Top plants for winter

Updated Dec 7, 2017
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Spring, summer and autumn boast a riot of colors, lushness and bounty. But the winter garden has its own charms. Winter may seem like a time of rest for the landscape, but a well-planned design shines beyond its peak season. Plants with eye-catching good looks create a welcoming landscape regardless of the time of year.

When many plants have settled in for a long winter’s nap, cold-hardy specimens continue to provide interest with textured bark, berries, colorful branches and winter blooms. In fact, some plants show their best faces only in the winter months. Well-planned gardens also offer food and shelter for winter birds and other wildlife.

Just as the landscape isn’t dormant now, winter is the ideal time to grow your own knowledge base. “Go to local arboretums, nurseries and established neighborhoods,” says Nicholas Staddon, director of new plant introductions at Monrovia Growers. “Scout out a few plants you like then come back and examine them throughout the winter. Watch their progression and identify what thrives in your conditions to expand your plant palate.”

Consider trying a few of these beauties to add year-round appeal to your design projects.

Evergreens

 

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Gold Rider Leyland Cypress (Cupressus leylandii ‘Gold Rider’)

Maintains its color. Horizontal branching has bright gold-tipped sprays with lime green interior foliage. Use as focal point or plant en masse for a hedge. Can be sheared for a more formal appearance. Grows 35 feet tall, 15 feet wide.

  • Full sun
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 5

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Good Vibrations Gold Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis ‘Hegedus’USPP 22,743)

Low-spreading, soft-tipped variety with bright gold color. Orange hues in autumn. Deer resistant. Grows 12 to 18 inches high and 84 inches wide.

  • Full sun
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 4

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Sprinter Boxwood (Boxwood Buxus microphylla ‘Bulthouse’ USPPAF)

Fast-growing new variety that is resistant to Boxwood blight. Pruning seldom necessary. Shiny foliage has upright habit that works for hedging. Also attractive in containers. Grows 24 to 48 inches high and wide.

  • Sun or shade
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 5

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Thuja Siena Sunset (Thuja occidentalis ‘Anniek’ PPAF)

A beautiful dwarf that’s gold in summer and bronze in winter. Maintains its round shape. Fast grower. Grows 12 to 24 inches high and 24 to 30 inches wide. For a tall, upright variety, try Thuja Forever Goldy, which boasts a gold color, resists winter burn and grows up 15 to 20 feet tall and 30 inches wide.

  • Sun
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 4

 

Color

 

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Pink-A-Boo Camellia (Camellia sasanqua ‘MonDel’ PP#21,687)

Large, fragrant, deep-pink flowers with bright yellow centers in winter. Nice hedge or border shrub. Slow grower. Grows 8 to 10 feet tall and wide.

  • Part sun
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 7

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Impish Elf Lily of the Valley Shrub (Pieris japonica ‘Shy’ PPAF)

Brand new for 2015, this compact shrub has deep purple-pink buds for late-winter color, which burst into bell-shaped blooms. New foliage is glossy and red. Good for foundation or mass plantings. First in the new Enchanted Forest series. Grows 3 to 4 feet tall and wide.

  • Part sun
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 6

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Windcliff Double Pink Lenten Rose (Helleborus x. ‘Windcliff Double Pink’)

Old-fashioned perennial with increasing popularity. Beautiful new variety with double pink flowers. Blooms late winter. Mounding foliage clumps 15 to 18 inches tall and 24 inches wide.

  • Part sun
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 4

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Arctic Fire Red-osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera ‘Farrow’ PP 18523)

Native shrub with gorgeous red stems, especially against a background of snow on sunny days. Or plant Arctic Sun, which has yellow stems with red tips. Both work well in borders, in mass plantings or in container gardens. Grows 36 to 60 inches high and wide.

  • Part sun to sun
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3

 

 

 

Texture

 

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Charity Mahonia (Mahonia x media ‘Charity’)

Unusual evergreen shrub has dramatic frond-like leaves and sprays of yellow flowers in winter, which develop into black berries by late summer. Striking accent. Grows 10 to 15 feet tall and upright.

  • Part sun to sun
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 7

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Gold Bar Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinesis ‘Gold Bar’ PP# 15,193)

Gold stripes on bright green leaves with burgundy stalks in winter. Slow grower. Grows 4 to 5 feet tall, 20 inches wide.

• Full sun

• Hardy to USDA Zone 5

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Little Quickfire Hardy Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata ‘SMHPLQF’ PPAF)

White summer flowers fade to pinkish-red and linger throughout cold-weather months. Use in mixed borders, as a foundation planting or as an accent. Blooms earlier than most hydrangeas. Dwarf form. Grows 36 to 60 inches tall and wide.

  • Part sun to sun
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3

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Winterberry Berry Poppins (Ilex verticillata ‘FarrowBPop USPPAF)

Cold-hardy native deciduous shrub with stunning red berries in fall through winter. Heavy fruiting dwarf variety fits in most landscapes. Use Mr. Poppins as a pollinator to yield fruit. Grows 36 to 48 inches high and wide.

  • Part sun to sun
  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3

 

 

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