The 5 Best Annual Flowers For Zone 3

Written by Peralee Knight
Updated: August 22, 2023
Share on:


Whether you are a novice gardener just starting or an expert with years of experience, all growers are at the mercy of the weather, especially when it comes to areas where winters can be punishing, and temperatures drop well past zero, like in USDA Hardiness Zone 3. Zone 3 mostly consists of the upper Midwest states, such as Maine, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, and it gets cold quickly!

What Are Plant Zones?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed and maintains the Plant Hardiness Map. This map is split into 13 areas called “zones” to help gardeners select plants that will thrive in that area. Zones are organized according to the lowest average winter temperatures in those areas, like a weather map. All zones are further classified as northern or southern as well. For example, Zone 3a indicates this is the northern part of the zone, while Zone 3b indicates the south.

Zone 3 is known for its short growing season and very cold temperatures, between -40 °F and -30 °F in Zone 3a and -35 °F and -30 °F in Zone 3b. This means that any plants selected for this area must be hardy enough to withstand the cold, including annuals.

What Is an Annual Plant?

Purple Pansy Flower

An annual plant or flower blooms for one growing season.

©Leecy Jones/

The two basic types of plants or flowers are annuals and perennials. An annual plant or flower blooms for one growing season. Perennials are plants that come back during their growing season year after year. The annual plants or flowers that you choose for your garden will need to be replaced every year. Depending on the zone you live in, some plants may be classified as perennial but are more popularly used as annual. Additionally, some plants and flowers are considered annuals in some zones but may be classified as perennials in warmer zones.

The Best Annual Flowers For Zone 3

Best Zone 3 Annual for Gardening Beginners: Zinnia

Giant red zinnia flower

Zinnias come in a variety of colors and petal shapes.

© Reasor

Zinnias are hardy annuals that are known for being tolerant and easy to grow and are one of the more versatile annual flowers. Due to the short growing season common in Zone 3 locations, the sheer availability of fully bloomed plants makes the zinnia a great option for any garden. The zinnia is available in sizes that range from one to eight feet tall and in nearly every color, with double blooms up to two inches wide. This annual does well in garden beds and container gardens and is a hanging basket staple.

Best Zone 3 Annual for Full Sun: Snapdragons

Snapdragons. Snapdragon pink flowers in the garden. Spring and summer background. Vertical photo

Snapdragons grow to different heights, depending on the species.


Snapdragons may not look like plants that can take the cold, but these sun-loving plants are tougher than they look. The snapdragon is classified as a perennial but is often used as an annual in colder zones like Zone 3. Snapdragons grow to different heights depending on species, and their stacked pitcher-shaped blooms range from vibrant red and yellow to pink and purple. These are excellent for container gardens and as-cut flowers for your home.

Best Zone 3 Annual for Color Variety: Petunias


Petunias come in nearly every color with the caption of blue.

©Maya Afzaal/

Petunias are cold, hardy annuals that are highly popular for being easy to grow, but it’s the sheer range of colors that make them a top choice! Petunias come in nearly every color with the caption of blue, and their distinct trumpet-shaped bicolor blooms look good in any garden. Like zinnias, petunias are commercially available as fully grown plants, which takes advantage of Zone 3’s short growing season. Between one and 18 inches high on average, the possibilities are nearly endless for any garden or container!

Best Zone 3 Annual for Attracting Pollinators: Sweet Alyssum

Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) flowers, California

Sweet alyssums grow in large bunches of small white flowers.

© Photography

Alyssum is used as an annual plant in Zone 3 and is an exceptional option for attracting pollinators to your garden. Sweet alyssum is exceptional for attracting and promoting honeybees, the most important pollinator and a vital part of the ecosystem and your garden! Sweet alyssum is a low-growing plant, between two and 12 inches high, with vibrant green foliage and small pink, lavender, or white flowers. Alyssum is an excellent choice for ground cover and in container gardens.

Best Zone 3 Annual for Any Garden: Pansies

Pansy / Viola

Pansies come in a seemingly endless combination of colors, and their distinctive bicolored blooms are showy and cheerful.

©Ken Kojima /

Pansies are annual flowers that hit the top of the list for many gardeners, and for good reasons. This annual is one of the most tolerant flowers out there, standing up to both heat and cold while being drought tolerant as well. Pansies come in a seemingly endless combination of colors, and their distinctive bicolored blooms are showy and cheerful. Pansies grow to between six and 12 inches high with unique foliage and blooms of nearly every color, including blue!

Up Next…

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

Share on:

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.