Hardy plants are a must-have in any outdoor space. The right plants in the right place can help make a garden low maintenance, attract wildlife, add winter interest, create privacy or grow your own food. Here are our top picks, from pretty annual flowers to hard-working, long-lasting evergreens, all hardy to at least -15C.

What is a hardy plant?

The term ‘hardy’ refers to cold tolerance. A hardy plant is tough and resilient – even though it may not look it – and can survive winter’s challenging conditions.

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1. Cornflower

(Centaurea cyanus)

Atop tall wiry stems, delicate feathery flowers in pinks, blues and purples are a favourite of bees. These annual plants only live for a year, but their hardiness means they can be sown outdoors in early spring as the seedlings won’t be affected by frosts. Simple to grow from seed, they’re great for pots and prefer full sun.

Grow cornflowers and other hardy wildflowers the easy way by scattering our seedballs

Credit: Brian Legg / WTML

2. Hawthorn

(Crataegus monogyna)

Hawthorn’s bright green leaves unfurling is one of the first signs of spring, bringing a dash of early colour to woods, hedges and gardens around February. An explosion of pretty white blossom makes for a dazzling display in May, followed by deep-red haw fruits loved by birds. Great for hedging or as a standalone specimen tree, hawthorn is hardy to -20C and will grow in most locations as long as soil isn’t waterlogged.

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Credit: Adam Burton / WTML

3. Foxglove

(Digitalis purpurea)

The versatile foxglove is a cottage garden staple that’s often found on verges and in woodland too. Tall, majestic spikes of purple-pink tubular flowers are a showstopper from June to September. Happy in shade, foxgloves don’t like extreme wet or dry conditions but will otherwise grow in most soils. As a biennial it has a two year life cycle, but self-seeds readily so once established, you’ll have beautiful borders for years to come.

Credit: Jane Corey / WTML

4. Crab apple

(Malus sylvestris)

Crab apple is a spring stunner. With some of the prettiest blossoms around, it’s worth growing for its sweet-scented pink and white flowers alone. Drought tolerant and growing to 10 metres, it’s a good choice for small gardens. Like other native trees, it’s a magnet for wildlife and will grow in most soils and aspects. Crab apple is an ancestor of the cultivated apple and while its small fruits are too tart for the average palate, they cook up into a scrumptious crab apple jelly or liqueur.

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Credit: Liz Pearson / WTML

5. Primrose

(Primula vulgaris)

It may look delicate but our native primrose is as hardy as they come, surprisingly surviving at temperatures as cold as -20C. Common in woodland, it does well in shade or sun and its compact size makes it ideal for containers as well as cottage gardens. Pale yellow blooms can appear as early as December, making it an important early nectar source for butterflies. Flowers can last until May and come back year after year.

Credit: Colin Varndell / naturepl.com

6. Honeysuckle

(Lonicera periclymenum)

Many types of honeysuckle are available, but our deciduous native is a beauty and among the best for wildlife, supporting butterflies, bees and birds aplenty. As a climber, it’s ideal for small spaces or to add appeal to fences or walls, with a fascinating flower form in shades of cream, yellow and pink. It will grow in sun or shade, in almost any soil and has a delicious sweet scent too. You can even use its edible blooms to infuse a honeyed flavour into culinary dishes.

Credit: Paul Sterry / WTML

7. Rowan

(Sorbus aucuparia)

Rowan is a wonderful tree for small spaces. Slim in nature and topping out at around 15 metres, it has silvery-brown bark and fern-like leaves, with masses of foamy cream flowers in spring. Clusters of bright berries follow, before leaves turn shades of copper and russet for a spectacular autumn display. Wildlife love it and it grows in most soils, including at high altitudes.

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8. Viper’s bugloss

(Echium vulgare)

A native wildflower, viper’s bugloss is a tall biennial with incredibly blue flowers emerging from pink buds. In bloom from June to September, it’s fantastic for a wildlife garden as flowers keep producing nectar all day to provide pollinators with an all-you-can-eat buffet. Preferring full sun, this hardy plant is attractive, low maintenance and drought tolerant too.

Credit: Pete Holmes / WTML

9. Bird's-foot trefoil

(Lotus corniculatus)

Bird's-foot trefoil is a ray of sunshine, with clusters of bright yellow flowers from May to October. It’s a low-growing perennial, reaching 15-25cm so a good option for containers. Best positioned in full sun, this is another hardy native plant much-loved by pollinators.

Grow bird's-foot trefoil and other hardy wildflowers by scattering seedballs.

Credit: Ilene Sterns / WTML

10. Holly

(Ilex aquifolium)

An evergreen that's hardy to -20C, holly’s bright red berries and prickly, glossy leaves make it one of our most recognisable native trees. Able to grow in most conditions, it can be pruned to keep it bushy, with cuttings used for festive decorations. Tiny white flowers appear in spring, providing nectar and pollen for bees and other insects, while birds enjoy the berries and hedgehogs may hibernate beneath the branches.

Buy holly from our tree shop.

Credit: Ben Lee / WTML

11. Ivy

(Hedera helix, Hedera hibernica)

This evergreen climbing shrub gives dense leafy cover year-round, offering valuable shelter for wildlife. Ivy supports at least 50 species and is one of the last garden nectar sources for late-flying insects. It's low maintenance, can survive in most soils and is perfect for a shady spot. Different varieties boast leaves in many shapes and shades, and contrary to popular belief, it’s safe to grow on walls as long as the masonry is sound. It can even help cool your home in the hot summer months.

Credit: Nigel Bean / naturepl.com

12. Dogwood

(Cornus sanguinea)

This deciduous shrub is a popular choice for its welcome burst of winter colour. Through spring and summer, clusters of creamy white flowers develop into small black berries that attract insects and birds. The vivid green leaves fade to a rich red before falling in autumn to reveal fantastic crimson and orange winter stems. Dogwood will grow in many soil types, including damp conditions. Prune to retain size and shape and cut back hard each year to keep stems bright.

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Credit: Liz Pearson / WTML

13. Anemone

(Anemone nemorosa)

One of the first plants to bloom in spring, wood anemone’s delicate star-shaped flowers are white tinged with pink. It’s a shade-loving plant, often found in swathes across a woodland floor from March to May. Due to its small size, it’s suitable for pots and containers as well as beds and borders - flowers are about 2-3cm wide and 15cm high over a rosette of green leaves. Other varieties are available in many colours. They aren't all hardy like our native, but are all perennial, dying back after flowering to regrow the following spring.

Buy British trees from our shop

Whether you need a screen, hedge or centrepiece, we have beautiful native trees to give your garden interest all year round. Delivery is free.

Shop trees

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