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20 Winter-Friendly Plants for Your Outdoor Space

Don’t settle for a gray, barren landscape outside your door. Potted plants can brighten your space and keep the color coming all winter long.

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Add Cold-Season Color With Outdoor Winter Plants

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you have to settle for a barren, gray landscape outside your door. Putting cold-hardy potted plants outdoors on your porch or patio is the secret to a cheery outdoor space. Keep in mind, plants in pots are more susceptible to freezing than they are when they’re in the ground, so pick outdoor winter plants that can survive a climate one or two zones colder than where you live, says Georgia Clay, new plants manager at Monrovia Plants. “If you live in Zone 6, pick plants for containers that are marked zone 4,” Clay says. Here’s a selection of outdoor winter plants that can thrive in containers and some expert tips for keeping them healthy.

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Japanese Yew

Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata) is a good choice for an outdoor winter plant because it's an evergreen that keeps its leaves on its branches all winter long. It's drought-tolerant and thrives in both full and partial sun. Hardy to Zone 4, Japanese yews can survive harsh winters. You can also shape yews into topiary if you're so inclined.
Pro Tip: The bigger the container, the better off the plant will be, because more soil means more insulation for the plant's roots from winter's cold.

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Photo: Monrovia

Golden Duke Eastern Hemlock

Evergreens are the go-to plant for winter color, but this one is unusual because it has glowing yellow foliage that lights up a dull winter landscape. Golden Duke (Tsuga canadensis ‘Monjers’) can tolerate more sun than other golden hemlocks, so this variety is a good pick for containers that get full sun. It’s hardy to Zone 4, so it can withstand extremely cold temperatures.
Pro Tip: Pump up the color in your winter containers by combining several types of cold-hardy plants. Here, Golden Duke Eastern Hemlock shares a pot with heuchera and FloralBerry.

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Photo: Monrovia

Compact Oregon Grape

This small shrub’s foliage turns a lovely purple-red in the winter, providing a welcome shot of color in the season of gray. Compact Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium ‘Compacta’) only gets 2 to 3 feet tall, so it won’t outgrow a large container. It produces showy yellow flowers in the spring, so you’ll get year-round color from this hardy plant. Compact Oregon Grape can thrive in partial shade and is hardy to Zone 5, so it can survive below-zero temperatures.
Pro Tip: Plants need a lot less water during the winter than they do during their growing season. Keep the soil lightly moist and beware of overwatering.

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