Plants that Grow Well During Cold Chicago Spring

Whether you are brand new to the Chicago area or you have been here for years, you have likely been introduced to the freezing cold temperatures that come with being so far north – and so close to the Great Lakes. Though it can certainly get too cold for many species, there are numerous flowers, trees, and shrubs that can thrive – even in Chicago’s freezing spring months.


Pansies are long-time Chicago area favorites. They might look delicate, but they’re incredibly hardy and they come in a wide range of colors to suit your landscaping preferences. While most flowers wither away in winter and don’t show themselves again until late spring or even mid-summer, pansies are early bloomers – particularly when winters are relatively mild. To optimize growth, plant them in highly visible areas where people will be certain to notice the pretty blooms, even when most everything else is still dormant.

Moss Phlox

Pretty ground-covering plants are always great for lining walkways and patios, and moss phlox is a fantastic choice for Chicago’s cold spring months. It has numerous cultivars from which to choose: some have white flowers with bold pink stripes, some have white-tipped flowers that fade to deep purple centers, and still others are pale pink or even lavender. 

Ornamental Onion

Ornamental onion, also known as alliums, can be found growing wild in some parts of the region – especially along shorelines. They’re colorful, long-lasting, and relatively large, so they make a great piece to add to the back of your flowerbeds where the bright heads will contrast nicely with the walls of your home or building. If you have issues with wildlife like rabbits or even squirrels digging at your flowers for their next meal, ornamental onion could very well keep them away. Consider using them as a protective barrier for the plants that these critters tend to favor the most.

Japanese Black Pine

If you’ve avoided pine trees in your landscaping because you believe them to be boring, the Japanese black pine may surprise you. Not only does it come in a full-size form that can grow as high as 50 feet and provide a great deal of shade year-round, but it can also be found in a dwarf cultivar known as “Thunderhead” that stays small and grows very slowly – only to about six feet tall in 10 years. When properly cared for and pruned, you could use the full-sized version as a canopy for an outdoor seating area, and you can keep the smaller variety in a large pot to decorate gazebo entries and patios.

Blue Oat Grass

Finally, if you’re looking for a clumping grass that you can use to accent bright colors from ornamental onions, pansies, and other early bloomers this spring, blue oat grass is a phenomenal addition to your landscape. Not only does it thrive in the early spring, but it offers something of interest all year round. It grows in a rounded-off mound that grows to two to three feet in height, and while the traditional cultivar is a green-gray blue color, it can sometimes be a bright teal blue or even a pinkish color. It’s a great option for planting along sidewalks, but it will require some trimming here and there.

Each of these plants grows incredibly well in Chicago’s early spring months, and some, such as the Japanese black pine and blue oat grass, will provide interest and greenery throughout the coldest winter months, too. To learn more, or to design a landscape that includes these and other hardy plants, contact your trusted landscaping professional today.