Nothing livens up a bleak winter landscape like trees that flower in winter. Gardeners who want to create year-round interest will find a number of ornamental varieties available. Some trees exhibit showy ornamental flowers from late fall to early spring, while others bloom from late winter to spring. In some climates, trees that flower in winter may be susceptible to late frost injury.
The winter-flowering floss silk produces pink and white blossoms that resemble narrow-petaled hibiscus blooms. The tree grows up to 50 feet tall and wide and develops a round or columnar habit. The trunk forms sharp spines as a sapling, but these spines tend to disappear at maturity. Floss silk makes an ideal landscape specimen because it tolerates a range of soil conditions, even alkaline and chronically wet soils. Grafted selections, such as Los Angeles beautiful, bloom early.
Vernal Witch Hazel
Vernal witch hazel yields fragrant yellow to red flowers in winter. The small tree achieves a 10-foot height and spread and develops an upright habit in youth that becomes rounded with age. New leaf growth appears purple and its fall color provides a touch of gold to the landscape. Vernal witch hazel works as a specimen, screen or windbreak. The tree demonstrates greater adaptation to various soil, sunlight and moisture conditions than other varieties. Notable selections include the pendulous Lombart’s weeping cultivar and the dwarf-sized spring magic.
Japanese Flowering Apricot
The Japanese flowering apricot blooms from Christmas to March. The single and double blooms give off a spicy-sweet fragrance and range in color from white to pink and red to rose. The tree can reach 30 feet in height and develop a round, vase-shaped or cork-screw habit. Plant Japanese flowering apricot where it will receive sun on all sides and form a round crown. The tree prefers acidic soils and requires regular pruning. The Peggy Clarke cultivar remains popular for double deep rose flowers as does the Rosemary Clark for its double white flowers.
Saucer magnolia attracts attention in late winter when it produces white to pink, cup-shaped flowers. The tree reaches a 25 foot height and 30 foot spread and develops an oval habit at about 10 years of age. It makes an ideal shade tree and performs best in a sunny location with moist, porous soil. Mature trees do not respond well to pruning and frost can kill the flowers. Several varieties of saucer magnolia exist but some prove difficult to find. The Alba cultivar flowers almost white while the burgundy cultivar flowers purple.