What are the best plants for southern Minnesota gardens?

Published 2:18 pm Friday, May 16, 2014

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

What plants do well in our Zone 4 southern Minnesota gardens? I am asked this frequently.

In shady gardens most people think that you will be greatly limited to plant choices, and to a certain degree that is correct because there are more foliage plants than blooming plants for these type of gardens.

The most common would be hosta, which is great for shady locations, but we also have astilbe that comes in several colors. We have lots of different ferns that do very well in shady locations to add height and texture. Coral bells come in a variety of colors, and they are attractive to hummingbirds.

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If you are fortunate enough to have full sun, the possibilities are endless with peonies being one of the hardiest plants with gorgeous flowers. Daylilies perform best in full sun and come in many colors and are easy to care for. The entire lily family of Asiatic, oriental, tiger and trumpet are great for color and fragrance and multiply nicely.

For me, you just can’t have a garden without the tall garden phlox to add color and fragrance as well as they attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.

The new colors of echinacea (coneflowers) have exploded in the past couple of years and really give your gardens a wow factor. With all the new hydrangeas on the market, you can find one to fit any size garden, and the flower heads last through the winter. Rudbeckia, salvia, sedums, achillea, liatris, hollyhocks and Joe-pye weed are must haves in the garden and all are hardy in our climate of cold weather.

If you are growing annuals cosmos, marigolds, geraniums, angelonia, calibrachoa, coleus (both for sun and shade), nasturtiums, zinnia and dahlias would be good choices either to plant in containers or in the ground.

My bulb recommendations are tulips, daffodils, allium and hyacinth that survive our cold winters and brighten up our spring gardens. Cannas are beautiful in the late summer garden but do need to be lifted in the fall and stored indoors over the winter.

Don’t forget to add climbers like clematis and honeysuckle to the garden.


Carol Hegel Lang is an Albert Lea resident and a local green thumb.