Landscaping Ideas for Northern Climates


Consider winter hardiness when landscaping in the far North. There is no shortage of suitable trees and plants hardy enough to survive the area's bitter winters unscathed. Take advantage of the insulating power of mulch in cold climates. Install decorative mulch around the base of trees and shrubs and in the perennial border. This will decrease the need for artificial irrigation and discourage the growth of weeds, as well as provide insulation during winter. In the most severe winter climates, a protective winter mulch on top of the regular decorative mulch will provide extra protection to perennial flowers, plants and shrubs.

Shade Trees

  • For large shade trees, plant maples, oaks, ash and aspen. Plant a variety of hardy evergreen trees and shrubs for winter interest in the landscape. Hardy shrubs such as red twig dogwood, bridal's wreath, lilac or forsythia are all suitable choices for shrubs in Northern climates.

Specimen Trees

  • For small specimen trees in the landscape, choose flowering crab apple, flowering almond or flowering cherry. Slightly larger specimen trees are tree fruit, such as apples, pears, peaches, plums and nectarines. Avoid planting nut trees unless you have a very large space; pecans grow 80 to 100 feet high and cast a long shadow. Walnuts, only slightly smaller than pecans, exude a substance from their roots that discourages other plants from growing nearby.

Understory Plants

  • For understory plants, choose hardy flowering perennials native to the prairie for both winter hardiness and low maintenance--no need to irrigate, as they survive in low-moisture sites. Include a variety of hardy ornamental grasses. Add woodland ferns and other shade-loving plants for shady areas. Don't forget to include a few spring-flowering bulbs.


  • Feature at least one outdoor seating area to take advantage of mild summer nights. If you have a very sunny micro-climate, install an arbor or pergola. Plant roses or other vines to grow upon the structure and provide shade beneath it, creating a shady spot to sit and contemplate the landscape.

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