summer. Most annual wildflowers reseed every year, so they come back just like perennials. Farewell to Spring grows best in partial shade. Too much hot sun will burn leaves and cause the plant to wither.

The brightness of these pink flowers will rival any garden cultivar.
Peter D. Tillman

Broadleaf Lewisia (Lewisia Cotyledon)

Siskiyou bitter-root or Siskiyou Lewisia are other names for this plant. Does best in part-shade areas. Lewisia is popular with native gardeners.

The lovely pink petals of Lewisia have contrasting yellow accents.
Ghislain, Fleurs Des Montaines

Cushion Pink (Silene Acaulis)

Cushion Pink is also known as Moss Campion. These bright pink wildflowers add a vibrant accent to the garden, and thrive in full sun. This is a good alternative to cultivated versions of dianthus, including cheddar pinks.

Native Cushion Pinks are much better for the garden than the typical Dianthus.
Jerzy Opiola

Red Windflower (Anemone Multifida)

Red Windflower is known as Cut-Leaf Anemone, Early Thimbleweed or Pacific Anemone. This Anemone is perfect for full sun. It will also grow in shade or part-shade, although the blooming may be affected. If you like foliage, that is not usually a problem. This plant requires moist soil.

Anemone multifida blooms best in full sun.
Nadia Talent

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