Winter Interest Plants Add Color and Beauty to Your Yard
These bold winter interest plants are sure to provide a wonderland of color, form and beauty to your landscape.
Shutterstock / Leonid Ikan
Winter Interest Plants: Mountain Ash
Attract birds and more with a mountain ash tree. These winter interest plants are bursting with beauty. Red-orange berry clusters cling through winter and provide much-needed color against a gray sky. In fall, enjoy fernlike leaves that turn yellow to red before dropping. This native plant is tolerant of strong winds and serves as a vital food source for birds, especially hungry cedar and Bohemian waxwings.
Backyard Tip: Food for wildlife can be scarce when the snow falls or conditions turn icy. Plan a winter landscape that includes plants with berries, nuts and seeds to supply backyard critters with some easy-access food sources throughout the chilly months.
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Bursting with bright red berries that last through winter, this deer resistant shrub thrives in cold, windy areas and withstands damage from salt spray. Use it to edge driveways or line retaining walls. With several species available, the options are endless.
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The workhorse of the winter garden, boxwood adds color and structure. Its natural form is pretty, or you can prune it into a flat hedge or round orb in spring. It also grows in containers and is drought tolerant. Winter Gem is a reliable beauty to consider.
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Create intrigue in an otherwise barren garden with elegant stems and plumes that stand at attention and sway with a whisper of winter wind. Ornamental grasses also make a terrific source of shelter and seeds provide food for songbirds. Plant them in masses for big impact and cut them back in early spring. Feather reed grass is a striking, sterile option.
Switchgrass is also a winner. This native option grows best in full sun and moist soil, a top pick for rain gardens. Flower spikes rise a foot or two above the grass and produce light pink blooms in mid to-late summer. It can be aggressive, so consider a cultivar that spreads less.
See more native grasses you should plant for birds and butterflies.
It’s low maintenance, resilient and ignored by most pests. In addition, witch hazel provides a wow factor with spidery flowers in hues of yellow, orange, red, copper and purple that bloom in fall or winter into early spring. Not only does this plant light up the dormant landscape, but it’s fragrant, too. Grow it as a small tree or a large shrub.
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Best known for presenting a springtime show, these flowering trees also produce red, orange and yellow fruits that appear in fall and persist into winter. They offer a pop of color against snowy gardens and provide food for birds. For a small yard, consider Tina or Firebird. Both are disease resistant with vibrant fruits.
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Red Twig Dogwood
With red branches that look like coral in a wintry sea, this cold-hardy native stuns. At home in woodland and rain gardens, dogwood shines in every season. Cut old stems back in spring to optimize color on new growth.
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Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick
This odd-shaped shrub is a conversation starter with bright yellow catkins that dangle from twisty branches. Plant Harry Lauder’s walking stick where everyone can appreciate its one-of-a-kind silhouette.
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Falling snow and cold winters won’t stop snowdrops from pushing through the soil. These 4-to-6-inch-tall perennials thrive in cool climates, from zones 3 to 8. The early blooming bulbs produce delicate white flowers and the thin, dark green leaves disappear when the bulbs go dormant. Plant snowdrop bulbs at least 2 inches deep in groups during fall. Snowdrops can self-seed, so give them plenty of space to spread.
Create a jolly front porch with festive winter planters.
Christmas rose, also known as black hellebore (Helleborus niger, zones 3 to 8), takes a long time to establish but is worth the wait. It blooms in winter in warm areas and does best in part to full shade. A sheltered location with protection from cold winds will keep the deeply lobed, dark green leaves looking good all winter long. In regions with warmer winters, Christmas rose produces large white flowers with yellow stamens in December.
Also plant Lenten rose for early spring blooms.
Buttercup winterhazel (Corylopsis pauciflora, zones 6 to 8) earned its name thanks to its abundant, mildly fragrant yellow flowers that appear in late winter or spring. It has light green leaves that turn yellow or chartreuse in the fall. Grow in acidic, moist, well-draining soil and full sun to part shade. Neatly compact at 4 to 6 feet tall and wide, it is ideal for smaller gardens.
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Given its tolerance of drought, shade, pests and diseases, winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum, zones 6 to 10) is a great choice for challenging conditions. The semi-evergreen shrub stands around 5 feet tall, but its vines stretch up to 15 feet. Flowers appear in late winter to early spring. The long vines can be trained with a trellis to create a screen or grown as a ground cover on slopes and banks.
P.S. Tagetes lemmonii will add color to your garden even in winter in southern growing zones.
Springwood Pink Winter Heath
Choose this compact evergreen plant for garden interest in all four seasons. Also known as snow heath, Erica carnea (zones 5 to 7) prefers acidic soil and full sun to part shade. The slow-growing ground cover is native to the Alps in Europe. Look for needlelike green foliage with bronze tips. Pink-tinted blooms appear from January to March, adding subtle color to the landscape.
Psst—try these dwarf conifers for small spaces.
Northern Sea Oats
Northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium, zones 4 to 9) is a native ornamental grass that tolerates shade. The seed heads start out green in spring before transitioning to a purplish bronze over the summer. By winter, the foliage turns a copper tone. The plant can spread aggressively, so give it room in moist soil. Several skipper butterflies use this grass as a host plant.
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This deciduous holly (Ilex verticillata, zones 3 to 9) has dark green leaves that fade to gold or maroon in the fall. A winterberry shrub grows well in full sun to part shade and wet soil. As the name implies, bright red berries appear after the first frost. One male plant can pollinate up to five female, berry producing plants.
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When planted in part shade and moist, well-draining soil, winter daphne (Daphne odora, zones 7 to 9) thrives in warmer climates and delights gardeners with bright, rosy blooms. It can also be kept in containers and overwintered inside. The shrub’s fragrant flowers, in shades from light pink to reddish purple, bloom between January and April.
Next, learn how to prepare your garden for winter in two days.