Planting Shrubs With Winter Interest


By Teo Spengler | November 21, 2020

After the vivid pallet of a summer garden and the fiery fall displays of autumn, a winter garden can feel bleak. But it doesn’t have to. If you select some shrubs for the backyard specifically for their winter interest, from shiny berries to bright stems or even flowers, your garden will light up this time of year. Attractive winter shrubs can dial it up a notch just when you need it.

Attractive Winter Shrubs

It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for planting trees and shrubs. Here are some of my favorite shrubs for winter interest:

  • FirethornFirethorn (Pyracantha spp.) is an easy-to-grow thorned evergreen that makes a wonderful defensive hedge. The dark leaves of the shrub make a wonderful backdrop for their bright winter berries in red, orange or yellow. The birds appreciate them as well.
  • DogwoodDogwood (Cornus spp.) is a large shrub or small tree that is a delight in all seasons. Spring and summer bring white frothy blossoms followed by autumn berries and turning leaves. But in winter, the bare red branches of the dogwood varieties like red-twig are themselves the main act. The bright crimson bark is simply beautiful, a real standout in contrast to winter white.
  • Beautyberry – During spring and summer, beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is a lush foliage plant, lovely but unremarkable. In winter, it shows its flashy side, surprising you year after year with cascades of glossy, iridescent purple berries. It’s utterly stunning but also help birds and small mammals survive the winter.
  • Witch hazel – There is something magical about the shrub witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) in addition to its medicinal properties. This amazing little shrub produces flowers in winter, weird but beautiful yellow blooms with petals that look like thin ribbons and smell like heaven.
  • Honeysuckle ‘Winter Beauty’ – Nothing smells better than honeysuckle and the cultivar ‘Winter Beauty’ (Lonicera x purpusii) is no exception. It’s a bushy shrub or vine that lives up to its cultivar name, creating romantic beauty in your backyard in winter with creamy blossoms. They open in mid-winter and remain on the shrub through spring filling the garden with an intense fragrance.
  • WinterberryWinterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a deciduous holly that drops its glossy leaves in winter. That means that when the shrub bursts out with clusters of red berries in the cold season, they hang on bare branches and have quite an impact. You’ll need both a male and a female to get berries.
  • Winter jasmine – It doesn’t have the trademark fragrance of its summer-blooming relatives, but winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) makes up for this with visual acrobats. It produces a sea of brilliant yellow blossoms on its slender branches that open in winter and last through spring.

Light up the landscape using shrubs with winter interest and this cold, wintry season won’t feel near as bleak.

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