When the colourful summer annuals and perennials have faded, our gardens can tend to look a little bleak.  During the greyest of days, it can feel like a long time until spring is round the corner.  But adding splashes of vibrant colour to your outside space can transform your garden during the colder months. In our inspirational guide, we’ve picked out 10 of the best plants for autumn winter colour.

autumn berries

What plants will flower in autumn?

There is a surprising amount of plants that flower in autumn.  Whether you prefer dramatic colour or a softer palette, cyclamen and Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Little Goldstar’ (PBR) | Black-eyed Susan are two popular choices.

Cyclamen hederifolium | Sowbread (syn. Cyclamen neapolitanum)

If snowdrops are the harbingers of spring, then cyclamen, with their colourful flowers, attractively announce the arrival of autumn. Cyclamen hederifolium | Sowbread is a beautiful plant for autumn and winter colour. Its large, bicoloured pink and white flowers are both showy and scented, and complemented by heart-shaped, variegated foliage that lasts throughout winter. A lovely plant for pots and borders in autumn that can be bright indoors in the winter when the temperature drops outside.

Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Little Goldstar’ (PBR) | Black-eyed Susan

Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Little Goldstar’ is guaranteed to brighten up even the gloomiest of days. The yellow daisy-like flowers look luminous sitting on top of stout branching stems, which rise above the bushy mounds of lush green foliage. It really is a perfect plant for autumn winter colour. Standing just knee high, ‘Little Goldstar’ is ideal for pots and containers, as well as prolonging the seasonal interest towards the front of front of the mixed or herbaceous border. Grow in a sunny position (or in partial shade), in moist, well-drained soil.

autumn flowers

What can I plant in my pots for winter colour?

Spring and summer offer plenty of choice for the container gardener.  However, you can still fill your pots and planters with pleasing colour throughout autumn and winter.

Viola × wittrockiana ‘Frizzle Sizzle Yellow Blue Swirl’

Quite simply one of the easiest plants to grow and look after, violas are adored by novice gardeners and seasoned professionals.  Ideal for borders, pots, planters and hanging baskets, violas are one of the best plants for autumn and winter colour, and are available in a huge variety of cheerful colours. Viola × wittrockiana ‘Frizzle Sizzle Yellow Blue Swirl’ is a popular choice.  This reliable viola has gorgeous, bluey purple and yellow faces that flower in compact clusters from autumn to spring. It may be diminutive, but this lovely viola variety is incredibly hardy, taking even the coldest of winters in its stride. Simply deadhead as its flowers start to fade for a guaranteed, continuous display.

What plant goes red in autumn?

Autumn is many people’s favourite season thanks to the glorious display of reds, bronzes and coppers on trees and in woodlands.  You can achieve a spectacular autumnal display in your own garden by choosing ornamental trees or dogwoods.

Malus x purpurea ‘Neville Copeman’

Ornamental trees offer year-round interest to any garden, and none more so than a dwarf crab apple like the glorious Malus x purpurea ‘Neville Copeman’. For a magical autumnal display, the stunning coppery-bronze foliage of this Malus is hard to beat. It’s a heavy-fruiting tree which produces distinctive orange-red fruits, which remain throughout autumn and into winter. A heavy-fruiting tree which produces distinctive orange-red fruits, which remain throughout autumn and into winter. Very popular with bees, and thus will bring more pollinators into your garden, which is a blessing if you have other apple trees. ‘Neville Copeman’ is especially good as a pollinator for all apple trees, and flowers throughout the pollination season, which gives it more chance to pollinate more trees. The fruits of this tree can sometimes be eaten fresh, although they can be sour. They are better stewed and used as jams, as they have high levels of pectin, which helps with the setting of jam.

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ is a barked dogwood and one of the best plants for autumn winter colour. There’s no surprise where this shrub gets its name. In autumn, it adorns colourful berries and striking, yellow-red, oval shaped leaves. Once its foliage falls, this dogwood’s bicolored stems are simply breathtaking in all their yellow and crimson glory. This easy to grow variety can reach 2 metres in height, so place at the back of a border and contrast with evergreens for a dramatic annual display.

What climbers grow in autumn and winter?

There are several climbing plants that thrive in autumn and winter, adding decoration, structure and interest to trellis, walls and fences.

Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’

Whilst a lot of the best plants for autumn and winter colour offer showy, kaleidoscopic displays, Clematis ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans’ promises a more sophisticated performance. Masses of sumptuous, double, reddish-purple flowers from mid-summer to late autumn. This vigorous, late-flowering viticella-type clematis makes an excellent partner for a climbing rose, shrub or tree in full sun or part shade. An old variety introduced in the 16th century, it’s resistant to clematis wilt and copes well with moderate wind. Plant in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade for best performance.

helleborus plants

What plants have colour in winter?

There’s plenty of plants that produce spectacular colours during winter.  Hellebores and witch hazels and just two options to add interest and colour during the cold months.

Helleborus ‘Ice N’ Roses® Merlot

Commonly known as a winter rose, hellebores are evergreen perennials that produce gorgeous mounds of dark, forest green foliage throughout autumn. From November to spring, the classy Helleborus ‘Ice N’ Roses® Merlot delivers a spectacle of deep red, outward-facing blooms with lovely creamy stamens.  Helleborus ‘Ice N’ Roses® Merlot’s flowers may look too delicate to last the depths of winter, but this incredibly hardy plant can withstand whatever the weather may throw at it. A vigorous grower with an upright habit that makes it a perfect shrub for any border, pot or planter.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ | Witch Hazel

When perennials are dormant, witch hazel is a delightful plant for adding that much needed interest and colour during the autumn and winter. Hamamelis × intermedia ‘Pallida’ (Witch Hazel), is a magnificent shrub that has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s ‘Award of Garden Merit’ – and for good reason. In autumn the edges of its oval leaves transform from green to burnished red and orange, creating a dramatic performance. From late winter to spring, its leaves are replaced by fragrant spidery yellow flowers. With its strong, compact growing habit, this lovely plant can reach 4 meters in height and spread, and it will improve year after year.

heather

What are the best ground-covering plants for autumn winter colour?

Achieving autumn and winter colour does not have to be reserved for tall shrubs and climbing plants.  Choose hardy, low-growing varieties that will helpfully cover bare patches of ground, suppress weeds and inject bold colour.

Cotoneaster x suecicus ‘Coral Beauty’

An easy to grow dwarf evergreen shrub that provides beautiful autumn and winter colour. Cotoneaster x suecicus ‘Coral Beauty’ is a great low-growing choice for borders. Its dense, herringbone pattern branches are full of dark glossy green leaves that spread quickly, covering bare spaces and keeping weeds at bay. A lovely plant especially during autumn and winter, when it produces masses of showy red berries.

Erica arborea ‘Estrella Gold’

As one of the very best plants for autumn and winter colour, hardy heather should be on every gardener’s wish list.  Native to the cold moors of Europe, heather is unfazed by even the chilliest snaps during our two coldest seasons. Erica arborea ‘Estrella Gold’ is a pretty tree heather variety. Has an excellent upright form with lime-green foliage, peppered with white flowers in late spring. As the season progresses, this fresh foliage becomes yellow tipped, offering wonderful seasonal variation and height in either a heather garden or mixed border. Offers year-round interest and is ideal for autumn and winter ground coverage when your pretty perennials have died back.