Winter Plants

Discover winter garden plants that boast beautiful bark, eye-catching stems, bright berries and long-lasting seedheads.

Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata)

Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata)

Winterberry Holly is a bright flash of color for any holiday arrangement.

Photo by: Shutterstock/Sandy Maya Matzen

Shutterstock/Sandy Maya Matzen

Give cold-weather doldrums the brush off by filling your yard with winter garden plants. These head-turning beauties punctuate winter scenery with color and texture. Count on a mix of trees, shrubs and perennials to design your own palette of winter plants.

As freezes wipe out the garden, you’ll be glad to have a Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) on your winter plants roster. These treasured trees boast sculptural forms that take center stage when leaves fall. For bark that glows against snow, choose coral bark Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’). Bark on new growth is most intensely colored, as well as bark on plants located in full sun. Prune mature twigs to promote colorful new growth.

Visit a public garden to view Chinese or lacebark elm (Ulmus parvifolia) for consideration as one of your winter garden plants. This vase-shaped shade tree offers interesting bark patterns on its trunk. Exfoliating bark produces mottling in shades of gray, brown, orange and green, creating a pretty patchwork pattern in the landscape.

Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) also features exfoliating bark. In this pretty small tree, chocolate brown bark peels back to reveal a buff-colored trunk. Crape myrtles are typically pruned to lift the canopy and create a strong vase shape, which in turn adds a strongly sculptural outline to a winter scene.

Japanese flowering cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) is a spring favorite for its amazing flower power, but the shiny, deep brown bark also makes this tree a good candidate for a winter garden plant. Be sure to plant this tree where you’ll be able to easily savor the spring floral display.

European beech (Fagus sylvatica) falls into a similar category with its silver-gray, smoothly wrinkled bark. Trees hold their branches in a horizontal scaffold, and branches cling to the golden autumn leaves through winter. The result is an eye-pleasing structure with very deliberate, almost architectural lines. The effect is breath-taking in a mature tree.

Winter shrubs also lend strong interest to cold-weather landscapes. In areas where snow flies, red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Cardinal’) literally sparkles as winter drags on. Bright red stems show up strongly against snow and also pair well with dark evergreens.

Hollies are another traditional winter favorite with their evergreen foliage and colorful berries. For showstopping winter berries, plant several native winterberry hollies (Ilex verticillata). This holly is actually deciduous and drops its leaves to reveal stems that are covered with bright red berries. A hedge of winterberry in full fruit will stop traffic.

15 Striking Plants for Winter Color

See All Photos

Shop This Look

The viburnum clan also boasts a host of fabulous winter plants. Two that hold colorful fruits well into winter are highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) and linden viburnum (V. dilatatum). You’ll get best fruiting with linden viburnum if you plant more than one. Both of these viburnum also attract birds to your garden who come to feast on the fruits.

Perennials that will quickly become frosty favorites for their sculptural seedheads include purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Siberian iris (Iris sibirica) and a host of ornamental grasses. Also consider yarrow (Achillea millefolium), globe thistle (Echinops ritro) and black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia fulgida). Roses that set colorful hips also make outstanding winter plants.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Plant Covers for Winter

Discover tools and techniques you can use to protect your plants from frost and extend the growing season. 

Plant a Winter Window Box

A window box planted with hardy flowers and foliage offers a garden view when it's too cold to stay outside.

Tips to Perk Up a Bleak Winter Garden

Recommendations for adding cold-weather appeal to the garden.

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.

Winter Gardens

Brush up on a few winter gardening ideas to give your green thumb a workout all year long.

What to Plant in Winter

Keep busy all winter long by tackling planting chores, no matter where you garden.

Winter Gardening Planner

Consult this handy checklist for wintertime care and maintenance of your garden.

Winter Gardening Ideas

Discover easy, stylish ways to keep gardening in winter, indoors and out.

Plants That Produce Pre-Season Blooms

These beauties can help brighten the dull landscape between winter and spring.

Flowers that Bloom in Winter

Fill your outdoor spaces with flowers that bloom in winter. Some of these bloomers can even start inside before shifting outdoors.

On TV

Desert Flippers

7:30am | 6:30c

Desert Flippers

8:30am | 7:30c

Desert Flippers

9:30am | 8:30c

Flip or Flop

10am | 9c

Flip or Flop

10:30am | 9:30c

Flip or Flop

11am | 10c

Flip or Flop

11:30am | 10:30c

Flip or Flop

12pm | 11c

Flip or Flop

12:30pm | 11:30c

Flip or Flop

1pm | 12c

Flip or Flop

1:30pm | 12:30c
2pm | 1c

House Hunters

2:30pm | 1:30c

Fixer Upper

3pm | 2c

Fixer Upper

4pm | 3c

Fixer Upper

5pm | 4c

Fixer Upper

6pm | 5c

Fixer Upper

7pm | 6c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Love It or List It

8pm | 7c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.