Weather in the Midwest is unpredictable. It’s sunny one moment and storming the next! With snow in the spring and random warm days in the winter, we’ve learned to expect the unexpected in Ohio. But when the weather messes with the plants in your backyard, it’s downright annoying. After all, you’ve put so much hard work into gardening to ensure that your landscaping looks superb. Why let all that work go to waste?

To prevent this head-scratching dilemma, we’ve created a list of plants that will survive all year in Northeast Ohio. Choose from trees, shrubbery, and flowers. With the right plants and the right topsoil, you can create your dream backyard landscape!

The United States is broken up into several climate zones. Since different plants thrive in different climate zones, we included a map of these zones. Ohio is mainly in zone 6, with a few outlying areas classified as zone 5 or zone 7.

Image courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.5.

Image courtesy of the Arbor Day Foundation. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.5.

Without further ado, here are 18 backyard plants that will survive all year. They’re divided up into categories to make your search easier. (Click to jump to a chapter.)

I. Trees

II. Shrubbery

III. Flowers

I. Trees

4_trees_fence

Trees are hardy plants. They provide nutrients and shade from sunlight. Trees also display beautiful colors in the spring and fall, if they are a deciduous species.

Before planting a tree in your yard, decide if you will have enough room for the full grown tree. Trees can be purchased as seedlings, saplings or adults. Purchasing trees in their full sized, adult age may be more expensive. However, it can be beneficial if you don’t want to wait many years for the tree to grow into its full size. If the tree is similar to a shrub and close to the ground, it may need pruning to keep it from looking overgrown.

1. Crab Apple (Genus Malus)

8_crab_apple

Crab apple trees are beautiful and easy to grow, with spectacular spring flower shows. Well drained loamy soil is necessary for planting the tree, as fruit trees do not flourish in wet soils. Crab apple trees are hardy in zones 3 to 8. They require full sun and good air circulation so the leaves stay dry, as wet leaves on fruit trees are prone to diseases. Disease resistant varieties won’t make a mess when the apples fall.

Sources: The Morton Arboretum and Tree Help.

2. Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

15_pagoda_dogwood

The Pagoda Dogwood is a Midwest native, hailing from the state of Minnesota. Partial shade to full sunlight is best for the tree. The Pagoda Dogwood’s foliage is purple in the fall. Creamy white blossoms, accompanied by a nice scent appear in the spring. The Pagoda Dogwood is hardy in zones 3 to 7. City pollution can be damaging to the tree. Avoid planting your Pagoda Dogwood near the roadside. Venus and Argentea are popular varieties of the Pagoda Dogwood with lovely horizontal branching.

Sources: Midwest Gardening and Midwest Living.

3. Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata)

6_japanese_tree

If you are looking for an excellent accent plant with fragrant spring blooms, look no further than the Japanese Tree Lilac. Favorite varieties of the tree include: Ivory Silk and Summer Snow. The Japanese Lilac Tree is very low maintenance. It is largely disease-resistant. The Japanese Lilac Tree is hardy in zones 3 to 7. It does well in direct sunlight and prefers moist, well-drained soil. It needs very little pruning.

Sources: Midwest Gardening and The Morton Arboretum.

4. American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)

16_american_hornbeam

The American Hornbeam is great for woody or naturalized landscapes. The tree thrives in partial sun or shade and prefers wet, well-drained soil. It is hardy in zones 3 to 9 and is native to the northeast. The tree produces excellent yellow and red fall foliage.

Sources: United States Department of Agriculture and Midwest Living.

5. Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

9_witch_hazel

The Witch Hazel tree is great for open, expansive areas in your landscape. The tree prefers direct sunlight or partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. The yellow and orange foliage makes a great display in the fall months. The Witch Hazel tree will even bloom with snow on the ground. The plant’s complex branches and spicy fragrance are especially unique. Witch Hazel trees are hardy in zones 4 to 8.

Source: Chicago Botanic Garden.

6. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

17_japanese_maple


The Japanese Maple produces excellent spring and fall color. In the fall, the textured foliage takes on a deep red to purple hue. Pink and white hues bloom in the spring and continue into the summer months. The tree requires pruning to maintain tree form, otherwise it will slump into a shrub. It prefers light shade, with minimal sunlight. Average, well-drained soil is best. While the Japanese Maple is generally hardy in Ohio, you may want to check with your local nursery to see which variety will thrive best in your area.

Source: Better Homes and Gardens.

II. Shrubbery

3_shrubbery

Despite the complicated weather patterns, flowering bushes thrive in the Midwest with minimal attention and care, to the delight of many gardeners. These plants are excellent space fillers and bring balance to a landscape.

To help determine which shrub is best for your yard, consider the amount of sunlight and maintenance the shrub requires.

1. Golden Nugget (Barberis thunbergii)

10_golden_nugget

The Golden Nugget prefers full sunlight to partial shade and is hardy in zones 4 to 7. The shrub is drought and pest resistant, with many thorns that deter pests. In the fall the foliage turns from bright yellow to orange. The shrub doesn’t need pruning and is great for compact spaces in your garden. For different varieties, check out: Sunsation and Gold Beret.

Source: Midwest Gardening.

2. Shrub Roses (Genus Rosa)

18_shrub_roses

Shrub Roses typically bloom from spring up until the first winter frost. The shrub is quite versatile and tough, with low maintenance required. If desired, Shrub Roses can be pruned with simple hedge shears. The shrub is hardy in zones 4 to 10 and prefers direct sunlight.

Source: Better Homes and Gardens.

3. Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens)

19_boxwood

A traditional garden staple, the Boxwood has adorned castle gardens for centuries. Add some royalty to your garden with a few Boxwood shrubs. Boxwoods can be used for hedges or sheared into works of art. The Boxwood shrub is hardy in zones 5 to 8 and prefers full sun or partial shade. See your local nursery to determine which Boxwood is most hardy in your area.

Source: The American Boxwood Society.

4. Butterfly Bush (Genus Buddleja)

5_butterfly_bush

Attract butterflies and have endless blooms for bouquets with a Butterfly Bush. The blooming shrub requires full to partial shade and is hardy in zones 4 to 9. For the best spring blooms, prune the branches to live wood in the early spring. Purple Haze and Strawberry Lemonade are popular with northern gardeners. The Butterfly Bush is great as a boarder in your garden, mixed with flowers and other shrubbery.

Sources: Midwest Gardening and Better Homes and Gardens.

5. Hydrangea (Genus Hydrangea)

11_hydrangea


The Hydrangea bush is favored by many, with lovely dense blooms in late summer and fall. The flowers continue to bloom, even after the bush has lost its leaves. The Hydrangea thrives in full sunlight, with light shade. The beautiful shrub is hardy in zones 3 to 8. For the best care, water the bush deeply once a week. Popular varieties include: PeeGee and Vanilla Strawberry.

Source: Fine Gardening.

III. Flowers

14_flower_bed

Lovely perennial flowers are a great way to add some color to your Midwest landscape. These fragrant and attractive flowers can survive whatever weather comes their way.

Before planting your perennial flowers, choose your planting location and date. Use a plant almanac to find the best time to plant flowers in your area. Flowers do best when planted in early spring to late summer, from February to July.

1. Helenium (Genus Helenium)

21_helenium

Part of the daisy family, the sunflower-like Helenium is a North American native. Helenium’s prefer full sunlight and moist, fertile well-drained soil. The flower is hardy in zones 3 to 8. The contrasting hues and diversity of the flowers will bring variety to your garden’s flower beds. Choose from warm and toasty varieties like Septemberfuchs and Summer Circle.

Source: Midwest Living.

2. Hosta (Genus Funkia)

7_hostas

Widely used as a shady foliage plant, Hostas are known to produce delicate lilac flowers. Perfect for a shady garden, Hostas are shade tolerant. While they do enjoy sunlight, their leaves may become scorched by the sunlight. Hostas can be planted in the late summer and the early fall season, as long as they are watered often. Hostas are hardy in zones 3 to 9. Popular varieties of Hostas include: Pandora’s Box and Blue Mouse Ears.

Source: Hosta Guy.

3. Poppy (Genus Papaver)

12_poppy

Hardy in zones 2 to 8, Poppies are symbols of remembrance. Poppies were the first flowers to grow on soldier’s graves in Flanders, a region of Northern Europe. Today, the flower is worn on Memorial Day and Remembrance Day to honor fallen soldiers. The flowers are known for their beautiful red hue, with hints of yellow and pastel tones. Besides adequate sunlight and water during a drought, Poppies are quite low-maintenance. Some popular varieties include: Alpine and Oriental.

Source: The Gardener’s Network.

4. Allium (Genus Allium)

25_allium

A member of the flowering onion and shallot family, the Allium flower is a show stopper. With heads reminiscent of dandelions, the flowers add contrast to any flower bed.  Alliums are easy to grow, preferring to bask in sunlight all day long. The flowers are hardy in zones 4 to 9. Popular varieties include: Purple Sensation and Everlasting Alliums. Everlasting Alliums can be planted at any time of the year.

Source: Midwest Living.

5. Daylily (Genus Hemerocallis)

 

daylily

Image courtesy of Steve Karg. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.5.

An all-around favorite perennial, the Daylily thrives most anywhere. The botanical name of the flower means: “beauty for a day.” The flowers often open in the morning and die in the evening. Each Daylily stem has several dozen buds, allowing the species stays in bloom for several weeks. Daylilies are hardy in zones 3 to 9. The sun loving flowers are hardy, thriving in drought and partial shade. Lady Scarlet and Little Grapette are popular varieties of the flower.

Source: The National Gardening Association.

6. Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

 

russian-sage

Image courtesy of Robert Ashworth. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Russian Sage mixes well with pairings of the warm color family like orange, red or yellow. Reminiscent of lavender, the plant is a member of the mint family. Russian Sage is a hardy species, living through drought-like weather with ease. To thrive, the flower requires full-sunlight and well-drained soil. The species is hardy in zones 5 to 9.

Source: The National Gardening Association.