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Northeast Gardening: Choosing Plants to Suit Our Climate

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Not sure what to add to your Northeast garden? Build up your plant-choosing confidence with these helpful hints.

A northern-hardy peony

By Jane Milliman

Choosing hardy plants for your Northeast garden doesn’t have to be intimidating. There are plenty of ways to make sure that what you buy has a good chance to thrive.

First, shop locally. Lowe’s garden center managers and buyers are invested in your success, so they stock plants suited to your area. See a lot of a particular variety on your shopping forays? Chances are, it’s a good seller for a reason. No doubt it’s pretty and practical.

Weeping Norway spruce

These weeping Norway spruces might look exotic, but when I visited my nearest Lowe’s last season, it teemed with dozens of healthy specimens in stock—very tempting.

USA Zone Map

Second, make sure to read tags. Plant tags teem with useful information, including USDA hardiness zones. Here in the Northeast our zones range from 3b, with an average low temperature of minus-30°F in the Adirondacks and northern Maine, all the way up to 7b, which dips only to about 5 or 10°F on Long Island. Know your zone.

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Tardiva’

Another way to determine what works well in your garden is . . . look around. If you live on the coast, you see lots of big-leaf hydrangeas and sea roses. New Jersey and southern New York are great areas for giant rhododendrons. Lilacs and panicle hydrangeas are ubiquitous in northern farmsteads and cemeteries. And Connecticut’s state plant is the mountain laurel.

Hardy cyclamen

Feel like branching out? Head to a nearby botanical garden, where you might be able to view some more unusual (yet perfectly hardy) specimens. My particular favorite is Cornell Plantations, part of the namesake university in Ithaca, New York. There I have encountered exotic lovelies such as big-leaf magnolia, species peonies, and hardy cyclamen.

Hardy fuchsia

Last, consider your microclimate. You can stretch your zone by carefully placing more tender plants. Little enclosed nooks, brick walls that collect and radiate the sun’s heat, and areas baffled from the wind are all good choices. This chartreuse-leaf fuchsia, technically a Zone 7 plant, has been happily growing for years tucked into a low stone wall in a Zone 5 garden.

Choosing Plants That Fit Your Climate: A Regional Guide

Take a big step toward ensuring success in your garden. Stick with plants that are well adapted to your region’s climate.

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Northeast Gardening

Grow colorful trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals in the Northeast.

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Regional Gardening

Check out a variety of garden plans, articles, videos, and special gardening tips for your region.

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