A number of different plants can survive the more harsh winters in North America. If you live in a warmer climate, many plants will winter over with no adverse effects. However, in most places only certain types of plants will survive cold winters. By planting evergreens and perennials that are cold hardy to your climate zone, you can reduce your spring planting effort and have early greening and flowers in your yard.
Evergreen bushes and trees have needle-like foliage that remains green throughout the winter. Common evergreen trees include pines, spruce, junipers, fir and larch. Although these trees go through a dormant period in the winter with no growth, their foliage, or needles, usually remain green and on the tree. In some cases, an evergreen may lose some or all of its needles over the winter. In most cases, the tree will re-grow the needles in the spring.
A perennial is a plant whose root stock is hardy enough to survive a cold winter. In very cold climates or with more delicate perennials, you may want to protect the roots over the winter. The most common way of protecting the roots is to add 2 to 4 inches of mulch on your perennial beds. Straw, compost, or shredded tree bark are common mulches for winter perennial protection. It is important to remember to remove the mulch in the spring around the time of your area's last frost to allow the perennials to come up as spring progresses.
Bulbs can survive the winter in warmer climates zone 7 and above. In colder climates, you will likely have to dig the bulbs up and winter them over in a protected area. However, in zone 7 and above, you can leave your bulbs in the ground year around for very early tulips, daffodils and other early spring flowers. Protecting your bulbs like perennials by applying 2-4 inches of mulch over the beds in zone 7. By leaving the bulbs in the ground, they reproduce naturally and you may need to thin your beds of fertilize aggressively to maintain the size and health of your flowers.