8 Plants You Won't Believe Are Winter Hardy

Even where winter howls, there are hardy plants that look just as at home in your house garden as they do in a tropical climate. Check out these 8 plants that will make you do a double-take at their cold zone tolerance.

Most people think cacti only in the desert, but Easter Prickly Pear is hardy from zones 2 to 10. It has a fleshy, edible fruit that follows sunshine yellow flowers. It is an easy-to-grow, spiky ground cover for anywhere you can find strong sun and good drainage. It’s easy to grow from a cutting, but beware! The glochids (spikes) are very tiny, painful and hard to remove.

Figs come from lands that are hot and dry, but there’s one called Chicago Hardy that is tolerant of zones 5-10. In colder zones, it will die down to the ground each winter but pop right back up again in spring, bearing luscious figs in fall. Some, in colder climates, grow them in large containers so they can be garage-kept over winter to fruit earlier in the summer.

The Hardy Banana (Musa basjoo) can tackle winters as cold as zone 5… but there’s a bit of a catch. Yes, you can grow bananas in, say, Michigan, but you have to protect the roots over winter. This usually means adding up to several feet of mulch that is removed in spring.

Agave havardiana is an incredibly cold tolerant, evergreen perennial that looks right at home in the desert. Hardy to zone 5, these plants are attractive to hummingbirds as well as to humans. Watch out for the tips of their leaves though, they are incredibly sharp! Given full sun and good drainage, why not add this tough Agave to your yard?

Corkscrew Rush or Juncus effusus, is often sold as an annual or pond plant, but it is hardy from zones 5 to 11 in your garden. A plant that looks too confused to be true, Corkscrew Rush curlycues itself up to about 18 inches tall and is tough and resilient. Plant it in a rain garden where it can enjoy the extra water, or plant it in beds and borders, it’s happy either way.

Passiflora incarnata is a cold-hardy passion flower vine with an impossibly beautiful flower that is hardy in zones 5-9. The flowers are white with purple filaments that need to be seen to be believed. The flowers ripen into fleshy edible fruits that can be eaten right off the vine. No one will believe it isn’t tropical!

Giant Desert Candle or Eremurus are massive flower towers, growing up to 10 feet tall, that are planted as crowns in the fall like tulips or daffodils. Eremurus are hardy from zones 5 to 8  but truly look like a transplant from a tropical location. These perennials come in whites, yellows, peaches and oranges and tend to multiply each year they are in the ground.

Add privacy while adding a tropical touch with Green Screen Bamboo, a hardy bamboo for zones 6-9. It grows up to 12 feet and is a well-behaved clumping variety, which means it won’t escape your yard and overrun the neighborhood. It’s excellent for screening or in containers.