Winter brings dormancy to many plants, but the garden needn't be barren of flowers. In addition to choosing plants with evergreen foliage, winter berries or colorful bare stems, planting shrubs and perennials that flower in winter keeps your garden from ever looking dull.
Because the sky is darker in winter and the garden is often viewed from indoors during this season, choose plants that have bright colors, large flowers or profuse small flowers to help your winter flowers stand out. In addition, planting winter-blooming fragrant plants near entryways can help you enjoy your garden even if you aren't spending much time outside in winter.
Sasanqua camellia (Camellia sasanqua) blooms in late fall to winter, prefers part shade, and gets between 3 and 12 feet tall depending on variety. 'Yuletide' is a bright red variety that grows 8 to 10 feet tall and has a narrow, upright habit. Its red blooms and yellow centers stand out boldly against the winter gloom. Sasanqua camellias are hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 10.
Christmas Cheer rhododendron (Rhododendron 'Christmas Cheer') is a sturdy evergreen shrub that reaches 6 feet tall in 10 years. It blooms from December to February, with large trusses of pink flowers that fade to white. This rhododendron likes sun or shade and is hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 9.
Small Winter-blooming Shrubs
Variegated Winter Daphne (Daphne odora 'Aureo-marginata') is a useful shrub for its fragrant, pinkish-white flowers that light up the winter garden. It also has evergreen leaves which are edged in gold, making it helpful for year-round foliage interest as well. It prefers part sun and grows 3 to 4 feet tall. It thrives in USDA Zones 7 to 9.
Sweet Box (also known as Winter Box) (Sarcococca ruscifolia var chinensis) is a white-blooming plant that is very fragrant. The white flowers are small but profuse, and look like little fringes along each stem. Once it is finished with its winter bloom, Sweet Box keeps the interest going with round red berries which age to black. It grows 3 to 5 feet tall.
Sweet Boxes are known for being tolerant of any kind of soil. They are also tolerant of very deep shade, although they grow well in any light except very hot full sun. Sweet Box is hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 9.
Winter-blooming perennials or sub-shrubs
Lenten Rose (Helleborus) is a colorful shade-loving winter bloomer which reaches 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9, Lenten Roses grow in a number of colors, and there are single and double versions available. They also make excellent winter cut flowers.
Yellow Lenten Rose (Helleborus 'Mardi Gras Yellow Shades') is bright canary yellow with occasional burgundy markings on the flower centers. The yellow flowers shine in the winter garden.
Winter Heath (Erica x darleyensis) is a winter-blooming sub-shrub that grows 2 to 3 feet tall. Winter heather grows in reds, pinks and white and prefers full fun. It is hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 8. Honeybees love to buzz around the profuse small flowers, and the burst of flower color on Winter Heaths is visible from hundreds of feet away.