Winter-Flowering Plants for Fragrance, Color and Berries | Almanac.com

Winter-Flowering Plants for Fragrance, Color and Berries


Shrubs and Trees Which Add Winter Interest

The Editors

Does your garden feel drab, dull, and uninteresting in winter? Well, that doesn’t need to be the case. This coming season, plant trees and shrubs that will transform your garden into a winter wonderland of fragrance, color, and visual interest.  Here are our favorite winter-flowering plants.

Filling the garden with scent, texture and color in winter is less challenging than might first be supposed. Under leaden skies, nipping frosts and chilling wind it can sometimes feel like it is out of bounds until spring. This is not necessarily the case, there are some beautiful plants and shrubs that add that extra dimension and vivacity we need so badly to enliven our spirits amidst the gloom.

For Fragrance

Mahonia (Oregon Grape) is a stalwart evergreen with holly like leaves. It produces dense clusters of yellow flowers in early spring, followed by ornamental dark bluish-black berries. The spectacular plumes of flowers have a scent reminiscent of lily-of-the-valley. “Charity” is an excellent variety and is a great focal point for a shady corner.

Hamamelis (Witch Hazel) looks amazing as a specimen shrub, especially if under planted with early spring bulbs. Their vibrant spidery flowers in orange, red or yellow clothe the bare branches and have a spicy fragrance. Witch hazel has long been used in traditional medicine for treating inflammation and skin damage. Freshly cut rods from the plants were also used for water divination.

Both Wintersweet , which smells of honey, and winter Jasmine are easy to grow and thrive in a sheltered spot. Arrowood Dawn (Viburnum bodnantense) is low maintenance and has delightful, scented pink blossoms that erupt from red buds in the fall and flower through until spring.

For Color

The glittering of a hard frost serves to highlight winter color enhanced by the pared down backdrop of the dormant plants. Hellebores (Christmas and Lenten roses) may well be poisonous but they are now available in a mouth-watering selection of colours, white and ivory through to pink, purple, green and some lemons and chartreuse. Cutting some of their ragged leaves off shows them to perfection, no wonder Victorian gardeners used to display them (still growing) under a sheet of plain glass so rain didn’t damage the petals. They self seed profusely and hybridize too which adds to the excitement of growing them.

Shrubby dogwoods, cornus are grown for their vivid winter stem colours. These stems are the new young growth, which can be pruned each year in spring (coppiced) to highlight this feature. They look sensational grown in a group, and have a range of shades from the burnished gold of Bud’s Yellow, through Anny’s Winter Orange to Baton Rouge a true scarlet. My own favourite is Mid Winter fire, which true to the name lights up a dull corner like a brazier. My other choice for colour is the Spindle tree or Hearts a Burstin, the fine autumn colour and the wonderful, exotic dangling berries.

For the Berries

Berries add a splash of cheery form and color against a wintry backdrop and encourage shy birdlife into the garden. Hollies are both traditional and gorgeous, come in red and yellow berried varieties and support a whole range of wildlife including the Holly Blue Butterfly. Sometimes though to produce berries there needs to be both a male and female shrub in the vicinity so do check this out if you are buying one.

English Yew grows very slowly and so is excellent when used as a structural plant, good for topiary and makes beautiful dense hedges. The birds love the berries though there are poisonous to humans.

Cotoneaster, these grow out and up in fronds from the central trunk and are very easy to maintain. In summer they are covered with masses of white flowers, which the bees adore.

See more flowers, shrubs, and trees for your winter landscape.

Try out the Almanac Garden Planner for Free

As a courtesy, the online Almanac Garden Planner is free for 7 days. This is plenty of time to play around on your computer and try it out. There are absolutely no strings attached. We are most interested in encouraging folks to try growing a garden of goodness! 

Try out the Garden Planner on your computer (for free).

Gardening Calendar