Winter Gardening: Yes You Can Have Four Seasons of Color

Beautiful pansy viola flower in tricolor, white, magenta and violet or purple with white snow cover

This list of winter plant ideas includes not only winter flowers, but shrubs, evergreens, ornamental grass, and trees you might use to make your winter festive and colorful. Don’t forget to group your winter garden flower pots in the best possible site, and use garden planters suitable for winter gardening-not fragile terra cotta pots, in other words. Avoid placing pots on concrete (it gets too cold) and group plants together in a site shielded from wind.

Petals of beautiful frozen pink flower Aster covered with frost. | Iuliia Kudrina

Winter Flowers:

  • Asters (fall blooming, and in some conditions these can also produce early winter flowers)
  • Chrysanthemums (late fall into early winter bloom time)
  • Ornamental kales (not a flower, but very interesting for fall, shading from greens to reds)
  • Pansies (can flower in winter in some zones)
  • Sedums (‘Autumn Joy’ blooms red in fall and can go through early winter in some zones)
  • Winter-flowering violas
  • Spring Bulbs. You can also underplant your winter container garden with bulbs such as snowdrops, crocus, tulips, and narcissus.
Feather Grass | Smyshliaeva Oksana

Ornamental Grasses:

Here are two good choices:

Feather Grass (hardy in zones 4-9, no winter flowers since it blooms in the growing season, but nice visual interest through the winter).

Miscanthus sinensis (hardy in zones 6-9, blooms through late fall with visual interest during the winter).

Bunch of purple scotch heather (Calluna vulgaris, erica, ling) bush also called Ling plant on moorland.

Winter Shrubs and Low Growers:

  • Scotch Heathers Very pretty fall blooms and in some areas can go into winter flowers, with form interest through winter.
  • Scotch Heaths: Pink or white late winter flowers, grows to 2 feet and is a lovely, dense green in winter.
  • Wintergreen (a low, spreading shrub with red berries). Wintergreen grows in sun to shade. The plant performs best when planted in moist, acid soil, high in organic matter. Hardiness Zones 3 to 5 (6).
  • Juniper: Try these two types: Shore Juniper (Juniperus conferta). This juniper is low-spreading and hardy from zones 6-10. Japanese Garden Juniper (Also a spreader, growing to 18 inches and hardy from zones 4-10).
  • Boxwood: Always a great choice. You can allow boxwood to grow naturally into its mounding shape, or clip it for a great-looking topiary. And remember, boxwood also looks stunning along a patio, deck, or front yard entrance when planted in identical pots.
  • Dwarf conifers: The following list contains conifers perfectly suited to winter container gardening.
Abies koreana Kohouts Icebreaker, new dwarf cultivar of Korean fir with silvery curvy needles

These occur in a wide array of colors including silvery blue, yellow, lime-green, and deep green. These lovely dwarf conifers will illustrate just how easily you can achieve stunning color and visual interest–and without using even one winter flower. The variations in color tone combined with leaf texture and form will make great additions to your container plantings.

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’ (Hinoki false cypress)
Zones 4 to 8.

Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’ (Sawara cypress)
Zones 4 to 8.

Erica carnea ‘Golden Starlet’ (winter heath)
Zones 5 to 7.

Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’ (common juniper)
Zones 2 to 6.

Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ (singleseed juniper)
Zones 5 to 8.

Pinus mugo ‘Valley Cushion’ (mountain pine)
Zones 3 to 7.

Red Japanese maple tree

Winter Trees:

  • Redtwig Dogwoods (very winter hardy, the red stems are great architectural as well as color features. Hardy in zones 2-6 or 7; cut out a third of the oldest canes each year for best production and color).
  • Cut-leaf Chastetree (hardy from zones 6-9, no winter flowers, but very interesting leaf shape).
  • Fernleaf and Japanese Maples (hardy in zones 5-7, these cut-leaf maples turn a stunning red in early-to-late spring)
  • Japanese Umbrella Pine (hardy in zones 5-7, this conically shaped pine is a very slow grower. No blooms, but provides good structure for your winter container garden.)
  • Additionally, you might try plumbagos and Japanese anemones, two great rock garden plants adaptable to containers.

Source: Virginia Slachman

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