Winter-Hardy Seeds: Choose the Right Plants That Survive Winter Outside

Flower blooming through snow in the winter

Winter is usually a time when things slow down. Many plants and animals take shelter during the winter months and wait for the warmer days of spring to reemerge. But not all life goes into hibernation during the winter. In fact, if you’re looking for some plants to grow in winter, we have a few options for you.

These plants are not only hardy enough to make it through the winter months, but also some will even thrive. Let’s look at some flowers and vegetables to grow in winter and the different planting options you have available.

Vegetables to Grow in Winter

When you live in a region with long winters, it can feel like forever before you can start your spring garden. Fortunately, there are many plants that survive winter, including several hardy vegetables. Here are a few vegetables to plant during the cold months of the year.



This semi-hardy vegetable will grow during frost and light freezes. It can grow in a variety of temperature ranges but does not do well in extremely warm weather. Carrots tend to taste even sweeter when grown in frost or cold weather.

Green Onion

Green onion

This vegetable has a short growing period and is a good option if you are looking for a vegetable that won’t take up a lot of room. Even if you don’t have an outdoor garden, you can plant it in a flowerpot and place it on your patio or in a window that gets a lot of sun. Plant green onions 6 mm deep and 8 to 10 cm apart in double rows, leaving 15 to 25 cm between rows, for best results.



This cool-season, leafy green in the Brassica or Cole crop family thrives in frost and light freezes. Directly seed in the garden or start indoors and set out as transplants.



Plant seeds in thin rows that are about 30 cm apart. For leaf types, thin them so that each seed is 5 to 7 cm apart, then pull every other plant when they are half-grown. For lettuce heads, space rows 45 cm apart and plants 20 cm apart. If you are looking for smaller heads, then plant them closer together.



Grow this cool-season crop in as few as 20 days and eat either raw or cooked.


Spinach leaves

You can grow this versatile plant just about anywhere that has at least a month and a half of cool weather. It is a hardy, cool-season crop that can withstand frost and a light freeze or two. Space spinach seeds 7 cm apart in rows 30 cm apart for best results.

Sweet Pea

Sweet Peas

Ideally, plant this veggie about five weeks before the last frost. Place the seeds 12 cm apart to achieve the best results.

Flowers to Grow in Winter

In many parts of Canada, the cold weather sticks around and limits the spring growing season. If you wait until the spring weather warms before planting your flower seeds and bulbs, you might not have much time to enjoy them, especially if they are sensitive to the heat. The solution is to plant your seeds and bulbs in colder weather so your flowers will have a head start when the soil begins to warm.

Of course, not all flower seeds and bulbs are hardy enough to survive cold temperatures. The following are a few plants that survive winter outside.


Nasturtium flowers

This flowering plant can survive moderate winter temperatures if you take it indoors or move into a greenhouse before the first killing frost. If you decide to keep it in the ground, cover with a cardboard box overnight to protect from frost. Add row covers when the temperature dips down below zero.


Pansy flowers

Cold tolerance for this flower starts at the roots, meaning it needs to be planted in soil that is between 7 and 18 degrees Celsius. Pansies will also need extra fertilizer in the winter. As the weather gets colder, you can protect pansies by piling on a couple of inches of pine straw, which will help trap more heat. Once the cold weather passes, remove the straw. Also, if possible, keep them in raised beds in order to avoid damage from winter rain and snow.


Snapdragon flowers

Once this hardy flower is established in the bed and well acclimated, it can survive sub-freezing temperatures.


Bupleurum flowers

These alluring lime and yellow flowers do best in growing zones 3 through 8 and are not afraid of cold climes. They do not do well with frost, so they might not be right for some Canadian regions.


Foxglove flowers

These beautiful clusters of violet bell flowers are practically a spring garden must. Best of all, they self-sow after their first planting and are biennial, so you’ll get two seasons of blooms each year.


Echinacea flowers

If you live in growing zones 4 through 9, give these bright pink flowers a try. Echinacea does especially well with winter sowing. (More on that below.)


Scabiosa flowers

Plant these pretty lilac and indigo flowers in growing zones 3 through 8. Scabiosa is a great choice for first-time winter gardeners. They are hardy and low maintenance. They do great with winter sowing and will often bloom from April through October.

What to Consider When Choosing Winter-Hardy Seeds

Many plants cannot handle growing in cold temperatures, so you will need to do your homework when buying vegetables, perennials, and annuals for your winter garden. When shopping at your local home improvement store or browsing seed catalogues, look for words and descriptions such as:

  • Hardy
  • Can withstand frost
  • Needs pre-chilling
  • Sow outdoors in late autumn
  • Sow outdoors in early spring

You can also visit a gardening store or nursery and ask the clerk. Employees at specialty stores like this are often knowledgeable about which plants do best in different seasons. You can also contact a company that offers professional horticulture services.

Winter Care for Winter-Hardy Seeds

Once you have decided to plant a winter garden and have chosen plants that survive winter, how do you actually get started? While you can always plant winter-hardy seeds directly into the ground, this method does expose your seeds to some risks, including scavenging animals, harsh weather, and frozen soil.

Another option that is popular with many cold-weather gardeners is a process called winter sowing.

Winter Sowing Your Cold-Weather Seeds

Winter sowing is basically a form of container gardening that you do outside during the winter months. This is a method for germinating your seeds outdoors in a way that mimics nature. In nature, many seeds hit the ground in the fall. They make their way into the soil and are buried by leaves. They go dormant in the winter but begin to grow or germinate when the soil starts to warm.

Begin by planting your seeds in a container of your choice. Make sure the container has holes in the bottom for good drainage. Once the seeds germinate, you can plant them in your garden. By planting your cold-weather seeds in containers outdoors, you protect them from Mother Nature while still exposing them to the cold temperatures they need to begin germination. This is also a great option if you do not have much space to start a container garden indoors.

Ready to Plant Winter-Hardy Seeds in Your Garden?

The arrival of winter does not necessarily mean everything has to come to a halt until spring. Getting plants to grow in winter is possible, and with the right care and attention, they will even thrive.

However, even with these tips, keeping your garden strong and lively during the winter does require a good deal of knowledge and time. The Grounds Guys® can help. We have local teams throughout Canada that will assist you with planning your garden based on your hardiness zone. Our teams know which vegetables and plants that survive winter outside will work best for your property.

We will also provide ongoing care for your garden throughout all the growing seasons, so you always have yummy vegetables and beautiful flowers blooming on your property. Our knowledgeable, friendly, and reliable teams provide our Neighbourly Done Right Promise™. Contact us today with any questions.

Ready to work with professional horticulturalists? Find your local The Grounds Guys and request a free estimate today!