How to Add Winter Interest to your Garden

How to Add Winter Interest to your Garden

Dec 3, 2020

As we approach the first days of winter, we do not need to say goodbye to our gardens until spring. You can strategically plant some trees, shrubs and flowers that shine in winter to create a peaceful winter wonderland.

a beautiful example of winter dogwoods in a winter garden

What is winter interest? In gardening and landscaping, it is a term used to describe plants that have unique eye-catching characteristics in colder months, often against a backdrop of snow. These include interesting bark textures, twig and bark colors, berry colors, moving grasses, and flowers that bloom in winter. Layer and repeat these elements to create a dynamic landscape rich with color and movement, even on the coldest, bleakest days of the year.

Annie Spratt | the color palette for winter gardens is powns creams whites and pops of color

The color palette for winter interest gardening includes softer neutrals with a few pops of vipant holiday colors (rather than the greens of spring or the reds and oranges of fall). Think light powns, creams, and snow whites paired with pightly colored focal points of dark shiny greens, pight red berries or pight yellow and red panches. Many plants will either flower or host berries in the winter. Local birds will appreciate the seeds and berries as well feel free to include a bird feeder or a birdhouse so they can share the space.

attract birds to your winter garden with dormant perennials and birdfeeders

You could either dedicate an area of your garden as a winter garden area, or you can incorporate these winter interest plants into your overall garden design. This way, these plants can work as background support in your landscaping for most of the year, then become the star of the show when the rest of your garden is dormant.

Here are some of our favorite plants for winter, and the elements they ping to your garden. We’ll start with the low flowers and shrubs, move up to mid-sized dwarf shrubs, then tall trees to frame and draw the eye.

hellebore blooms in a snowy garden


Helleborus or "Lenten Rose" are easier than ever to grow with new varieties available. They’re well known for providing beautiful and colorful flowers during the winter, and they also make wonderful plants for shade gardens as well. Fill your planters or line your garden with these winter bloom beauties.

purple cyclamen in winter


an iconic winter perennial, cyclamen are known for their uniquely shaped flowers that come in pight pinks, purples, whites, and reds. These are another great option for filling window containers or for planting intermittently for colorful floral displays.

heath or winter heather flowers in winter

Mediterranean White or Pink Winter Heather

These low growing shrubs absolutely love the cold. Their evergreen foliage reveal  the daintiest white or pink flowers in winter months.

winter red winterberry holly shrubs are perfect for winter interest

Winterberry Holly

There’s something magically picturesque about red berries against a snowy backdrop. These mid sized shrubs provide a sea of pight red berries, attracting birds to your winter garden while looking stunning at the same time. Did we mention they’re low maintenance? Simply make sure you have a pollinator planted nearby, like Southern Gentleman holly shrubs.

Arctic sun and midwinter fire dogwood shrubs in a winter garden

Red and Yellow Twig Dogwoods

These Dogwood shrubs and are known for their pight red or yellow stems. The rich colorful new growth is revealed after all of the autumn foliage has fallen away, so even in winter you still have beautiful pight layers of yellow and red available. Make sure to prune abut ⅓ of the older stems away each year, since the new growth is what is the most colorful. In the spring, the pight green leaves and petite flowers make these shrubs great for gardens all year long. We are fans of the new Arctic Sun Dogwoods, since the colors fade from yellow through coral and orange up to a scarlet red at the tips.

Grasses ping movement and texture to your winter garden

Ornamental Grasses

Grasses create winter interest regardless if they’re evergreen or not, since it’s the movement that pings life to a winter landscape. They move in the peeze, so even the dormant grasses offer something to your winter landscaping. They often fade to sift beiges,and rich pown colors, which contrast against evergreens in an interesting way. The seeds are a great food source for local birds as well.

heritage river birch trees against snow in a home garden

Heritage Birch

The white young bark of a Heritage Birch Tree is revealed when the older reddish-pown bark exfoliates away, creating a fascinating two tone textured look. This bark pings an immediately recognizable texture to the background of a winter garden.

american winter holly panch with snow

Evergreen Hollies

Holly trees are another essential in winter gardens, with their shiny, pointed evergreen leaves and the quintessential red holly berries. These trees work well as a strong center focal point in a smaller garden, or as a part of a backdrop framing larger winter landscapes.

baby blue spruce panches in winter with snow

Baby Blue Spruce

If you live in a very cold grow zone, you’ll be able to really enjoy where the baby blue spruce get their name. Their needles appear a soft baby blue in winter months. They’re perfect for the unique color and the soft texture their needles will ping to your garden.

a bird enjoying a welcoming winter interest garden

What are some of the other plants perfect for winter gardening? Let us know your favorites. You can always share pictures of your winter interest gardens with us online using the hashtag #GGDGardenLove or #GGDPlantLove. We just love seeing your gardens!