18 Best Hardy Perennials that Come Back Year after Year

Budget conscious gardeners have a very good friend when they turn to growing perennials. What is not to like about a plant that comes back year after year and needs very little care and watering after the first year?

There are many types of perennials, from tender types, which need to be grown in the southern part of the USA, to very hardy perennials that keep coming back after a freezing winter outside.

Hardy perennials are those that will take a freeze and come back for at least three seaons. These are my top 14 picks that will almost all grow from Maine into the deep South. thegardeningcook.com

There is nothing quite like the feeling of wandering around your garden in spring and seeing the first bits of growth of perennials coming through.  If you love that rebirth, too, then these hardy perennials are just the thing for you to grow.

For color all summer long, try growing these hardy perennials.

Generally speaking a hardy perennial will last three or more seasons even with a freeze over the winter. Depending on the zone you live in, hardy perennials will take varying degrees of sun.

I live in zone 7b (North Carolina) and my mother, who was also an avid gardener, lived in Northern Maine, in zone 4a.  Many of these plants are those that both of us have grown successfully in our gardens.

Astilbe

At the top of my list of my favorite hardy perennials is Astilbe, This is a wonderful perennial for shady garden spots

Astilbe is at the top of my list for one special reason.  I dug up many of my astilbe plants from my mother’s garden bed one year when I was visiting her in Maine. Her plants could take more sun than mine can.  I have to have mine in my shadiest borders. There is nothing quite like a shade garden plant that will still flower! Most are hardy in zones 4-9 and can take more sunlight the further north you live. For a look at all the colors of that this lovely plant comes in, see my Astilbe Photo Gallery here.

Shasta Daisy

Shasta daisies will form into large mounds quickly

Since my birth flower is a daisy, it is no surprise that I have Shasta daisies in my garden.  I’ve tried them in various garden beds. These perennials are hardy in zones 3-8,.and this is another plant that takes more sunlight the further north you live.  I was not able to grow them in my most sunny garden beds.

To find out more about growing shasta daisy, see this post.

Gaillardia

Gaillardia is also known as blanket flower.

Gaillardia, or blanket flower, is a daisy like perennial that will take more sunlight for me. This perennial is extremely resilient.

I changed the size of a garden bed last year and did not realize that I had some gaillardias growing outside of the new edge. They have been mowed over with a lawnmower and trampled on, but I still I discovered them growing this year!  Very hardy in zones 3-9.

DayliliesDaylilies are perennial plants that give a magnificent show of color in the garden

Daylilies are one of my favorite hardy perennials.  I have several varieties and colors in my garden beds, as well as Oriental and Asiatic lilies.

(Find out the difference between Asiatic and Oriental lilies here.) Having all three types, and some re-blooming varieties give me color all spring and summer.  Most varieties are cold hardy in zones 3-9.

Coneflowers

Echinachea, or coneflowers, are very popular with the bees and birds.

Echinachea, also known as coneflowers, are very hardy and drought resistant.  They are easy to grow and attract butterflies and bees to any garden.  I also leave the dried seed heads on the plant in the fall for the birds.  They are hardy in zones 3-9 and come in several colors.

The plants are robust and love the sun. See my tips for growing echinacea here.

Salvia

Blue Salvia flowers all summer long

Blue salvia flowers for me all summer long. The bees and hummingbirds both adore it.  Every time I admire the plant, there are always a lot of bees around it. the plant is super drought resistant and very easy to grow. It matures quickly and will be a very large plant in no time at all. This bush is about 4 feet tall.

Helleborus – Lenten Rose

Helleborus Cinnamon snow

There is nothing quite like walking around my garden in winter, with snow on the ground and seeing my Hellebores in full flower!  These cold hardy perennials will take the cold in zones 4-9, and the Christmas Lenten rose will go as cold as zone 3!

Even though helleborus is an evergreen perennials, the leaves will look untidy as the year progresses. See my tips for pruning hellebores to keep Lenten rose looking great all year long.

Hosta

Hostas are shade loving perennials

I have dozens of varieties of Hosta and so did my mother.  These shade loving perennials are hardy in zones 3-9 and get better and better each year. They come in so many varieties and sizes.  I have them in all of my shady garden beds.  They flower, too, but the leaves are the reason that I grow them.

One of my favorite varieties in Hosta Minuteman. It has deep white margins that really pop in a shade garden.

Rudbeckia – Black Eyed Susan

Rudbeckia - Black eyed Susan

I planted rudbeckia, also known as black eyed Susan, in my first garden beds when we first moved to North Carolina 23 years ago.  It spread like crazy and I took pieces of it and have it planted everywhere around my home. It flowers all summer long and into the fall.  It needs to be kept in check, or it will take over.  This variety is a dwarf rudbeckia that is easier to tame.  The perennial is hardy in zones 3-9.

Hydrangea

Hydrangea plants will give you an endless summer of flowers.

Hydrangea hardiness depends on the variety.  I grow the endless summer variety in my garden (zones 4-8) but the plant needs some protection in the coldest areas during the winter.  Mine started out as pinks and are all blue now. I have made a wreath with the flowers and they are very easy to water dry for indoor arrangements too.  They have very showy flowers and are one of my favorite plants. The farther north you live, the more sun they can take.  Mine need to be in semi sunny borders for best results.

Baptisia Australis

Baptista Australis - blue wild indigo

Baptisia Australis is a very hardy perennial.  It transplants well, although the roots can be quite deep and will grow in a HUGE plant in a short time.  My variety is Blue Wild indigo and has the prettiest flowers that the bees love. It is hardy in zones 3-9.

Red Hot Poker

Red hot pokers give a Southwest look to a garden bed.

Red hot pokers, or torch lilies, are not quite as hardy as the other perennials on my list.  It does best in zones 5-9, but is so easy to grow and quite different from my other hardy perennials that I wanted to include it.  I love the name and the flowers certainly do look like red not pokers, don’t they?  I have this perennial growing in my Southwest garden bed, with lots of cacti and succulents.

Dianthus

Dianthus is also known as Sweet William

Dianthus, also known as Sweet William is one of my favorite perennials.  There are two types – tender perennials, which are hardy in zones 8-10 and are treated as annuals in colder zones, and also hardy dianthus which can take the cold in zones 3-10.  Even though I am in zone 7b, my annual dianthus will still grow well for me after a cold winter, and is very pretty. It grows into a larger mound with each succeeding year.

Ajuga – Bugleweed

Ajuga - also known as bugleweed, makes a great ground cover

Ajuga, also known as bugleweed, is one of the toughest plants that I have ever grown.  It started as a single plant in a small garden bed and quickly decided to take over. I dug it up and planted it under a large pine tree and it loved it there in the semi shade.

More of it went into a totally shady border and it took over that garden bed, too.  I dug it up from there and planted a foot of it in my Southwest border that didn’t have many plants in it and this year it is a patch that measures 8 feet wide and counting.

Other plants will grow in the center of it (this hellebore is perfectly happy there) and it is cold resistant in zones 3-9.  If you are looking for a ground cover that keeps the weeds under control and has striking blue flowers throughout the summer, bugleweed is for you!  It spreads like a weed and keeps the weeds at bay!

YarrowYarrow is a really cold hardy perennial

If you are a beginner, yarrow is a great cold hardy perennial to try.  It is one of the easiest perennials to grow. Be sure that the plant gets full sun and a well draining soil and it will be happy.

Yarrow doesn’t mind poor soil and is even drought tolerant after it gets established. This perennial is cold hardy in zones 3-9.

Japanese Anemone

Japanese anemene

Also, called a fall anemone, this lovely perennials is a common garden plant seen in ate summer and fall gardens. Pretty satin like flowers gracefully sit on tall stems over short foliage.

Japanese Anenomes appear later in the spring, so they are a great choice to have when the spring bulbs start to die off. Cold hardy in zones 4-7.

Butterfly WeedButterfly weed is hardy in zone 4-9

If you want butterflies in your garden, plant some butterfly weed (asciepias)  It makes great, long lasting cut flowers and attracts butterflies like a magnet.

This showy native wildflower is easy to grow, very cold hardy, and even does well in poor and dry soils. Butterfly Weed is an important nectar source for Monarch butterflies and provide food for developing Monarch caterpillars. Cold hardy in zones 4-9.

Lily of the ValleyLily of the valley is cold hardy down to zone 2~

One would not think from looking at this delicate plant that it would be very cold hardy but it really is. Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) a tough ground cover that makes me nostalgic when I look at it, since it grew every where around my neighborhood when I was growing up in Maine.

The plant will grow on riverbanks, or in shady woodland spots and even does well growing under trees. It is cold hardy in zones 2-9.

Have I missed one of your favorite hardy perennials?  Tell me about your choices in the comments below!

If you would like to be reminded of this list later, just pin this image to one of your Pinterest gardening boards.

These cold hardy perennials will come back year after year in spite of freezing winter weather.

For more ideas on garden flowers, be sure to visit my Pinterest Flower board.

Admin note:  This post first appeared on the blog in June of 2016. I have added four new cold hardy perennials, as well as a video for your enjoyment.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

  11 comments for “18 Best Hardy Perennials that Come Back Year after Year

  1. 06/06/2016 at 4:36 pm

    I love your list – I am a little bit colder than you, in zone 4b but all these are hardy for me too.

    • Carol
      06/06/2016 at 10:27 pm

      Thanks Jacki. I am just on the edge of being able to grow tender perennials easily. We do get some bad freezes in the winter but not often.

  2. 06/07/2016 at 7:51 am

    thanks for sharing this gardening advice

  3. 06/13/2016 at 9:51 pm

    Thanks for the list! I have a lot of these in my yard and I just put rudbeckia in my yard this year. I’m excited to see what it does.

    • Carol
      06/13/2016 at 10:12 pm

      Hi Kenda. Rudbeckia is very very lovely but be careful because it does take over. Carol

  4. Audrey
    05/04/2017 at 4:22 pm

    I disagree with several of these. Deer love to eat hostas, for example. (Not truly hardy, therefore.)

    Try some rather low-maintenance plants that are deer resistant, ward off mosquitos, perennial and drought tolerant, too: pink sebum has lovely fall flowers, and simple le to propagate; lovage is of the celery family and can can be used in stews; sage is super easy to propagate; chives flower if you let them, so you should leave some sprigs alone to go to seed; and oregano is the most drought-resistant herb there is.

    These are some of my favorite things to grow, though. (I live in zone 4.)

    • Carol
      05/04/2017 at 10:01 pm

      Hi Audrey. thanks for your suggestions. My comments about hardiness are pertaining to whether they are cold hardy. Deer eat many perennials, but that was not what I was intending to cover in my post. Carol

      • Christy
        07/02/2018 at 10:57 pm

        Thank you so much for this!
        I am a bit new to this gardening thing… I very much agree with daylilies being on the list. I purchased a new construction toll brothers home 12 years ago, the builder planted a row of 6 daylilies evenly spaced out. They are still going strong throughout the cold winters and hot humid summers in northern Virginia. They always come back THanks again for the info!

        • Carol
          07/03/2018 at 11:30 am

          My pleasure Christy. I just got two new daylily varieties this weekend and look forward to enjoying them every year! Carol

  5. 07/13/2018 at 10:28 pm

    I was gifted several Lilly of the Valley plants by my neighbor shortly after I moved into my new house. Unfortunately, I had to give them away as I read they can be toxic to household pets if ingested. Unfortunately, my little dog likes to take a taste of just about everything in the yard, so I was disappointed they had to go.

    • Carol
      07/14/2018 at 10:04 pm

      Hi Ashley. Yes, that is true, Lily of the Valley is toxic to pets. You did the right thing to give them away if you dogs can get near them. Not all dogs will chew and ingest plants but some do and it would be horrible to have a problem from a plant. Carol

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