Winter shouldn't be a boring or barren time in your garden, and even in the coldest climates in California, there are a number of plants that will bloom for you in winter. While you shouldn't rely only on flower color for your winter interest (colored stems and foliage color can last the entire winter, while blooms are more short-lived), there's no denying that flowers provide an extra boost of color and cheer when your garden needs both. Whether you're craving the fragrance of flowers in winter or cut flowers to brighten up your home, there are plants that thrive in California that will do the job.
Fragrant Sweet Box
Fragrant Sweet Box (Sarcococca ruscifolia) is a sweet-smelling winter bloomer with tiny white flowers. After bloom, it develops red berries that age to a shiny black. It's a slow grower that eventually reaches 3 to 5 feet tall and wide, and it is tolerant of tough soil conditions.
Fragrant Sweet Box thrives in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 7 to 9, and needs regular water but otherwise takes little care. It prefers full shade in California, whether inland or on the coast, and even thrives in very dark shade.
Coastal Gem Grevillea
Coastal Gem Grevillea (Grevillera lanigera Coastal Gem) is a fast-growing ground cover shrub that grows to 2 feet tall and 5 feet wide. The red blooms in winter attract hummingbirds and show up nicely against the gray-green foliage.
It prefers full sun and requires good drainage. Coastal Gem Grevillea thrives in USDA zones 8 to 10. The Australian plant does particularly well in coastal California because of the climactic similarities between Australia and coastal California.
Double-Painted Lenten Rose
Double-Painted Lenten Rose (Helleborus Double Painted) is a double-flowering Lenten rose that reaches 3 feet tall and wide and thrives in shade. The flowers have a bright white color in winter when they bloom, and maroon speckles on the petals, which make them look particularly good next to plants with purple foliage.
Double-Painted Lenten Rose thrives in USDA zones 5 to 9, so will thrive in even the coldest of California climates. When the flowers are cut, they make an excellent display in a vase.
Japanese Skimmia (Skimmia japonica) is a dwarf evergreen shrub with clusters of pink buds that open to white flowers in winter on male plants. Female plants have smaller clusters of cream-colored flowers in winter, and if a male is planted nearby to pollinate the female flowers, then bright red berries adorn the female plant in spring. Japanese Skimmia prefers part shade and regular watering.
Japanese Skimmia grows well in USDA zones 7 to 9, and reaches 3 to 5 feet tall and wide at maturity. It thrives in California's coastal climates and also inland where the temperatures are a little colder in winter.