Winter Landscape Ideas

Give your yard year-round interest by investing in winter landscape ideas.

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Herbs in Hibernation

Herbs in Hibernation

Sage, thyme, parsley and other herbs sleep the winter away at the Nancy Bryan Luce Herb Garden at the New York Botanical Garden

Photo by: Image courtesy of NYBG

Image courtesy of NYBG

Want to know how you can welcome the arrival of fall frosts with anticipation? Assemble a winter landscape that not only boasts beauty, but also demands a little attention. It will keep your green thumb happily busy as you cultivate winter plants and shrubs. If you’re a diehard lawn ranger, you can even tackle a little winter lawn care. Winter landscapes offer plenty of opportunities to bundle up and get out and garden.

Stock your yard with winter plants to ensure a year-round outdoor show. These plants fill a winter landscape with color, textural interest and sculptural beauty. Some offer traits that are subtle; others have in-your-face attributes that command attention. Count on evergreens to provide the backbone to your winter landscape with their strong, steady color. 

In addition to evergreens, fill your winter landscape with eye-catching trees. Coral bark Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’) and Japanese flowering cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) feature winter interest with colorful bark. Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) and Chinese or lacebark elm (Ulmus parvifolia) have exfoliating bark that creates intricate color patterns on their trunks.

You can also draft winter shrubs to infuse frosty scenes with cheery colors. Include hollies in your winter landscape for their evergreen leaves and brightly tinted berries. Variegated holly stands out when planted with other evergreens and can lend pretty prunings for use in winter floral arrangements. You’ll also want to plant several winter berry hollies (Ilex verticillata) to ensure you have plenty of berry-bedecked branches to enhance holiday décor.

Another fabulous shrub to use in gracing winter bouquets is Harry Lauder’s walking stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’). The twisted, gnarled stems on this shrub are beautiful when displayed against a blanket of winter snow. Red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’) also sparkles against a backdrop of snow, which makes the red stems shine.

15 Striking Plants for Winter Color

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Cabbages and Kales

Ornamental kale and cabbage are some of the most popular winter annual plants. They lend a completely different texture to a winter landscape bed. Once the plants are hardened by cooler night temperatures they can survive most cold winters.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Camellias

Camellias prefer acidic, moist yet well-drained soil that is high in organic matter. They flower in the fall and winter when their display of colorful blooms is most appreciated. The waxy-petalled flowers linger long on plants, displaying shades of red, pink, coral, white and bicolors. Plants are evergreen, growing to form shrubs or small trees. Once established, camellias are drought-tolerant.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Winter Jasmine

Jasminum nudiflorum or winter jasmine is an exceptionally trouble-free plant to grow.

Holly Bush

Hollies bring an eye-catching display of evergreen leaves that is often punctuated with bright red or gold berries.

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Winterberry Holly

Winterberry hollies are deciduous, and the berry-bedecked branches truly stop traffic. (Even this lizard stopped to take a gander at the beautiful berries!)

Cotoneaster

Cotoneaster is another leafy evergreen that you can depend on for a dazzling berry show in even frigid winters. It's a fast-grower and can be used as a striking groundcover.

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Japanese Maples

Japanese maples often have artistically shaped trunks. The contorted branches on this shrub or small tree come into focus as winter arrives.

Nandina

Nandina shows off its berries in areas with milder winters. Tuck these plants in front of solid backdrops so the berries can shine.

Native Serviceberry

Native serviceberries also earn rave reviews for snow-covered branches. Watch for white blossoms in spring, followed by tasty berries in June. Birds love the berries, so if you want any for a pie, net trees. Fall color features shades of red and orange.

Doublefile Viburnum

Doublefile viburnum has a symmetrical, tiered branch structure that’s beautiful when covered with snow.

Red- and Yellow-Stemmed Dogwood

Red and yellow twig dogwood each inspire with their colorful winter stems, which show up best against dark evergreens or a snowy landscape.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel, a native shrub or small tree, opens strappy flowers in late winter to early spring. The blooms offer shades of yellow or orange and a sweet fragrance. Fall foliage is a striking gold, so this plant pulls double-duty in terms of seasonal interest.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Star Magnolia

Star magnolia opens pale blush to white flowers with a sweet fragrance in late winter to early spring.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Ben Ford

Snowdrops

Close out winter with a flourish of color, courtesy of bulbs and perennials. Snowdrops grow from bulbs and return reliably year after year. Make sure to plant the bulbs during fall to give them the chilling period they need to bloom.

Lenten Roses

Lenten roses (hellebores) offer leathery evergreen leaves accented with rose-like flowers in shades of pink, red, maroon, chartreuse and white. Plants self-sow readily, forming low-maintenance colonies.

Winter lawn care isn’t too demanding, but you can find some chores to tackle, even in snowy regions. For instance, you can patrol to ensure no one drives on the lawn, possibly killing grass crowns and creating bare spots. You can also make sure you don’t accidentally toss salt-laden ice melt onto lawn areas beside walks and drives. The high salt content can harm grass and lead to bare spots.

In mild winter regions, warm-season lawns can trade post-frost beige for green when you plant winter grass, a type of ryegrass. By overseeding in fall with ryegrass, you can have a green and growing lawn to tend all winter long, including mowing and watering. If you opt not to overseed, use the lawn’s downtime to spotlight winter weeds. These green interlopers show up easily in a beige lawn, providing the perfect opportunity for herbicide spot treatments.

A well-designed winter landscape showcases strong lines during the garden’s quiet season. Inspect your own yard from several points indoors. Notice where the landscape lacks focus or eye-directing lines. Make notes of areas where you need to create winter interest. You may need to add a hedge, a specimen plant or an attention-grabbing piece of garden art.

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