Shrubs and Trees for Winter Color and Interest

If your garden's winter color palette consists mainly of brown, gray and white, consider adding a few of these ornamental beauties.

  • Witch Hazel

    Witchhazel (Hamamelis sp.) unfurls its spidery flowers in either fall or deep winter (and sometimes even spring), depending on the species and cultivar. Some of the H. x intermedia) hybrids begin blooming in late January, the Japanese and Chinese witchhazels a month or so later. Fall foliage is colorful in all witchhazels. The spiderlike, fragrant yellow flowers of the common witchhazel (H. virginiana ) often get outdone by its yellow leaves. You can also find cultivars of H. virginiana that drop their leaves before the flowers form.

  • Red Winterberries

    Winterberry, a deciduous holly (Ilex vertillata) puts on an extraordinary show in winter, becoming the focus of the garden. How long the berries persist depends on temperature and how eagerly they're consumed by birds — typically they hold into early winter in the northern part of its range and till spring in the South. USDA Zones 3-9

  • Holly as a Hedge

    Evergreen hollies come in a huge variety of sizes, shapes and color of berries.
    Among American hollies, find a lustrous-leaved cultivar such as 'Amy' or 'Jersey Knight' or the heavy-fruiting 'Old Heavy Berry' or 'Croonenburg.' Only the female has berries; you'll need a male nearby.
    You don't have to settle for red berries and green leaves: 'Goldie' and 'Canary' have yellow fruit, and 'Stewart's Silver Crown' has variegated foliage.

  • Stewartia Tree Bark

    Some trees and shrubs are colorful architectural elements in the winter when their bark is on prominent display. Shown here, Japanese stewartia

  • Prunus Serrula Has Copper Bark

    The brilliant bark of paperbark cherry (Prunus serrula) glows in the winter sun.

  • Winter Shrub

    Japanese skimmia blooms white in spring, but its maroon-red buds are ornamental in winter, and female skimmias also have very showy red fruits that persist till spring. Male skimmias have larger and more fragrant flowers.

  • Yellow Mahonia Clusters

    Most Oregon grapehollies (Mahonia aquifolium) bloom in early spring, but 'Soft Caress' begins opening in February. Leatherleaf mahonia (M. bealei) may open as early as mid January.

  • Japanese Maple in Winter

    The contorted branches of some Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) take on their best look in winter, especially in the snow.

  • Red Bark Against Blue Sky

    Some shrub willows (shown here) offer options for lighting up your winter landscape: Salix 'Flame' has orange-red bark and matures to 15 to 20 feet tall; coral-bark willow (Salix alba 'Britzensis') stems are red when young, so the plant has to be cut back hard. Red-osier dogwoods offer red stems in winter too.

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