The Top Outdoor Winter Plants

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Winter plants are sometimes forgotten in the garden. Add color, texture and interest to a winter landscape with these suggested plants.

Plants for Texture

Create visual interest by adding plants with unique texture.

  • Hart’s Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium) is a perennial that grows between 1 and 2 feet tall. Its long leaves are shiny and smooth with a wavy edge. New fronds appear in the spring and remain for the rest of the year. Plant under a tree or in a shaded area. The plant will thrive without care on the north side of a house.
  • Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens) has a clumping growth habit that reaches 2 feet tall. It has long, light blue leaves that provide contrast to fall’s bright colors. It is perfect for a nighttime garden as this ornamental grass “captures” light. Prune in the spring and in the fall to keep the plant looking pretty.
  • Checkerberry (Gaultheria) is a low-growing groundcover that is about 6 inches tall. It forms a mat of oval-shaped evergreen leaves which have a minty smell when crushed. During cold weather, the leaves turn red. The plant produces while flowers from late spring through the end of summer followed by scarlet red berries.


Plants for Winter Color

Once the abundant colors of fall have passed, winter colors turn to gray. Add a little color to the garden with these cold tolerant plants.

  • Helleborus is also called a snow rose after its cup shaped blossoms that range in color from white to pink to deep red. These evergreen perennials sprout flowers in January. Select a sheltered spot, such as under a tree. The plants will tolerate full sun during the winter. During the summer, plants will need partial afternoon shade.
  • Ornamental Kale is a common landscape plant that adds balls of green, white, pink and purple to a winter garden, even when temperatures drop below freezing.
  • Winter Creeper (Euonymus fortunei) is a short, 2 feet tall, shrub that has a vine-like growth habit. During the winter, the plant displays orange-red berries.
  • Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) is a large shrub that grows between 6 and 10 feet high with a 6 to 10 foot spread. It bears yellow trumpet shaped flowers during the winter.

Plants for a Winter Vegetable Garden

Several vegetable crops will survive, and even thrive, during the winter. Here are a few vegetables that will grow during the winter and produce a harvest of vegetables early in the spring.

  • Onions come in a variety of sizes and flavors. For the easiest results, start any type of onion from sets. An alternative to onions is to plant shallots. Shallots have a sweeter flavor and can be stored as easily as onions. Onion sets are planted in the fall and can be forgotten about during the winter. Because of the long growing season, onions are ready for harvest in the summer.
  • Asparagus is a perennial vegetable that can thrive in a garden for as long as 25 years. Buy asparagus rootstock, called crowns. A mature crown produces 25 asparagus spears a year. It takes 2 years for an asparagus bed to produce a harvest. Before planting an asparagus bed, remember that this will be a permanent location.
  • Perpetual Spinach is another perennial vegetable that is planted early in the fall. The plant can be harvested throughout the winter and summer. If the plant begins to flower, remove the flowers to prevent it from going to seed.

This is just a sample of the world of winter plants. To make your landscape and garden more attractive in the winter, look for plants that retain a green color during the winter, that sprout bright colored flowers and berries, or will produce an abundance of fresh vegetables in the early spring.

Last Updated: November 4, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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