Your garden doesn’t have to be gloomy throughout winter. There are more than a few winter flowering plants that will grow, flower and produce some lovely colour during the darker, harsher British winter months. No, it’s true! There is a veritable assortment of types that will grow from shrubs to bedding plants to climbers to pot plants and more still. Put it this way, there’s something for every type of garden, and for every spot in the garden too.
Some winter flowering plants can also help our native winter honeybees. Did you know that the honeybee is the only bee to maintain a colony throughout the winter? The colony reduces its size in autumn and relies on its stores of honey to last it through the winter months when it is too cold for foraging or there is no forage available. Not only can you have more colour, but you can give nature a hand too.
Even though these plants will flower well into winter, many, if not all are best planted early in autumn to ensure they settle in and can bloom in good time. If it is a bit late in the year, then it might be best to switch tact. Save yourself the risk of failure and backache and opt to get some end of year colour in your garden with some hardy winter flowers and shrubs instead. Or, keep this guide handy and plan ahead for next autumn and winter to keep your garden glowing and vibrant into the latter part of the year.
Before We Start, Keep it Practical
We mentioned some of the ways winter flowers can be used, whether that’s in your beds, as climbers, or pots. But before you get started considering the plants, consider what they will be displayed in, where they will be displayed, and how you will display them. For instance, containers are a great way of growing many of these plants to provide winter interest and you have the added advantage of being able to move them around. If it’s climbers you’d like, make sure you have a trellis to support their upward growth. Also, does your bedding area need some care of its own, such as de-weeding, clearing of leaves, a fresh layer of topsoil and even a new mulch? Consider these practicalities before planting.
What Winter Flowers are Best?
If colours are what you want, then you won’t go wrong with these suggestions of winter flowers. The only problem you will have is choosing which ones!
Pansy and Viola
One of the most popular plants around, and a stalwart for lasting into winter, the colourful pansy/viola is perfect for adding colour to your garden over autumn. Their small sturdy stature makes them perfect for bedding areas, and this characteristic also helps them to resist heavier rains and stronger winds. They are so rich and bright in colour, ranging from purple to blue to red, orange, yellow, burgundy, and lots more in between. Wonderfully fragrant too, many pansies/violas have a lovely, sweet scent. Pansies like the sun but will do quite well in semi-shaded areas too. Ensure the soil is well-drained too. If you want an array of colour that lasts well into winter, then consider these. They are a perfect option for hanging baskets and containers too.
Winter Heathers take the cold winter weather in their stride. They are a hardy, very colourful – coming in shades of red, pink and white – and low-growing evergreen shrub. Heather is a fantastic addition to the garden in winter for colour and look great with when the sun is shining upon them after covering of snow, or touch of frost. They have the advantage of being extremely easy to care for too. They will do well in containers or planted in a bed, and, if you opt for the latter, they will also spread outwards inhibiting the growth of weeds. That’s another job made easier for you.
Vibrant Cyclamen are perfect for adding a colour injection to your garden for the winter months. Cyclamen come in a variety of colours; burgundy, burgundy flame, cheerful mixed, dark pink, harmony mixed, purple, red and white. They’re quite small yet particularly hardy, often flowering when almost nothing else can in winter. They ideal for under trees or in shaded areas. Because of their size Cyclamen can be planted in decorative bowls or hanging baskets which makes it easier to move anywhere in the garden in need of brightening up.
If you want something fragrant and nice to look at, consider Winter Honeysuckle. They are hardy, winter-flowering shrubs that produce a lovely scented creamy white colour of flower. Make sure you plant these somewhere such as an entrance, pathway, or patio where you will be able to smell the delightful fragrance. After flowering, they are sometimes followed by dull red berries too. The winter honeybees will love you having these too!
Aptly named for its delicate multi-petalled white downward drooping flowers. Snowdrops are hardy and offer a striking bloom in the colder months when little else is growing in your beds. To successfully flower this magical little flower, snowdrops need a position that offers light shade in the garden and are not fussy about specific soil types but do need a moist but well-drained soil. Planting in borders and beds near taller shrubs and trees is a good position for them.
‘Tis the season! Everyone loves these iconic seasonal bushes that are so easily recognised by their red berries and prickly, deep emerald leaves. They can survive very harsh winters and look fantastic covered in snow or with a touch of frost. They are excellent homes for birds and other wildlife, with the leaves offering excellent winter protection. One thing to note though, Holly Bushes are dioecious, meaning they need male and female plants to pollinate, so without pollination you won’t get any of the iconic red berries. Not to worry though, all you need to do is ensure there’s one male plant nearby and it will pollinate multiple females.
When Should I Plant for Winter Flowering?
To ensure your flowers bloom in good time we advise planting before winter arrives. Ideally you want to get planting in September to give your flowers the best time to bloom and this will ensure your hard work and investment pays off. If you’re creeping well into late October/early November before you get a chance to plant then it might be best to wait until next year, or restrict your choice of flowers to very hardy shrubs that can be planted in the winter months.
Well on Your Way to Vibrant Winter Colour
So, now you know your garden doesn’t have to be drab and dreary waiting for spring to come back around. With our ideas you can add vibrant, lasting colour to your garden, create lovely areas of interest, add aroma, and have a wonderfully inviting winter garden to gaze at during a crisp winter day.