February 26, 2024

Winter Landscaping Shrubs. Suggestions for Flowering, Vividly Colored, and Berry Plants for Winter Beauty

holly in snowyellow twig dogwoodWhen winter arrives, the beauty of your garden doesn’t have to be locked away in cold storage.  You can keep your yard bright and interesting by adding a few winter garden shrubs with eye-catching seasonal appeal.

The first step is to tour your winter landscape.  No need to bundle up yet, we’re starting indoors.

Examine your yard through the windows you use the most during winter.  For example, I always start my day with a cup of coffee in my sunroom.  The view outside of those windows is important to me.

Now, bundle up and step outside.  Walk through the yard.  Look for spots with room to plant shrubs or for flower beds that can be expanded to add shrubs in spring.  Note the light and soil conditions of each area so you can match new plants to the growing conditions.

With the chosen spaces in mind, you are now ready to make a list of specific shrubs for your backyard.


Color is a good place to start.  The holiday lights and decorations that adorn many homes during the holidays are clues that we all crave a little more brilliance in winter.  Planting a few colorful shrubs can fill that need.

Red Twig Dogwood, also known as Redosier Dogwood, is a longtime favorite.  It has unique red stems that make a nice backdrop to redtwig_dogwoodoverwintering perennials or an accent plant for evergreens.

Regular pruning keeps the color vibrant year round (though in spring and summer, the leaves disguise it).  Simply remove older brown stems at ground level in late winter.  This encourages new growth, which is the most vivid in color.

The Yellow Twig Dogwood variety Flaviramea, adds a different look to the garden.  Just a few of these yellow stemmed beauties add magnificent color to the otherwise dreary winter landscape.

Another winter garden shrub with colorful stems is Japanese Kerria.  It’s glossy bright green stems are sure to catch a second look.  The slender stems stand upright and provide a welcome contrast.

But it’s not just about color.  The texture of the bark can add interest, too.  Burning Bush, also known as Winged Euonymus, has stems with corky ridges.  It’s look is especially pretty after a snowfall.  However, gardeners in parts of the Northeast and Midwest, where this plant is invading native woodlands, should avoid using it.  Instead, consider its native counterpart, Eastern Wahoo.  Although it lacks the corky bark, it produces small pink and orange fruit.

The Oak Leaf Hydrangea has several attractive features for winter.  The coarse textured older stems are covered with peeling cinnamon- brown bark.  This, combined with dried flowers, creates cold weather charm.

Another way to increase appeal is with uniquely shaped shrubs.  Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick is the first to come to mind.  It’s curled and twisted stems, which become more apparent after the leaves have fallen, make this a nice focal point for a patio garden, mixed border or foundation planting.  Remove any straight stems that sprout from the roots beneath the graft.

Fruit and Berry Plantshollybranch.snow

One of the most common ways to create a bright spot amid the snow is with fruit bearing shrubs.  You’ll appreciate the color and the birds will appreciate the food.

Holly is the traditional vary for the holidays, and Holly trees and shrubs come in many Evergreen varieties that also produce colorful berries.

Southern gardeners have a wider selection of Evergreen types that work in warmer climates.  Northern gardeners need to look for heartier cultivars of the Meserve Hollyies, such as China Boy, China Girl, Blue boy, Blue girl, Blue Prince, and Blue Princess.  As the names imply, there are both male and female plants.  It is suggested that at least one male for every five females be planted to help guarantee fruit.

A heartier alternative is the Deciduous Holly, known as Winterberry.  The lack of leaves in winter is not a problem, since red fruit covers the upright stems.

Also, take a second look at the off-season potential of a longtime garden staple, the Rose.  Not only are the rose hips colorful, but you can also gather some of the hip covered stems or unique indoor arrangements.

large_beautyberryCloseThe colorful fruit of Beautyberry adds a seldom seen pinkish- purple hue to the winterscape.  For the best fruit display, prune regularly and avoid excess fertilizing.  When selecting this plant, look for the American Beautyberry, which puts on a good show of berries.  But if you like a challenge, search for the purple Beautybush (Callicarpa dichotoma).  It’s more difficult to find, but it’s graceful appearance and impressive fruit display will make the effort worthwhile.

The Flowering shrub

A hydrangea, a shade garden favorite, takes on new character in winter.  Both the Snowball and Panicle varieties produce flowers that dry on the plant.  These brown blooms and tiny capsule like fruit provide a nice contrast to the fine texture of nearby overwintering ornamental grasses or perennials.

But let’s not forget about flowers, and I don’t mean just for southern landscapes!  Most gardeners can enjoy the fall and winter blooms of Witch Hazel.  Common Witch Hazel unfurls fragrant strap- like flowers for about a month between October and December.

For those who like an early start to the growing season, plant Vernal Witch Hazel.  These long bloomers start flowering as early as January in the south, to late February or March in the north.  The blooms last for 3 to 4 weeks, providing a much needed lift to the spirit of anyone with cabin fever.

Evergreen’severgreen in snow

We can’t discuss winter shrubs without at least mentioning Evergreen Conifers.  They’ve long been the backbone of a winter garden, providing a green ray of hope in otherwise barren landscapes.

Although thousands of varieties provide virtually endless possibilities, there are a few basic pointers for selecting the right conifers for your yard.

Look for Dwarf Pines, Spruces or Juniper shrubs for hot sunny locations.  Arborvitae and False Cypress will add texture with their somewhat lacey appearances.  Hemlocks and Boxwood shrubs provide a bit of year- round greenery in sunny or shady locations.

Shrubs also form great backdrops to the other colorful and interesting shrubs we’ve discussed.  For a winter yard that really stands out, consider planting mixed borders of evergreens, deciduous shrubs and perennials.

Each will lend its own form of beauty to awaken your slumbering garden.

Enjoy your winter shrubbery!

P.S.  Nature Hills is offering all trees, bushes, and shrubs at 25% off and free shipping on orders of $50.00 or more!

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