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Check Out These Cool Characters! The Top Winter Garden Plants

Winter doesn’t mean it has to be all white in the garden. Even if there is a blanket of snow covering the soil, these winter garden ideas will add some pizzazz to cold and dreary days with their showy limbs, bright berries, and even some flowers! Here are some ideas for winter garden plants and when to get started planting them.

The Best Garden Plants for Winter

While I am blessed with the fortune of a mild Vancouver winter, I know there are much colder places that have difficulty in finding beauty in the winter. From all the deciduous trees losing their leaves and flowers hiding away for the cold months, things can start to look a little brown before things turn white.

Adding winter garden flowers and plants to your yard ensures that you get some beautiful colour even in the dead of winter. When planning your garden, try to remember to add some winter interest as well!

Where to Start with Winter Garden Plants

A tall evergreen tree or shrub in the corner of your garden is a good starting point. Then you’ll also want to include lower evergreens that stay above the snow.

Some winter garden plants have interesting bark once their leaves are gone for the winter, others have berries and flowers.

It’s all about getting a nice mix of greenery for every season out there.

rhododendron bud in snow

When to Plant a Winter Garden

If you’re thinking about winter garden ideas, then chances are things are starting to cool down where you live. Don’t panic at the thought of losing all your summer lovelies. They’ll be back next year! For now, you can turn your attention to planting some perennials for the winter.

Fall is actually a great time of year to plant perennials. First of all, they’re all on sale at the garden centre (booyah!) and they’re also going to have a couple of seasons to establish before the hot summer sun beats down on them.

The key is to make sure you plant approximately 6 weeks before the first frost or when the ground completely freezes. Your perennial needs time to establish roots in order to make it through the winter. You can learn more about fall perennial gardening here.

Keep in mind, young perennials may take a few years before they have their first blooms. So before planting, make sure to do your research on each individual plant so you know what to expect and what kind of conditions they prefer.

6 Winter Garden Plants That Stay Green All Winter

1. Emerald Colonnade Holly

This beautiful evergreen makes a great topiary planting. Its regal shape responds well to pruning and it thrives in a container environment. In the ground, it’s also suitably planted as a hedge. This male holly won’t get berries, but it will stay evergreen all year.

emerald colonnade holly
emerald colonnade holly Photo Courtesy of Monrovia, credit Doreen Wynja.

2. Burgundy Lace Japanese Maple

Japanese maples are known for their graceful arched branches that swoop in organic shapes that provide structural interest to the garden in winter.

This Japanese maple will not only look attractive in the winter but also has lacy burgundy red leaves that turn fiery shades in the fall.

Burgundy Lace Japanese Maple
Burgundy Lace Japanese Maple Photo Courtesy of Monrovia, credit Doreen Wynja.

3. Climbing Hydrangea

Okay, I admit this one is a bit of a cheat! This hydrangea may not have any blooms, or even leaves, in the cooler months but the climbing brown peeling bark is attractive in winter.

Allow this hydrangea to grow up a trellis, arbor, or wall and become a winter sculpture.

climbing hydrangea
Climbing Hydrangea Photo Courtesy of Monrovia, credit Doreen Wynja.

4. Cotoneaster

This low-growing ground cover is perfect to use in an area that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic. It has small blue-green leaves, tiny white flowers in the spring, and red berries through the fall and winter.

This evergreen is only 6 inches tall but it is fast-growing and can reach a width of 8 feet in a short period of time. The berries are also a good food source for winter birds.

Cotoneaster’s bright red berries


5. Sienna Sunrise Heavenly Bamboo

Heavenly bamboo is another evergreen plant that provides for seasonal interest. While it’s slow-growing to 3 or 4 feet, the new growth is characterized by fiery red highlights on green older leaves.

If you’re lucky enough to get the flowers in the spring you can get a nice crop of berries in fall and winter. Keep in mind that Heavenly Bamboo can be susceptible to freezing if not protected, so it is best grown in milder winter climates.

sienna sunrise heavenly bamboo
Heavenly Bamboo Photo Courtesy of Monrovia, credit Doreen Wynja.

6. Jelena Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is not just a medicinal superhero but also an unusual shrub that adds blazing colour to the winter landscape. Flowers have wild coppery petals with dark eyes that look like pom-poms adorning the bare branches. These flowers are also fragrant, so plant witch hazel near entries and patios where you can enjoy them the most.

Witch Hazel in bloom Jelena


5 Winter Garden Flowers to Plant

1. Cornelian Cherry Dogwood

In late winter this dogwood produces showy, small yellow flowers that brighten up an otherwise dreary landscape. You can prune it into an attractive low-branching, multi-stemmed shrub or a small (15 to 20 feet tall) garden tree.

Kornelkirsche - European Cornel

2. Berry Poppins Winterberry

This cousin of holly only reaches 3 to 4 inches tall but it packs a punch with a full set of bright red ornamental berries in the winter. Not only are these berries perfect for cutting and adding to decorative holiday flower arrangements, but they also provide a good food source for winter birds.

berry poppins winterberry

3. Winter Jasmine

Winter jasmine is a winter-flowering shrub with bright, lemon-yellow flowers that spill over a wall or a steep slope.

Unsupported it will grow to 4 feet tall and 7 feet wide, but provide a trellis or wall for it to climb up and it will reach heights of up to 15 feet. Its slender, bright green stems make an attractive show in winter.

Winter jasmine  Jasminum nudiflorum
Winter jasmine Jasminum nudiflorum

4. Royal Star Magnolia

This magnolia is such an early bloomer that it’s characterized as winter interest. Gray limbs, shiny green leaves, and fuzzy flower buds show in winter. The deeply fragrant double white flowers emerge in spring before the foliage.

Magnolias are a good choice to plant where unexpected late freezes can occur as the flowers bloom so early.

royal star magnolia
Royal Star Magnolia Photo Courtesy of Monrovia, credit Doreen Wynja.

5. Lenten Rose

Hellebores are all the rage in late winter. As they bloom in late winter or early spring they are often called a Christmas Rose or an Easter Rose (depending on when they bloom).

The winter jewels apricot blush hellebore has a gorgeous peachy-apricot shade with dark rose speckling and edges. These large flowers are 3 to 4 inches in width and last for weeks. Plant these in a sunny garden for the best blooms.

Winter Jewels Apricot Blush hellebore
Winter Jewels Apricot Blush hellebore Photo Courtesy of Monrovia, credit Doreen Wynja.


Thank you to Monrovia for helping me curate the winter garden plants for this list and providing the beautiful photos.

More Posts to Read:


  1. Winter gardening is hard task! My hydrangea has never bloomed during the winter. Thank you for sharing this article! Best regards!

  2. hi stephanie, if i want to plant a holly bush like the red berried one that’ll drop it’s green leaves….what male pollinator will i need? and how many of them would i need? also, when is the best time of the year to plant them? New gardener here….


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