Red Plants for Winter

Winter gardens cry out for color to combat the dreariness of the weather. Cheer up a drab landscape with trees, shrubs and ground covers featuring a veritable artist's palette of reds, from the primary punch of a holly berry to the striking scarlet of flame grass.

Japanese Maples

Japanese maples offer a one-two punch of color in cooler months. Once their burgundy, fringed foliage drops in late autumn, the trees' handsome red bark steals the show. Grow Coral Bark or Bloodgood Japanese maples if you're in the market for a medium-sized tree between 15 and 20 feet, or plant Pixie, a dwarf variety, in smaller spaces. Bloodgood also bears scarlet berries that stay on the tree during the winter. All are hardy in zones 5 to 8 and prefer sun or partial shade.

Red Twig Dogwood

These deciduous shrubs come into their own in winter after their leaves fall, revealing bright red, twiglike trunks and branches. Several varieties of red twig dogwood exist, ranging from 3 to 10 feet tall. Alternate them with yellow twig dogwood for a truly flame-like effect. All varieties are hardy from zones 3 to 7.


This holly variety grows up to 8 feet tall and blazes with plentiful orange-red berries throughout the fall and winter. Winterberry prefers sun or part shade. The shrubs that produce berries---the females--need at least one non-berrying, male shrub planted nearby to encourage fruiting. It is hardy from zones 3 to 8.


Bearberry, a shrubby ground cover, rewards the winter gardener with reddish-grey bark, red leaves and red berries. Bearberry grows in zones 2 through 7. It prefers acidic, sandy, under-fertilized soils and sun or partial shade.


Choose Euonymus fortunei as a groundcover or climbing vine. Emerald and Gold sports gold-edged, dark green leaves that turn red in the fall and winter. It thrives in sun or shade. As a ground cover, wintercreeper grows no more than 2 inches high but eventually spreads to 4 feet.

Scotch Heather

Most Scotch heathers turn reddish-bronze in the winter, and the variety Spring Torch additionally has fiery red tips. The small shrubs like acidic, moist soil and are hardy to zone 4.

Flame Grass

Although ornamental grasses normally turn brown in the winter, Miscanthus Purpurascens continues its colorful ways in the cold months. The 4-foot tall-plant's blades turn vivid red-orange in the fall, eventually settling into burgundy leaves topped by white plumes. Flame grass grows best in zones 5 to 9 and likes full sun or partial shade and average soil.

Coral-bark Willow

Strikingly similar in appearance to red twig dogwood, coral-bark willow grows several feet taller than most red twig dogwoods and prefers damp soil. Use it as a handsome privacy hedge or to contrast with evergreen pines.

Heavenly Bamboo

Not a true bamboo, Nandina domestica offers stunning purplish-red foliage in the winter. The plant grows about 3 feet wide and tall and isn't fussy about soil or full sun. A slightly smaller version, dwarf Nardina, yields a bonus of red berries in the winter. Like Nardian domestica, the dwarf version likes sun or partial shade, a range of soils and thrives in zones 6 to 9.

Keywords: red winter plants, color winter landscape, Japanese maple, holly berries, red twig dogwood

About this Author

Melissa Jordan-Reilly has been a writer for 20 years, both as a newspaper reporter and as an editor of nonprofit newsletters. Among the publications in which she has published are, "The Winsted Journal," "Taconic" and "Compass Magazine." A graduate of the University of Connecticut, Jordan-Reilly also pursues sustainable agriculture techniques and tends a market garden at her Northwestern Connecticut home.