Just because the weather has turned cold, doesn't mean your gardens have to look brown and drab. In this article, we want to shock you out of the winter doldrums and reveal some of the best winter plants the flower.
If you're new to gardening this may come as a surprise. You may not realize there are winter plants that flower. Most people don't know this and if they do, they don't plant them. That's a shame because you can do the planting earlier in the year and sit back and watch winter come alive.
Yes we all want a break from the activities of the growing season. Planting, mulching, weeding, pruning - it's all fulfilling and fun. Even avid gardeners need some time off. But just because you're not working in your garden, doesn't mean you can't enjoy your garden.
Both Art and I like having a break. It gives us time to do other things we also enjoy. We can look out our windows though and see life and color. That's a good thing.
The fact is, you can use some of the best winter plants that flower in your gardens and look out your own windows to see the same thing.
The other fact is, most winter plants will not bloom in extremely cold conditions. The concept of winter blooming plants really applies to winters that are somewhat temperate. As you're probably aware, even northern parts of the country can have warmer days and/or weeks during the winter.
So that's the set up... on to the list.
The 10 Best Winter Plants That Flower
Zones 3-7 - Perennial Bulb
Snowdrops begin to show their face in late winter. Depending on your area and the weather, they could start popping up as early as February, even with snow on the ground.
They are small plants, only 3-6 inches tall and have bright green leaves and white flowers (hence the name) which are quite showy. You can plant them scattered about your garden under deciduous trees and shrubs since the they start growing long before leaves come out on the trees.
Recommended planting time is in the fall, along with other spring flowering bulbs.
Zones 4-8 - Perennial
The many varieties of primrose plants could make your head spin. Some bloom earlier than others, some later. Look for varieties that bloom early for winter color.
Primrose should be planted in a cool, partly shady area in the garden with rich, well draining soil.
Their flowers come in a wide variety of colors, although you'll probably see yellow the most. Depending on conditions and the weather, the flowers could bloom for 2-3 months. In our experience, they bloom for 3-4 weeks in early spring.
Zone 4-8 - Annual
Pansies are well known in professioal circles as the "fall annual" of choice.
Pros plant them in the fall and they survive through winters all the way to early summer. What they don't like is heat, which is why they are often replaced in May or June with summer annuals. See more information about that HERE.
Pansy flowers often have darker colored spots that look like faces, which makes then quite unique.
Although they won't bloom in sub-freezing temperatures, if you live in a climate where winter includes some moderate days, they will bloom. They will even survive snowfalls but won't come back until the temperature rises above freezing with some sunny days thrown in.
Zone 4-9 - Perennial
This plant has 2 varieties that are most known.
One, The Christmas rose, blooms in early winter in milder climates. The other more common one, called the Lenten Rose blooms in late winter during the Christian season of lent. Remembering them by these names is much preferred over the latin name.
Hellebores like shade gardens which is another reason to plant them. As you know flowering plants for shade are not that common, so when one comes along, it's worth planting.
Although hellebores are quite hardy, they may not do well in very cold or very hot climates but because they grow in the rest, it's defiitely a plant you should consider.
Zones 5-9 - Deciduous Shrub
Because this plant is a deciduous shrub, the leaves put on quite a show. They turn bright orange in fall and then come alive in late winter with blooms of orange and yellow.
We like witch hazel because the blooms really pop during late winter. After going through the entire season with it's predominance of brown, it's a refreshing change to see witch hazel start to bloom.
As you can see from this image, the bright yellow color against the snowy backdrop in stunning!
Zones 4-8 - Shrub Or Vine
Honeysuckle comes in a vine and a shrub. The vine can be very invasive so we would not recommend planting it. However, the shrub is another story.
Considered a deciduous shrub, it can grow up to 10 feet tall. Honeysuckle is one of the most fragrant flowers you can add to your landscape. The white, tubular flowers are prolific. They bloom in late winter or early spring, just before the leaves come out, with many flowers lining each branch.
Honeysuckle will give a sweet scent to the air around them in late winter.
This shrub is fast growing in certain areas so if you want to keep in check, it will need regular pruning.
We have several honeysuckle shrubs within our landscape and, although they look pretty ordinary during most of the year, their berries at the end of the year and their fragrent white blooms at the end of winter make them a great addition to our landscape.
Zones 7-11 - Perennail Or Annual
Alyssum grows in a carpet of small dainty flowers that can bloom in climates with moderate winters. As mentioned, zones 7 to 11 are ideal, even through the occassional light frost.
It will not however survive harsh winters so if you live in a climate that gets frigid, it probably won't work for you.
Occasionally it might do OK in zone 6 so it might be worth a try. I know for us, living in zone 6, alyssum does not survive the winter and is, therefore, an annual for us.
Alyssum likes full sun but not dry conditions, which is why it does well in sunny areas in mild winters.
Zones 3-9 - Small Tree
Winterberry is actually a variety of holly. However, unlike hollies, winterberries loose their leaves come fall, which exposes their bright red berries that line each branch - and best of all, the berries remain most of the winter.
You'll often see Winterberries growing wild along roadsides in certain part of the country. They stand out of course because the trees around them have all lost their leaves.
Winterberry like moist soil, which is one of the reasons they grow on the endge of wooded areas where the ground stays moist due to shade and ground cover of fallen debris. They grow well in many climate zones and are especially prevalent in the eastern U.S. since they are native to that area.
You'll also see Winterberry in flower arrangements during the winter. Having this plant in your landscape means being about to walk outside your door to cut small branches for your latest winter arrangement.
Zones 5-9 - Perennial In Warmer Climates
Cyclamen are small-ish plants that bloom in the winter months. You may have seen them being sold around Christmas time in pots. Indeed they do well as house plants, since they prefer shady environments.
However, if you plant them outdoors, under trees, or in other shady spots, you may have flowers outdoors during the winter months as well.
They come in a variety of colors. Pictured is the pink but we like the deep red, which says Christmas all over.
Zone 2-11 - Annual
As fall sets in you'll start to see this plant showing up at your local garden centers. While not technically a flower, it's leaves go from blue-green on the outside to bright purple on the inside. This will definitely add some color to your landscape in winter.
As you can see from their recommended planting zones, they do well in just about any area of the U.S. The only thing they don't like is heat, which will cause the leaves to loose their color and wilt. Therefore, ornamental cabbage will do well if planted in fall or spring. Fall plantings should last throughout the winter.
Plant it in partial shade for best results.
The Final Rundown On The Best Winter Plants That Flower
As you may have noticed, some of the plants above will flower in the middle of winter and are not deterred by snowfall.
However, there are additional ways to get color besides flowers, from berries to colored leaves. Incorporate all of these options in your gardens for a wide variety of textures and colors during otherwise brown winters.
Some plants are early spring blooming plants so in climates that see winter retreat early, they will start their show before many other plants have even begun to grow.
They pop out of the ground earlier than most to give your gardens a head start into spring. This can be a good thing. After a long winter season, it's our experience that all gardeners are happy to see plants sprouting out of the ground - the earlier the better.
Try some of these winter flowering plants and you too may enjoy some winter variety and color.