Top Ten Cold Hardy Shrubs


In the nursery's marketing department, a bitter debate about winter is raging, as tumultuous as the piling drifts and ice-covered roads. Points and counterpoints are slung over the cubicle walls and a line drawn in the snow. I am decidedly pro-winter. Others in my near vicinity would rather take a shovel to the face than endure another two months of this.

The one thing we can agree upon? The colder than normal temperatures are going to result in more than a few holes in the landscape come spring. Just as drought-tolerant selections soared in popularity after the summer of 2012, cold-hardy plants will trend after the Polar Vortex finishes its path.

I took to our catalog to make a list of Zone 3 or lower plants, and there are 42 Proven Winners ColorChoice shrubs that fit the bill. While I would love to present a "Top 42 Cold Hardy Shrubs" list, we can agree that it's a bit excessive. Before I narrow it down to my top ten, here are a few winter plant facts to consider sharing with your readers.
Now, on to the shrubs!
  1. Pucker Up!® Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) | Zone 3 | Pucker Up! is a native shrub that always gets a double take in the display garden. Its thick foliage is distinctly quilted, making it both visually interesting and disease resistant.
  2. Fire Light™ Hardy Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata) | Zone 3 | Fire Light is the newest hardy hydrangea in the Proven Winners line and will be making its way to retail this spring. It was selected for its upright, tightly packed panicles that transform from white to pomegranate pink. It's small stature (2.5-3' tall and 3-4' wide) make it a great choice for large containers or small spaces.
  3. Berry Poppins™ Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) | Zone 3 | It's no surprise that a species commonly called "winterberry" can take plummeting temperatures. Berry Poppins, also new to retail this spring, stays a compact 3-4' tall and wide and produces more fruit than the comparable 'Red Sprite.' Mr. Poppins™ is the pollinator (even though there wasn't a "Mr. Poppins." I really wanted the plant to be called "Bert" but was outvoted in that naming meeting).
  4. Tiny Wine™ Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) | Zone 3 | Continuing with petite plants, Tiny Wine is a new dwarf ninebark that is smaller than other options on the market. Its maroon foliage is accented with white flowers in late spring. Dare I say that they look like snowballs?
  5. Happy Face® Pink Paradise Bush Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) | Zone 2 | Our friends to the north are no stranger to bush cinquefoil giving winter the cold shoulder. These reliable, low maintenance natives bloom from spring to late summer, and Happy Face Pink Paradise's doubled flowers keep its clear pink color under intense heat longer than other varieties.
  6. Oso Easy® Fragrant Spreader Landscape Rose (Rosa) | Zone 3 | There are three Oso Easy roses that fit the Zone 3 requirement, but I love Fragrant Spreader in the landscape. While admittedly a bit silly, its name says it all: this low-spreading rose is continuously covered in fragrant, single pink flowers. 
  7. Glow Girl™ Spirea (Spiraea betulifolia) | Zone 3 | Interesting foliage is making gardeners reconsider spirea. While a garden classic, it typically lacked extended interest. Glow Girl's lemon-lime foliage holds its bright coloring without burning through summer and shows burgundy in fall, making it worthy of space in any landscape.
  8. Scent and SensibilityPink Lilac (Syringa x) | Zone 3 | Lilacs and cool temperatures go hand in hand, so they, of course, have a place on this list. The lilac I'm most excited to see come in to its own in my garden this spring is the new Scent and Sensibility Pink. Not only is its fragrance heavenly, but it is only 2-3 tall and 4-5' wide, making it the perfect fit for smaller spaces.
  9. Anna's Magic Ball™ Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) | Zone 3 | Anna's Magic Ball is cute. Is it terrible if that's why I love it? But it really is. This tiny arborvitae stays 10-15" tall in a perfect sphere, and its golden foliage just begs to be touched. I can't stop touching it. Why can't I stop touching it? On the serious side, it also has good burn resistance and keeps its color throughout winter.
  10. Blue Muffin® Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) | Zone 3 | At 5-7' tall, Blue Muffin makes a great low-hedge, covered in showy blue fruit in late summer. This compact native will produce more fruit with a pollinator, and we recommend Chicago Lustre™ (also Zone 3). 
Now that the list and my cocoa are finished, I think it's time to suit up and enjoy the snow that everyone seems to be complaining about.

Other Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs rated Zone 3 or lower (because I can't help myself sometimes):
Arctic Fire™ Red Twig Dogwood | Incrediball® Smooth Hydrangea | Invincibelle® Spirit Smooth Hydrangea | Bobo® Hardy Hydrangea | 'Limelight' Hardy Hydrangea | Little Lime™ Hardy Hydrangea | 'Little Lamb' Hardy Hydrangea | Quick Fire® Hardy Hydrangea | Pinky Winky® Hardy Hydrangea | Berry Heavy® Winterberry Holly | Berry Heavy® Gold Winterberry Holly | Berry Nice® Winterberry Holly | Little Goblin™ Winterberry Holly | Sugar MountainBlue Sweetberry Honeysuckle | Celtic Pride™ Siberian Cypress | Red Wall® Virginia Creeper | 'Yellow Wall' Virginia Creeper | Coppertina™ Ninebark | Summer Wine® Ninebark | Happy Face® Bush Cinquefoil | Happy Face® White Bush Cinquefoil | Fine Line® Buckthorn | Oso Easy® Paprika Landscape Rose | Oso Easy® Peachy Cream Landscape Rose | Lemon Lace™ Elderberry | Amethyst™ Coral Berry | Bloomerang® Purple Lilac | Bloomerang® Dark Purple Lilac | 'Filip's Magic Moment' Arborvitae | North Pole™ Arborvitae | Polar Gold™ Arborvitae

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