Winter Shrubs

Count on winter shrubs to add eye-catching color to your landscape—at a time of the year when color’s hard to come by.

Colorful Stems, Berries and Seeds in Winter Garden

Colorful Stems, Berries and Seeds in Winter Garden

By planting shrubs with colorful stems, bountiful berries and seedheads, a garden will be enriched in the winter with color, texture and activity. Ornamental grasses and seedheads are also valuable food sources for birds that winter over.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Design your yard with winter shrubs to fill frosty months with a strong seasonal show. Winter shrubs stir interest in many ways, from sculptural forms, to berried stems, to colorful leaves. You can even select shrubs that flower in winter to decorate sweater-weather months with unexpected blooms.

One of the most unusual and delightful winter shrubs is Harry Lauder’s walking stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’). This multi-stemmed shrub stands out in the winter landscape, thanks to its contorted, twisted stems. The distinctive name hails from an 1800s-era Scottish entertainer Sir Harry Lauder, who was known to carry a walking stick made from this plant. Harvest stems from this shrub to enhance winter floral arrangements.

If you want winter berries in your landscape, check out the holly (Ilex) clan. This large family of plants features assorted sizes, shapes and leaf types, along with a variety of berry colors, although most plants ripen red berries. Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a favorite deciduous holly, which drops its leaves to reveal richly berried stems. Enjoy the stems in the landscape, or cut some to add to holiday décor.

Heavenly bamboo, also known as nandina (Nandina domestica), embraces winter with colorful berries and leaves that burnish in deepening red tones as frosty temperatures arrive. Nandina is a carefree winter shrub that’s valuable for more than its contribution to snowy scenery. Its tough-as-nails constitution makes it a favorite for low-maintenance plantings.

Another berried beauty, Tiger Eyes staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’) stages strong multi-season interest in the landscape. Chartreuse summer foliage fades to brilliant red in fall, and fuzzy berry clusters top stems through winter. Use caution when adding Tiger Eyes to the landscape. For a few years plants will be well-mannered, but then suckers start appearing. Give it a spot where it can sucker freely, and you’ll love this winter shrub. Avoid it in small gardens where neatness counts.

Don’t overlook evergreens as part of your winter shrub collection. In regions where winter brings snow, evergreens insert a colorful punctuation mark into the season’s quiet palette of brown and white. Dwarf pines, boxwood, and holly all make fine choices for winter shrubs. Look for variegated English holly (Ilex aquifolium) to grow a striking multicolor shrub. Its branches are a natural choice for winter floral arrangements.

Or check out gold-toned evergreens, like Sawara cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Vintage Gold’) or Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Fernspray Gold’). Both of these winter shrubs accent cold-weather scenes with beautiful foliage color and texture.

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.

Some winter shrubs open flowers during the chilly months of the year. Scotch or winter heath (Erica carnea) rewards gardeners in Zones 4 to 9 with white, pink or red blooms tucked among evergreen, needle-like foliage. Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) opens cheery yellow blooms on bright green stems in the heart of January. It’s a gorgeous winter shrub for Zones 6 to 9.

Another flowering winter shrub is hardy camellia. These striking shrubs open rose-like blossoms into December as far north as Zone 6. The flower show continues steadily all winter long in warmer areas. With glossy evergreen leaves, camellias are definitely a winter shrub worth growing.

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