By Bethany Hayes
Whether you’re new to zone five or a new gardener in zone five, not all plants grow well in every USDA zone. Picking the right plants for the climate in your region is the very first step to successful gardening. Imagine trying to grow bananas when you live in Vermont; that’s not going to happen, no matter how much you try.
I love living in zone five! Not only do we have all four seasons, but we also have a vast range of plants to grow. Most vegetables, flowers, and herbs grow well in this area, but some perennials cannot handle the cold temperatures each winter.
Zone five is divided into two sections: zone 5a and zone 5b. They each have slightly different planting weeks because zone 5a is northern and receives their last frost later than 5b. While each section can grow the same plants, the planting dates might vary slightly.
Zone five plants need to be able to survive temperatures no lower than -20℉. That tends to be the coldest temperature in this region. Perennials need to be tough and capable of withstanding a late frost or still be dormant in the early spring.
Let’s take a look at the best zone 5 plants to grow in your garden.
The Best Vegetables to Grow in Zone 5
First, let’s look at the best vegetables to grow in zone five. As a vegetable gardener in zone five, we can grow most veggies, but we have to plant later than those in zones 6-11. On average, the final frost comes in late April or early May, and the first frost appears in October, which gives us several months of frost-free gardening.
Here are some vegetables that grow exceedingly well in this zone.
Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that produces for over 20 years when cared for properly. Plant in the early spring between March and April in a spot that has full sunlight.
Beets are a root crop that can be planted as soon as the ground is workable, between March and April. Make sure the soil is fluffy and free of rocks or chunks of dirt that prevents root growth.
Both pole and bush beans grow well in zone five. These are warm-season crops planted after the final frost in May. Bush beans produce their crop all at once, but you can plant bush beans two times in zone five before the first frost. Pole beans produce their crop over several months.
Cabbages are an annual vegetable that grows as a spring and fall crop in zone five. Plant between March and April, but you need to start the seedlings inside six weeks before transplanting outside.
Carrots are a favorite root crop planted between March and April and work as a succession planting vegetable. They grow well in the spring and fall in zone five.
Many people bypass growing celery, but it grows well in zone five. Too many gardeners think celery is hard to grow, but it’s not. Plant between April and May, starting the seeds inside 8-10 weeks before transplanting dates.
Cucumbers are a warm-season vegetable that vines upwards and needs to be planted in May after the final frost passes. These vegetables need plenty of water, or they’ll wilt quickly.
Some find growing onions confusing, but they grow well in zone five. It takes two years to grow onions from seeds, but only a few months if grown from onion sets. Plant between April and May.
Peas are an early spring vining crop that climbs up a support system — plant between April and May and the fall. If you want to grow peas in the fall, plant them 8-10 weeks before the first frost in your area.
Peppers are a warm-season crop that needs as much heat as possible. Plant the seedlings in the garden in May after the final frost date. Expect the harvest to come in August and September.
Potatoes are a popular root crop that grows well in this climate. Plant between April and May and harvest towards the late summer and early fall. Make sure the soil doesn’t stay waterlogged or the potatoes rot.
Pumpkins are a traditional warm-season crop that should be planted in May after the final frost. It takes a long time to reach maturity, so be sure the days to maturity match this growing zone.
Radishes are a simple root crop that reaches maturity in as little as 30 days. Plant between March and April, and you can seeds every two to three weeks for succession planting.
Rhubarb is a perennial vegetable that tastes more like a fruit with a sour taste best mixed with fruit. It needs to be planted in early spring between March and April, growing for decades to come.
16. Summer Squash
Most commonly grown is zucchini, which does well in zone five. Plant once the final frost passes in May. You can start seeds inside two weeks before transplanting outside or sow seeds directly outdoors.
17. Winter Squash
Traditionally grown due to their long-term storage ability, many winter squashes grow well in zone five. Plant these warm-season crops after the final frost in May. Check their days to maturity to be sure it matches the frost-free days.
The Best Flowers and Herbs to Grow in Zone 5
Flower gardens in zone five are full of color. Gardeners have a considerable selection to consider when planning their gardens. If you want a ground cover, consider creeping phlox, creeping thyme, violets, and stonecrop. These ground covers spread and grow like wildfire in zone five gardens.
Many herbs grow well in zone five. There are few, if none, herbs that you cannot grow in this climate, but not all perennial herbs grow well here because the temperatures might dip too low.
My herb garden is full of different plants, including basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano. Most of your favorite herbs can grow well in these zones, but a majority are annuals unless grown inside or grown in containers and brought inside.
Here are some other flowers and herbs that grow well in USDA zone five.
Delphinium grows up to six feet tall in zones three through seven. That means you need to grow them towards the back of your garden beds to avoid casting shade. These flowers attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to their pink, blue, and purple blooms. Plant your Delphinium flowers in full sunlight and well-draining soil.
Echinacea, sometimes called purple coneflower, is a perennial herb that grows well in full and partial sunlight. This herb tolerates a range of soil, including rocky and poor, but not wet, soggy soil. Pick a spot with full to part sunlight for optimal growth.
Lilies are one of the most popular flowers to grow in zone five. Not only do they attract butterflies, but the blooms are lovely and come in a range of colors, such as orange, yellow, pink, red, and white. Lilies grow best in full to partial sun and well-draining soil.
These flowers grow best in full sunlight and well-draining soil, but they do well in any soil type. Salvia has over 900 cultivars, so that you can find the perfect one for your garden. The blooms are brightly colored and attract butterflies and other pollinators to your garden.
Hollyhock reaches up to eight feet tall with the proper care. Plant them in full sunlight and well-draining soil for optimal growth. Due to their height, hollyhocks are best in the back of your garden, or they’ll cast too much shade.
23. Coral Bells
For those with rock gardens, coral bells have brightly colored leaves with pink and purple dashes mixed with green to make your garden pop. The best thing about coral bells is that they’re low maintenance. If you plant them in full sunlight in zones three through nine, these plants reach up to three feet tall.
Here is one of the easiest herbs to grow as a perennial. Chives are the perfect cut and come again herb. You can cut whatever you need for the meal, and it’ll come back fast.
When you have a garden bed that is full shade, it makes it hard to find plants to grow. Hostas are the perfect full shade plant to add to your garden beds. If possible, hostas need a bit of sun in the morning, but it’s a common plant in zones five to nine.
Lavender is an iconic herb with the best scent, and gardeners in zones five through eight can enjoy it as a perennial. This herb grows well in full sunlight and well-draining soil.
These are tubular blooms that come in pink, red, yellow, and purple. Foxgloves grow best in well-draining soil and full sunlight, but they also grow well in partial sun, partial shade, or full shade. These are tall plants, reaching up to five feet tall.
28. Bee Balm
As you might guess from the name, bee balm attracts bees and other pollinators to your garden. That makes it handy to have planted nearby. Bee balm grows best in full sunlight, but it does grow in part shade but becomes leggy over time. Pick a spot that has moist, rich soil and plant in the spring or early fall.
If you’re looking for fragrant flowers to add to your garden, hyacinths are an aromatic blooming plant that comes in pink, purple, blue, red, pink, orange, and more! Growing well in zones four through nine, plant your hyacinths in full sunlight and well-draining soil for best results.
Asters are a beautiful flower known for its sweet smell that attracts pollinators. In the right conditions, it reaches eight feet tall, especially if growing in slightly moist soil. These plants grow in any type of sunlight. Asters grow well in zones three through eight.
Try Growing New Plants
The best thing about growing in zone five is that there are so many great plants to grow. While perennial plants’ list is smaller, gardeners in this zone can grow nearly any annual plant desired. That means you don’t have to limit your gardening dreams.
Learn more about zone 5 gardening: