Updated: Dec 18, 2019
Are you looking for landscaping that stays beautiful during the wintertime, but still hope to see some color in your snow-covered yard? Before you turn to the over-used shrubs, evergreens, and fake decorative plants, consider investing in plants and flowers that can not only survive the cold winters, but thrive in them! Keep reading to learn more about the in's and out's of winter landscaping, and a list of our favorite plants and flowers that can last through the winter.
What to Look For
When searching for plants that will last the winter, the first thing to check for is, of course, if the plant or flower is a perennial. Perennials will be your best friend when looking for wintertime plants, as they come back year after year without you having to re-seed. The following list of plants and flowers happens to be chock-full of perennials! Another thing to look for in a wintertime plant is one that has colorful berries, branches or leaves that catch snow, and woody stems. It is impossible to tell whether a plant will live through the winter just by looking at it, which is why it is important to do a little research if you have questions on specific plants. However, woody plants and plants that have berries are well-known to be winter-friendly plants. Even if a plant does not have flowers or berries during the winter, oftentimes they can still look beautiful if their leaves or branches catch and hold the snow in them!
Lily of the Valley
This plant looks delicate, but is extremely tough when it comes to growing conditions. Lily of the valley is a great choice for a flowering winter plant, as its leaves will remain green throughout the winter. These plants are perennials, and so will come back blooming beautifully every year in the early spring. The blooming time for lily of the valley is typically in March, and the blooms will last about 3-4 weeks. A bonus point for the lily of the valley is that it is "poisonous" to deer, and so deer will avoid munching on its leaves and blooms all year round!
Our personal favorite, snowdrops are the absolute star of winter flowering plants. Plant these bulbs in the early fall, and watch as they bloom beautifully in mid-winter. The prime bloom time for snowdrops begins in October, and ends in April. Depending on the climate, snowdrops may begin to bloom in December, or March. These flowers prefer colder winters, and so will bloom later in mild climates. Snowdrops will become dormant in the spring, but will come back next winter, prettier than ever! Just like lily of the valley, deer tend to avoid snowdrops, as well as rabbits, so you can enjoy them all winter long without fear they will be nibbled at. These snowdrops will add beautiful green and pure-white colors to complement your landscape and remind you of the approaching spring!
This flower is known as "the flower that welcomes spring" in China, where it originates. This is a fantastic nick-name for winter jasmine, as this plant begins to bloom in January, and is already at full bloom in the beginning of spring. As a deciduous perennial, the winter jasmine will begin to bloom every year after losing its flowers in autumn. The best time to plant these lovely shrubs is in the spring, as they will flower the next winter. Plant winter jasmine as a shrub to bring some color to a bleak area of your yard, or plant in a pot as a statement piece on your front porch!
Despite having the word "winter" in the name, winter honeysuckle is dormant during the early winter, and does not begin to bloom until late winter. The bloom time for this lovely shrub is early January, lasting until late March. As an invasive plant, it is important to use winter honeysuckle as a cutback shrub, and remember cut back this shrub after flowering to allow it to grow the next winter, and to prevent it from spreading. This plant is an excellent choice for a winter plant to bring some life to your landscape, as it will bring a lovely lemon fragrance to your garden, and is a source for bees to obtain nectar in the wintertime. The delicate branch structure will catch snow beautifully, and the blooms will light up any garden. Let winter honeysuckle grow along with other honeysuckle plants to form a hedge, or plant as a trimmed shrub with smaller plants like snowdrops and coralbells for a lovely winter garden.
This evergreen, perennial plant blooms in spring and summer, but will provide beautifully textured, leafy foliage to your winter garden. The leaves on coralbells vary in color from dark purple, to auburn, to yellow, to green. Coralbells will survive through the winter if they do not head above the soil, and so do require frequent check-ups and possible winter mulching. If taken care of properly, you can watch these plants bloom in early spring, and enjoy the yellow, pink, and red flowers until fall, when they are dormant. Place these coralbells in any space in your garden that needs a leafy filler, or some bright red or purple accents.
Witch Hazel is a fan-favorite deciduous winter shrub, as it flowers in the late fall after its leaves drop. Because this plant flowers all winter long, you can enjoy the yellow and red flowers, the citrus-y scent, and the cosmetic and medicinal properties that the witch hazel provides. Witch hazel is our pick for a winter flowering plant, as it does not flower without a winter chill. As long as there is cold and snow around, the witch hazel plant will flower beautifully, and bring sunny colors to your garden! Plant the witch hazel shrub with other witch hazel shrubs to create a hedge to cover a fence or wall, or plant it on its own as a front-garden tree to compliment other smaller plants.
Pyracantha, commonly known as firethorn, is a wonderful choice for your winter garden because of its seasonal interest in every season. With beautiful white flowers in the spring, bright red and orange berries in the fall, and year-round shiny green leaves, firethorn will brighten up any garden all year round. The berries of this plant will persist throughout the winter, attracting friendly birds to your yard. Firethorn makes a beautiful shrub, but can also be trained as a vine to wrap around fences or posts. Watch as the snow falls and drapes beautifully on the firethorn's leaves, contrasting the cheery and bright red berries. Plant your firethorn bush somewhere that needs a bit of color, or train as a vine to grow up the side of your house or around a backyard fence.
Red Twig Dogwood
A wintertime favorite for decoration and winter bouquets, red twig dogwood is the perfect choice for a winter plant due to this shrub's strikingly-colored branches. The branches start off as green in the spring and summer, and slowly turn to a bright red in autumn as the leaves and flowers fall. Enjoy white flowers and green-blue berries in the springtime, and see how the beautiful red branches stand out against the snow in the wintertime. Plant red twig dogwood in a group to form a hedge, with evergreen plants or firethorn bushes to create a winter bouquet, or plant on its own in a pot on your front porch--any way you decide, enjoy as the snow falls and the red twig dogwood's bright red branches stand out in your winter landscaping.
Possibly the most recognized of winter shrubs, the winterberry holly is a wintertime classic for a reason. Although winterberry holly loses its leaves in the fall, this leaves room for you to enjoy the beautiful red berries that cling to its branches throughout the winter. In the spring when the berries fall, the winterberry holly grows back its leaves, and replaces the lost berries with gentle white flowers that last until autumn Plant this classic holiday shrub anywhere in your landscape that needs a little more color, or along with other winter shrubs like red twig dogwood or firethorn to create a muli-textured winter garden that will brighten your landscape with bright red colors..
American beautyberry, also known as French mulberry, is a favorite deciduous perennial for any winter landscape. The American beautyberry grows beautiful pink and white flowers in the spring, and loses both these and its leaves in the fall. However, these flowers are replaced with lovely pink and purple berries that will last throughout the whole winter, until they are replaced with the flowers in the spring. The American beautyberry is known for its medicinal properties, as the tea made from root and leaves is known to reduce fevers, and the berries are made into tea to help treat colic. A bonus for the American beautyberry is that it is a native plant, and so we can encourage you to grow this shrub as an overgrown hedge, or trim it back every year to keep as a statement shrub. The purple berries on this shrub would complement a purple coralbell plant perfectly to bring a winter "plum-colored" theme to your landscape.
When searching for the right plants for your winter landscape, it is important to remember that the best choices are plants that you love! Our recommendations are all versatile plants that look great and add value to your landscape all year long, and because of this, are great choices for any winter garden. It is important to choose colors that you enjoy, and to not be afraid to plant a purple American beautyberry next to a red winterberry holly! Be bold with your winter garden this year, and share your landscapes with us on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #PLGKC.