General gardening topics

20+ Winter Flowering Plants For Pots and Flower Beds

Last updated on January 21st, 2022

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Does your garden start looking bare as the cold winter months draw in as many of your plants and shrubs go into dormancy or die back for the winter?

In winter a garden full of stunning colour and fragrance may seem like an unlikely option but this does not have to be the case, and all you need is a little bit of careful planning.

Fortunately for you, it really isn’t that difficult to add splashes of colour and interest into your garden throughout the winter months as there are many different winter flowering plants you could use. Some even flower on the coldest days of winter and add a whiff of scent to the air on those frosty glazed, chilly mornings.

Plants that create winter interest don’t just need to include flowering plants.

There are plants that will add garden interest without necessarily flowering as they use other aspects to add colour. Examples of these include brightly coloured stems, such as those on Cornus (dogwood), brightly coloured berries as seen on Pyracantha and Cotoneaster and evergreen shrubs that have interesting and dramatic foliage, for example, the Fatsia. It is time to brighten up your garden this winter!

Winter flowering plants includes some interesting plants. Two quick examples are the Helleborus (Christmas Rose) with their delicate white rose flowers and the evergreen hardy Mahonia ‘Apollo’ that produces a beautiful show of spiked, bright yellow flowers and is guaranteed to create a focal point in the garden.

Things to consider when adding colour to your garden this winter

  • Planting your plants into tubs and containers so that they can be moved to areas where they can be enjoyed.
  • Consider planting fragrant plants near door ways where they can be appreciated.
  • Try to choose plants that offer a variety of interests at different times, such as Autumn, winter and late winter.
  • Try adding brightly coloured bird feeders for further splashes of colour and to help birds survive winter.
  • Consider evergreen plants as good candidates for all year round colour.
  • Use lighting as brighten the garden up in shadier areas.

Below you will find some of the top plants that you can use to add some winter interest and further enhance your garden.

Deciduous Winter Flowering shrubs

Hamamelis will offer you winter colour as their flowers appear between December and March. The flowers themselves can range from yellow to orange depending on the cultivar you choose. Eventual height is around 6-8ft so always plant ahead, allowing plenty of space.

Daphne is a hardy shrub that grows to around 5ft tall and produces beautiful red flowers from around February-time.

Cornus provide colour as their vibrant bright stems stand out and are often red or yellow, again depending on the variety you have chosen. They can be pruned hard in the spring and the new summer growth provides vibrant colours in winter.

Abeliophyllum distichum grows to around 6-7ft and their fragrant white flowers produce colour in February.

Evergreen winter shrubs

Mahonia is often very noticeable within gardens because they produce stunning spikes of yellow flowers around December-time. They grow to approximately 15ft but they can be pruned back to keep them more manageable. A favourite of many gardeners and can even be purchased as a standard plant.

Elaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’ has been awarded the RHS award of garden merit and produces small silvery-white flowers from October and into December. Grows to approximately 8-16ft in size.

Arbutus unedo is another evergreen shrub that has been awarded a garden merit by the RHS. It flowers from October and into December. A large shrub that will eventually grow to around 15ft.

Other shrubs that offer Autumn/winter interest include:

  • Skimmia japonica
  • Viburnum
  • Callicarpa profusion
  • Corylus avellana Contorta (Corkscrew hazel)
  • Sarcococca hookeriana humilis (christmas box)
  • Lonicera purpusii Winter Beauty
  • Ilex (holly) many varieties available
  • Fothergilla major
  • Garrya elliptica
  • Euonymus europaeus Red Cascade
  • Jasmine Nudiflorum
  • Winter heathers

Winter bedding plants

As your summer bedding starts to look past its best it might be time to see what autumn and winter bedding is available. Use these to brighten up your borders and pots and provide a show of colour throughout the winter.

Winter bedding is also known as autumn bedding and is usually planted from September onwards. They will give a splash of colour throughout the winter and then a burst of colour in spring.

Winter bedding is perfect for using in tubs and planters as well as hanging baskets. There isn’t the largest choice available like there is with summer hanging basket plants but below you will find our top 10 winter bedding plants.

The top 10 winter bedding plants

Top 10 winter bedding plants
Top 10 winter bedding plants
  1. At the top spot is winter pansies and for good reason. They will flower right the way through Autumn, the winter and right into the spring as well. No other winter bedding plant flowers as much. If you keep removing spent flowers you will be able to keep them flowering for longer. Ideal for tub and planters, they also look fantastic in hanging baskets with a conifer in the centre and some ivy trailing over. Available in many colours, no other plant gives you as much choice.
  2. Viola’s could also have been put at the top spot but come in second only really because of my own personal preference. Their flowers are smaller than pansies and flower for just as long as Pansies. They are also available in many colours and are ideal for using in both pots and hanging baskets. Some varieties even had a sweet scent from the delicate small flowers.
  3. Cyclamen coum available in many colours, from pink, red and white. It is a truly hardy winter flowering plant. Usually available from September they will provide a show of small nodding flowers in January and February.
  4. Primula is a cottage garden plant and with many new varieties that will flower throughout the winter. They will provide a beautiful show of flowers in many different colours.
  5. Ornamental Cabbage is, as the name suggests, a cabbage but a non-edible variety. It offers colour and interest right through the winter thanks its tense foliage of vibrant colours.
  6. Bellis have small daisy-like flowers.
  7. Forget-me-not are a winter bedding plant that will produce a vibrant show of colour in Spring. Traditionally available in blue they are now also available in both white and red.
  8. Stocks are excellent for plants to give a show of colour in the spring and into early summer.
  9. Sweet William are another bedding plant that can be planted in Autumn. It will give a fantastic show of colour in Spring.
  10. Polyanthus are very similar to primula except for the flowers that are produced on top of long study stems. Flowers from Autumn.

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