Plants That Bloom in Winter
Bulbs, herbaceous perennials, trees, shrubs—many plants bloom in winter. Here are a few to try in your garden.
Other Winter-Blooming Bulbs
- Daffodil (Narcissus bulbocodium) Feb. to April
- Dwarf Tulip (Tulipa humilis) Feb. to April
- Giant Snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii) Feb. to May
- Hardy Crocus (Crocus tommasinianus) Jan. to April
- Iris reticulata, Feb. to May
- Paper White Narcissus (Narcissus papyraceus) Feb. to April
- Scilla mischtschenkoana, Feb. to March
- Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) Feb. to May
- Spring Snowflake (Leucoum vernum) Jan. to March
- Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) Jan. to March
Cyclamen coum, Scilla siberica & Anemone blanda
Plant winter flowering bulbs in late summer or early fall. Bulbs like hardy cyclamen, Siberian squill and Anemone blanda will give your garden visual interest from the early days of winter into spring.
Cyclamen coum blooms in February and March, producing perky white, red or pink flowers on long, slender stems.
Hardy cyclamen prefers a dry, shady spot in the garden. Grown in clumps, it looks particularly fetching at the base of a tree or along a tall hedge.
Because cyclamen grows from corms rather than true bulbs, it should be planted not far below the soil surface, about 2 inches deep.
A relative of the English bluebell, Scilla siberica produces brilliant blue, bell-like blooms. Squill will flower for weeks at a time in February and March and grows particularly well in rock gardens and raised beds. White varieties are also available.
Squill will propagate on its own and should be divided every 4 or 5 years.
Anemone blanda is a low-growing plant that produces cheery, daisy-like flowers in white, blue and/or deep purple—just when the dreary winter landscape needs them most. It can begin blooming as early as January or as late as March.
Although quite hardy, anemone blanda doesn't mind a layer of mulch if the winter is particularly harsh.
Plant it in late summer or early fall. Anemone blanda performs best in moist, well-drained soil that contains plenty of organic matter.
Other Winter Herbaceous Perennials
Bishop's Hat (Epimedium x warleyense)
Ornamental Vegetables (Brassica oleracea)
WINTER-BLOOMING HERBACEOUS PERENNIALS
Helleborus orientalis, Bergenia crassifolia & Physalis alkekengi 'franchetii'
Although herbaceous perennials ordinarily die down in winter, some are evergreen. Not only do the root systems of these plants remain alive from year to year, but their stems and leaves also live, even during the cold season.
Evergreen herbaceous perennials often have tough leaves with interesting textures and colors. Some, like Chinese lantern, elephant's ears and Lenten rose, produce winter flowers.
The Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) grows in compact clumps that produce long, hollow stems sturdy enough to survive the freezes and thaws of winter. These tough, thick stems in turn produce leathery leaves with dark green tops and undersides in a lighter shade of green.
Lenten rose flowers, as well as new leaves, emerge from the center of each clump. White, creamy yellow or pale green—sometimes dappled in light pink, the flower heads are shaped like shallow cups.
After blooming, Helleborus orientalis may be cut back. To propagate it, sow Lenten rose seeds in summer or divide the clumps as you would any herbaceous perennial in the spring or fall.
Like the Lenten rose, Bergenia crassifolia grows in clumps. These clumps produce leathery leaves that turn yellow and orange as temperatures drop.
In late winter or early spring, elephant's ear plants produce deep pink flowers. Bell-shaped, they droop gracefully on their long, reddish stems.
Elephant's ears grows well in both full sun and partial shade. It makes a good ground cover and doesn't mind poor soil. In fact, its leaf color becomes more dramatic when it's planted in a full-sun location that has poor soil.
To propagate Bergenia crassifolia, divide it after it finishes blooming in May.
The Chinese lantern plant (Physalis alkekengi, var. franchetii) is a sprawling perennial with thin, green leaves. Its orange flowers, which dangle from light green stems, are shaped like Chinese lanterns and have a papery texture. Each contains a russet-colored, edible berry.
Established Chinese lantern plants grow from rhizomes, fleshy, fibrous roots, and they spread easily, performing well in all types of soil so long as it's somewhat moist.
In spring, after they've finished blooming, cut Chinese lantern plants to the ground. To divide them, dig up and separate the rhizomes as you would those of an iris, slicing off new "bulbs" with a sharp knife and discarding the old. Plant the young rhizomes close to the surface of the soil.
WINTER-BLOOMING SHRUBS & TREES
Chimonanthus praecox, Cornus mas & Elaeagnus pungens
Many trees and shrubs are known for the beauty of their barks or their graceful shapes, both which lend interest to the garden in winter. Some, however, provide more than just structure and a bit of color: they produce flowers.
A winter-flowering shrub, wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) produces waxy yellow flowers with purple centers from midwinter into spring.
Wintersweet's flowers are not only ornamental. They have a lovely fragrance that's both light and spicy.
Chimonanthus praecox prefers rich, well-drained soil and full sun. It can grow up 12-feet high and 10-feet wide. Like viburnum, it has an upright growth habit and is easy to propagate through layering.
The Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas) can be grown as a large shrub or pruned into a small tree. It can reach heights of up to 15 feet and can grow to be about as wide.
In winter, its yellow flower clusters unfurl, releasing a sweet fragrance.
A carefree plant, Cornus mas grows well in most soils and requires little pruning if grown as a shrub. Plant it in a full-sun location for best results.
Other Winter-Blooming Trees/Shrubs
Heather (Erica + darleyensis)
Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)
Viburnum farreri & V. foetens
Viburnum tinus sp.
Elaeagnus pungens is another hardy shrub that produces scented winter flowers. Unlike the Cornelian cherry tree and wintersweet, its blossoms are white.
There are many cultivars of Elaeagnus, and often they're grown more for their attractive leaves than for their winter flowers. E.p. 'Maculata,' for instance, has deep green leaves with bright gold centers.
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Jill Spencer