General gardening topics

Top 10 Best plants for winter pots

Last updated on March 16th, 2022

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Winter is typically considered the garden downtime, that one time of year when nothing much is happening and all is bleak and monochromatic outside. Most gardeners are under the impression they must wait until spring has sprung to enjoy colour and beauty. But this is not the case. There are plenty of plants for winter pots that can be displayed to add some colour to your garden. 

Winter Plants for Pots

There are many hardy winter plants that bring forth colourful stems, bright and verdant foliage, mixed with even brighter flowers, even vivid berries. You can find the right mixture of winter flowering plants for pots that leave a stunning impact but don’t require a lot of maintenance. Such flowers and foliage can make all the difference on an otherwise dull winter day. 

Winter pansies or violas can be planted in autumn and will flower well into spring

You can include plants outside, robust varieties like the winter-flowering pansies or violas which have the smaller flower. These pansies can be found in white, purple, yellow and more. They will bloom and continue flowering in winter, recovering even under the worst of weather and will flower well into spring. So, don’t worry if you are stuck in an area with hard frosts, because there is something for everyone. 

Winter pansies which are perfect for winter pots
Winter pansies, provide colour from autumn until spring

You can follow my guide here on how to sow winter pansies from seed step by step.

Winter pansies are excellent for pots and look stunning when planted with a small miniature conifer such as goldcrest in the centre

snowdrops for providing winter colour in containers

If you want to bring flying friends to your garden to help enliven your spirits over winter, you can grow things like snowdrops which supply nectar for solitary bees. There are many bulbs you can plant for autumn and winter colour, check out this article of some of the best bulbs for creating winter colour.

Gaultheria procumbens which is a small evergreen shrub with bright red berries in winter making it perfect for winter containers
Gaultheria procumbens – Perfect for containers
Ajuga reptans tolerates moderately dry soils but does prefer moist soil. That said providing optimum conditions will increase the flower production you receive and the colours therein. While the plants will grow well in any other conditions you might not receive the same brightness. This plant needs good air circulation and can easily be divided if it becomes overcrowded.
Ajuga – perfect for trailing over winter pots and containers

Other options to consider include the Gaultheria procumbens which is a small evergreen shrub with bright red berries in winter and Ajuga. Ajuga, for instance, is a rugged evergreen that spreads low in the container and can be used to trail over with leaves that are rounded purple or boastful of a variegated purple. Ajuga is a wonderful alternative to Ivy, without destructive tendencies. 

This group of ornamental grasses is great for containers as it grows somewhat smaller than most ornamental grasses and comes in a range of colours from lush green but we think the blue varieties such as 'Blaufuchs' have the most appeal making them an excellent ornamental grass for containers.
Festuca glauca
For those of you interested in adding yellow colour to your garden but maintaining a unique colour spread in an otherwise monochromatic green world the rest of the year, the lavender cotton plant is the perfect solution.
Santolina chamaecyparissus

Santolina chamaecyparissus, Festuca glauca, both of which are pictured above, and Phormium can add some festivity and colour to your garden. Phormium is best known as an architectural evergreen which brings arched shaped leaves in all manners of colour, some with stripes, pink tones, bronze shades or purple hues. These make excellent mixes amongst more contemporary garden designs. Phormiums work well when planted on their own or used as a centrepiece in a large pot.

Phormium shrub planted in pot
Give your garden something different with mondo grass, a black perennial grass with foliage that will stand apart against a backdrop of otherwise green/yellow colours in your garden. When grown in sunny locations it will produce rich, black foliage and light pink flowers in summer which are a feature in themselves.
Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’

Also another contemporary option, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ boasts jet black leaves that will take over in the form of long, slender leaves, and contrast well against things like the Cyclamen persicum which is a free-flowering and hardy plant. Normally though, the Cyclamen persicum is used as an indoor plant so it will mix well with Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ in pots. 

Cyclamen persicum which is a free-flowering and hardy plant. Normally though, the Cyclamen persicum is used as an indoor plant so it will mix well with Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ in pots.
Cyclamen persicum
Euonymus Blondy ground cover plant
Euonymus fortunei ‘Blondy’

The Euonymus fortunei can bring some much-needed cheer to your garden, as can Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ thanks to the pink buds they hold through winter before opening to pale pink-white flowers in spring. This is a rugged evergreen shrub and provides colour all year round, including the much-needed winter colour which makes it perfect for pots. It produces grape-like clusters of bright pink buds all winter long. 

skimmia japonica
Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’

So no matter what you decide for your winter pots, rest assured there is something out there to brighten your dark days.

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

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