Top 5 Best Annual Flowers For Zone 4

close-up of dozens of marigolds with green background
iStock.com/Valeriy Lushchikov

Written by Peralee Knight

Updated: August 22, 2023

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In some areas, gardening can get a bit tricky. The most important aspect of gardening is knowing which plants can stand up to the weather in your area. When it comes to planting and growing in the northern parts of the United States and parts of Canada, that means keeping the cold in mind. In Zone 4, our picks for the best annual plants are zinnias, coleus, spider flowers, petunias, and marigolds. Each of these plants is amazing for varied reasons, but they all stand up to the cold like champions!

What Are Plant Zones?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed and maintains the Plant Hardiness Map. This map is split into 13 Zones to aid growers and gardeners in selecting plants that thrive well in their area. These zones are determined by the lowest average winter temperatures, much like a weather map. Each of the 13 Zones is split as well. For example, in Zone 6, you will see Zone 6a or 6b to indicate whether a plant grows best in the northern or southern part of the area. Plants that grow well in both parts of a Zone are considered the hardest!

In Zone 4, the average cold temperatures drop to between -10 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. The days are warm and long in summer, with an average of 70 degrees. This Zone also has the likelihood of heavy snowfall and unexpected frost.

What Is An Annual Plant?

Calandrinia Ciliata also known as red-maids

An annual is a plant that cannot overwinter!

There are two basic classifications for garden plants or flowers, annuals and perennials. While these terms can be misleading, an annual plant or flower only has one growing season, after which the plant dies. Perennials continue to come back during their growing season year after year. Annuals grow from seed, whereas perennials form root balls, deep root systems, or grow from bulbs. An annual is a plant that cannot overwinter!

The Best Annual Flowers For Zone 4

Best Zone 4 Annuals For Beginners: Zinnias

Zinnias in a garden

Zinnias often attract butterflies!

Zinnias are one of the most hassle-free annual flowers, and they tolerate a bit of chilly weather. For areas within Zone 4, zinnias are an excellent choice for both new gardeners and experts alike. Zinnias come in various colors and variations, and their tendency to spread out makes them excellent as groundcover flowers. In Zone 4, zinnias are best planted as fully grown plants once the threat of frost is passed for optimal blooms during the limited growing season. However, they are also easy to grow from seed as well!

Best Zone 4 Annuals For Sunny Spaces: Marigolds

Orange yellow French marigold or Tagetes patula flower on a blurred garden background.Marigolds.

Marigolds are bright and cheery flowers that are easy to care for.

Marigolds love sunny places, and their vibrant red, orange, and yellow blooms reflect that! However, their sunny nature also extends to freezing weather as well, as marigolds are a half-hardy annual. Their glossy green foliage frames the plant beautifully without added ground cover for an excellent bedding plant. Additionally, taller African marigolds are confident enough to take center stage or as an indoor plant. Marigolds are hardy enough that most varieties can deliver 80-90 days of color!

Best Zone 4 Annual Without Blooms: Coleus

Red and green leaves of the coleus plant

Coleus plant leaves come in many colors, including pink, red, and green.

If you’re searching for a little color without many blooms, coleus is the annual plant for you! Coleus produces foliage in a wide array of colors, from bright shades of green to rich reds and burgundies, with frilled or flat leaves. This plant comes in a stunning array of heights and widths, making it a wonderful choice for foliage in most garden locations. In Zone 3, the coleus is a hardy annual that can take a bit of wintry weather without much fuss. Additionally, they also grow well in the shade!

Best Zone 4 Annuals For Attracting Pollinators: Spider Flower

Cleome hassleriana

Spider flowers attract crucial pollinators like butterflies and honeybees, which is crucial to the garden and the entire ecosystem alike.

Spider flower is a perfect choice for wildflower lovers. It gets its name from the unique, spiderlike blooms of white, pink, and purple. This self-propagating annual is almost invasive in warmer climates but is tough enough for Zone 4’s lower temperatures. Additionally, spider flowers attract crucial pollinators like butterflies and honeybees, which is crucial to the garden and the entire ecosystem alike. This annual is best suited as a groundcover due to its lower profile and small blooms.

Best Zone 4 Annuals For Overall Variety: Petunias

Petunia

Petunias are surprisingly hardy and prefer things a bit on the cool side.

Petunias come in any color, and their attractive trumpet-like blooms are a cheerful addition to summer gardens in many Zones. This annual also delivers when it comes to greenery, with a tendency to bush out and fill container gardens and hanging baskets with color. Petunias are surprisingly hardy for colder places falling within Zone 4 and prefer things a bit on the cool side. This gives gardeners the added benefit of planting them a bit earlier in an already short growing season!

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