In the depths of winter, when deciduous plants have dropped their brightly coloured leaves and bare branches and empty pots take their place, it can be a gloomy time for the garden. We’re here to help you inject some much-needed colour into your outdoor space with our pick of the best plants for a winter garden.
What plants can I put in my garden for winter?
Adding a selection of plants with brightly coloured flowers or foliage can have a huge impact on your winter garden. Read on to discover plants in a rainbow of shades that will brighten even the dullest of winter days:
This large shrub provides interest throughout the year but the red bark that’s left behind when the leaves fall, makes it stand out above the other plants. It’s a fast-growing plant and can tolerate being cut back pretty hard. The branches make beautiful additions to winter flower arrangements, wreaths and festive table decorations.
2. Photinia x fraseri Red Robin
These hardy, evergreen plants will grow just about anywhere. I’ve got really dense, clay soil in my garden and the photinias thrive in it. The more you prune them, the redder the new growth appears. They can be bought as shrubs or standards and are very easy to prune into the shape and size that you need them to be. They also make excellent hedging.
3. Purple Beautyberry
One of the most beautiful plants you can add to your garden, the beautyberry easily lives up to its name. Delicate pink summer flowers are followed by a dramatic display of purple berries that last throughout winter. The leaves also put on a fabulous show of colour, changing throughout the year before falling in autumn. Perfect for flower arrangements, this is a plant you won’t be disappointed with. It can grow up to 3m but you can keep it in check with regular pruning.
They may not look like it but beautyberries are edible. They have an interesting flavour and are best cooked and used to make beautyberry tea, jelly and wine.
4. Acer palmatum Winter Flame
Add some zen to your garden with a Japanese acer. These plants are famed for their vibrant colours as the leaves change dramatically over the seasons. The winter flame variety puts out pink edged new leaves in spring which turn green then to gold in autumn whilst the bark becomes especially vibrant. Acers like a sheltered position and will grow well in pots so this variety is ideal for brightening up a patio.
5. Pink pampas grass
Once a feature of the 70s and falling out of fashion due to its carefree connotations, pampas has swung back into style and for good reason! The dried flowers are high in demand and a feature of trending home social media accounts.
Pink pampas is more of a subdued blush colour than a candyfloss pink. These are large plants and can be invasive so take care where they are planted. Also, the leaves are extremely sharp so this plant won’t be suited to a garden with children.
Pampas grasses are hardy and the flowers that appear in late summer last well into autumn and winter. This grass won’t be for everyone but a pink variety will provide a beautiful burst of colour in a large garden or raised bed.
6. Winter honeysuckle
Lonicera fragrantissima is one of the most sweetly scented honeysuckles and it blooms from November into March. Clusters of creamy flowers form on bare stems after the leaves fall. Take care not to prune this plant after April because that year’s winter flowers will form on the new spring growth. Not only do the flowers last throughout winter, but the heady scent will be a refreshing addition to a winter garden.
Mahonia are evergreen shrubs with glossy, spiky leaves. These low-maintenance plants are ideal in borders and the ‘winter sun’ variety will produce stylish spikes of yellow flowers throughout winter, followed by attractive blue berries. It can grow up to 4 metres tall but can be kept smaller by pruning.
Often overlooked but worthy of placing in any garden, heathers will produce a blanket of rich colour throughout winter. Producing flowers in a huge range of shades from hot pink and yellow to crisp white, heather is ideal for borders and pots and will bring welcome winter colour to any space.
In larger gardens try combining several different coloured heathers for a patchwork effect and in smaller areas, you can add a couple of heathers to a border or place several together in a planter.
9. Torbay Palm
These beautiful, hardy cordylines have deep purple leaves with bright pink edging. They’re easy to care for and provide a vivid splash of colour amongst more subdued green and brown foliage. These plants look great all year round and will withstand frost, although you may want to move them to a sheltered spot in deepest winter.
10. Camellia Yuletide
The ruby-red flowers of camellia yuletide will add a festive feel to a winter garden. Flowering from November to March, this evergreen plant has glossy green leaves all year round. It’s an adaptable plant and can be left to grow as a shrub, trained against a wall or trellis or placed in a large pot.
When should I start a winter garden?
It’s best to plant new trees and shrubs between October and April, especially bare-rooted varieties. This is because many trees are dormant during the winter months and they should need less in terms of TLC.
The ground is moist during autumn and winter and it gives trees a good chance to establish their root system, ready for the spring growing season. Potted plants can be planted at any time of year. Avoid planting if the ground is frozen or waterlogged.
If you’re keen to add autumn and winter flowers to your garden, check out: 14 of the best flowers for a blooming autumn garden.