Garden Plants for Winter

There can be interesting plants in the garden all year long. The winter months are by far the most challenging. But with careful planning, this season can be filled with flowers and fragrance. Use winter flowering plants where you will see them the most during the colder months. Good locations are walkways, doorways or just outside a window.


Witchhazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) is one of the most interesting winter plants. The flowers appear in January or February depending on the location. They develop tassel-like blooms all along the leaf axles of the branches. The majority are in shades of yellow, but there are orange and red varieties. An especially nice red witchhazel is Hamamelis 'Diane,' which has larger leaves that turn vibrant orange, red and purple in the fall. The foliage is round to heart-shaped with indented veins. The sizes vary, but most are 6- to 10-foot vase-shaped trees that can be kept pruned to fit any garden. they are hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone 5.


Beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri 'Profusion') develops vibrant amethyst purple berries in mid-winter. Similarly colored flowers appear in fall, berries develop after the foliage has dropped. They are fast growing and need pruning to keep them in shape. 'Profusion' is a 5- to 6-foot shrub, and is hardy to USDA zone 6. A smaller 3- to 4-foot beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) is even hardier, to USDA zone 5. There is also a beautyberry that bears white fruit--Callicarpa japonica 'Leucocarpa.'

Winter Daphne

The flowers of winter daphne (Daphne odora), exude a wonderful fragrance into the late winter garden. The flowers add color over a long period. This plant has long thin, evergreen leaves. Small, waxy pink flower clusters appear at the branch tips. There is white-flowering variety, Daphne odora 'Alba.' A variegated form, Daphne odora 'Aureo-Marginata,' has cream-to-yellow leaf margins and pink flowers. Daphne must have impeccable drainage and protection from hot afternoon sun. This plant can easily be kept at 3 to 4 feet, so is a great doorway or courtyard plant. Winter daphne is hardy to USDA zone 7.

Sweet Box

Sweet box (Sarcococca confusa) could very well be the best small evergreen shrub for winter gardens. It blooms in the bleak month of February. The tiny white flowers put forth such a strong perfume it will fill the entire garden. The long, glossy leaves are attractive all year long. It is easily kept at 3 feet tall making it a good natural hedge plant. The flowers are followed by ornamental red or black berries. There is a low-growing sweet box (Sarcococca hookerania var. humilus), that is used as a ground cover. this one is only 1 to 2 feet in height. It spreads by underground runners and prefers full shade, making it a suitable choice for underneath evergreen trees. All sweet box are hardy to USDA zone 6.

Pink Dawn Viburnum

The pink dawn viburnum (Viburnum bodnantence) is a tall shrub that will bloom from fall until spring. It will easily reach 6 to 10 feet even with pruning. This shrub may overpower small gardens. The autumn leaves put on a show of color before dropping in the fall. The foliage is ovate with deep leaf venation. The flowers begin forming right at the ends of branches after the leaves drop. This sun-loving, fragrant shrub has a long flowering period. It is hardy to USDA zone 4 .

Keywords: winter plants, branch patterns, interesting bark, wonderful fragrance

About this Author

Marci Degman has been a Landscape Designer and Horticulture writer for since 1997. She has an Associate of Applied Science in landscape technology and landscape design from Portland Community College. She writes a newspaper column for the Hillsboro Argus and radio tips for KUIK. Her teaching experience for Portland Community College has set the pace for her to write for