The dark, gloomy days of winter often mean our gardens are not the inviting spaces we enjoy during the warmer months.  But by choosing a range of reliable, hardy winter plants, you can truly transform your garden, come rain or shine.  In our handy guide, we share our top 10 hardy winter plants.

hardy winter pansy flowers

What can you plant for winter colour?

It’s easier than you think to add colourful plants to your garden during winter.  Some trusty options include beautiful Viburnum x bodnantense, Cornus sanguinea and easy to care for, faithful pansies.

Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’

If you’re looking to add some enchanting colour to your winter garden, look no further than the oh so elegant Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’.  This classic ornamental shrub is as easy to grow as it is admired and perfect for the beginner gardener.  Its glossy, oval evergreen foliage will deliver year-round interest and structure to any border, whilst its sweetly scented, candyfloss pink flowers grow in abundance.  This attractive Viburnum will certainly lift anyone’s spirits on a cold, damp winter’s day.

Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’

No top 10 hardy winter plants list would be complete without Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’.  After its dramatic, autumnal display featuring yellow-red foliage and colourful berries, this spectacular barked dogwood is left to display its brilliant, bicolored yellow and crimson stems.  One of the best plants for autumn winter colour, this easy to grow variety can reach up to 2m in height.   Place at the back of a border and contrast with evergreens for a truly dramatic annual display.

Pansy Jumbo ‘Fire’

Pansies are by far one of the easiest plants to grow and are available in a dizzying array of cheerful colours.  Perfect for adding much needed warmth to a winter garden, they are ideal for filling gaps in borders and containers.  Pansy Jumbo ‘Fire’ needs almost no introduction.  This hardy winter plant, with its crimson, yellow and black faces packs a compact, colourful punch.  Deadhead as its flowers start to fade for a guaranteed, continuous display.

Which hardy plants flower in winter?

There is a wide selection of hardy plants that flower throughout winter.  Here are three of our favourites:

Camellia ‘Marie Bracey’ | Camellia japonica

A lovely Camellia japonica that bears soft, coral pink flowers from November to March.  Camellia ‘Marie Bracey’ is a glorious, hardy winter plant.  Offering the prettiest of blooms and a modest, sweet fragrance throughout even the harshest of winters, Camellia ‘Marie Bracey’ is a great investment.  With attractive, evergreen foliage and a satisfying, compact habit, this lovely shrub will add year-round structure and form, eventually reaching 2.5m in height.  Plant in ericaceous soil.

Clematis Cirrhosa ‘Freckles’

Clematis Cirrhosa ‘Freckles’ has to be one of the ultimate hardy winter climbers for adding both colour and interest to any garden wall, trellis or fence.  A sophisticated, hardy winter plant, this fabulous Clematis flowers until mid-winter and puts on quite the show.  Its nodding, bell-shaped, creamy blooms are complemented by a distinctive maroon freckled interior pattern.  Then, from December its small, evergreen foliage becomes slightly tinged with bronze, adding even more wintertime interest.  This woody, vigorous climber can comfortably reach up to 12 feet.

Mahonia ‘Oregon Grape’ | Mahonia aquifolium

If zesty yellow blooms are your thing, then Mahonia ‘Oregon Grape’ would be a perfect choice.  This bright and beautiful evergreen shrub bears citrus yellow flowers that add energy and vibrance throughout the depths of winter.  A hardy winter plant, Mahonia ‘Oregon Grape’ is shade tolerant and reliable, with a vigorous growing habit that makes it easy to transform into an informal hedge.  But that’s not all, this evergreen shrub will add glossy interest throughout the year and it’s also highly attractive to pollinators and birds.

holly leaves with red berries

What are hardy evergreen plants?

Hardy evergreen plants offer year-round interest and structure to any garden.  They also tend to be easy to grow and care for.  However, don’t be fooled by the name!  There are hundreds of hardy evergreen shrubs with a kaleidoscope of colourful foliage, of course as well as green.  

Ilex aquifolium | Common Holly

A quintessential wintertime staple, English Holly is a wonderful hardy winter plant that’s so easy to grow.  Although it can’t promise to be evergreen, this Ilex aquifolium guarantees attractive colour on the darkest of winter days.  Like all good Holly, its dark, glossy foliage is classically prickly and pest resistant.  But it’s the brilliant, bright-red winter berries that cover this stunning Ilex aquifolium from late autumn that really captures the attention. 

Pinus flexilis ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’

The soaring Pinus flexilis ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’ is an exquisite conifer and an effortless, hardy winter plant.  This beautiful evergreen bears delightful, silvery blue foliage and has a strong, upright habit.  Native to the Rocky Mountains in North America, it will take even the harshest winter in its stride.  It can comfortably reach a lofty 10m in height – though it is slow growing.  Plant in a shady spot, with plenty of growing room to accommodate its healthy spread of branches. 

Which hardy plants are good for filling gaps?

Pick a few reliable, hardy winter plants to fill any gaps in your borders and containers.  Heather and snowdrops are great options.

Heather | Erica x darleyensis ‘Karmers Rote’

Native to the cold moors of Europe, heather is unfazed by even the chilliest snaps during winter.  Heather | Erica x darleyensis ‘Karmers Rote’ is a pretty, winter-flowering variety that produces striking purple flowers from its upright stems.  Shrubby, low maintenance and evergreen, this plant offers year-round interest and is ideal for winter ground coverage.  

Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’ | Double Snowdrop

William Wordsworth described the snowdrop as a “venturous harbinger of spring” and still today, this late-winter flowering plant is a sure sign that warmer days are around the corner.   Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’ is a fabulous variety, producing pretty, bell-shaped double flowers with enchanting green interior markings.  A small but hardy winter plant that grows from a bulb and will effortlessly naturalise – providing a showy display that improves year after year.

Nicola Clements has been working with brands and publications in the gardening and lifestyle sectors for many years.  As well as regularly writing for The English Garden‘s website, Nicola is also a contributing gardening editor to Wildflower  magazine.  In her spare time, Nicola can be found pottering in her garden, where she hones her skills, ready to pass on her expert advice to amateur and seasoned gardeners.