Shrubs That Look Good in Winter

Winter can seem like a dreary time in the garden with bare branches and faded plants. However, some shrubs provide outstanding winter interest with fragrant blooms bright berries, colorful foliage, and striking bark. By choosing shrubs wisely you can create a landscape that shines even during the coldest months.

Bright Berries

Berries on red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) and winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) add pops of color when little else is blooming. Dogwood produces white berries along red stems while winterberry reveals vivid red orange fruits. Both shrubs hold their fruit into winter, providing food for birds. Winterberry is deciduous losing its leaves to reveal the colorful berries. For evergreen options, consider hollies like blue holly (Ilex x meserveae) and firethorn (Pyracantha).

Fragrant Blooms

Scented blooms during winter are a special treat. Witch hazel (Hamamelis) unfurls spidery yellow and orange flowers with a sweet, spicy scent Daphne (Daphne odora) erupts in intensely fragrant pink or white blooms These compact shrubs pack a big aromatic punch. Camellia, an evergreen shrub, produces gorgeous rose-like flowers in shades of red, pink, and white. The scent varies among varieties from subtle to strongly sweet.

Colorful Foliage

While many shrubs drop their leaves in winter, broadleaf evergreens like holly, boxwood, and rhododendron retain their foliage. This provides essential greenery when deciduous trees are bare. There are many colorful varieties to light up winter gardens. Gold-splashed and variegated leaves glow, especially in morning and evening light. Blue hollies like Blue Princess and Blue Prince offer rich blue green color.

Beautiful Bark

Bark becomes an important design element during winter when branches are exposed. Shrubs valued for their bark shine at this time of year. Red twig dogwood and willow have brightly colored stems that positively glow. Birch reveals striking white, tan, and cinnamon hued bark patterns. Japanese maple bark ranges from green to red and can be especially pretty when backlit by winter sun.

Unusual Form

Winter also highlights the unique branching structures of some shrubs. Contorted filbert hazel (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) is prized for its twisted, corkscrew-like stems. The compact, narrowly columnar growth of Sky Pencil holly (Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’) makes a dramatic statement in the winter landscape. Harry Lauder’s walking stick (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) features curving and spiraling stems that resemble a shepherd’s walking stick.

When selecting shrubs for winter appeal, consider berry production, flowering times, foliage color, bark interest, and form. By incorporating a variety of features, you can create an eye-catching winter garden. Make note of shrubs that shine in your own garden or neighborhood and replicate the combinations that delight you. With thoughtful plant choices, your landscape can showcase beauty in every season.

Best Shrubs for Winter Interest

Here are some top options for fabulous winter appeal:

  • Red twig dogwood: Striking red stems and white berries
  • Willow: Colorful bark in yellow, orange, red, black
  • Winterberry holly: Bright orange-red berries on bare branches
  • Witch hazel: Fragrant winter blooms in yellow and orange
  • Daphne: Sweetly scented pink or white flowers
  • Blue holly: Rich evergreen foliage in shades of blue
  • Variegated boxwood: Gold and green leaves brighten winter gloom
  • Harry Lauder’s walking stick: Twisted, spiraling stems create unique texture
  • Paperbush: Crinkled cinnamon-colored bark adds interest
  • Contorted filbert hazel: Strange corkscrew stems grab attention
  • Japanese maple: Delicate branching and colorful bark

With the right plant choices, your garden can come alive with color and texture even during the dormant winter season. Add a variety of shrubs with great winter features like colorful berries, fragrant blooms, evergreen foliage, and ornamental stems. You’ll find there’s beauty to be appreciated in your winter landscape.

Cold Tolerant Shrubs & Trees

Do you live in a cold area and need a plant that can handle the winter? This group of shrubs and trees has all of our best plants for cold tolerance. Choose a plant that is hardy in your zone to make sure your new shrub or tree will live and do well in cold places. This group of shrubs and trees can handle weather from USDA zones 4 and below, from snowy winters in Michigan to cold winters in Nebraska.


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Top 10 Shrub Combinations to Plant In Front of Your Home!


What shrubs are good in cold weather?

There are the Micron Holly and Dwarf Youpon Holly. These are great bulletproof shrubs, very cold tolerant that can take the coldest winter. And very heat tolerant also, once they get established. Nandinas are always good for fall color, especially in the wintertime, but some of the varieties have color all year round.

What shrub keeps leaves in winter?

Some of the most common evergreen shrubs include arborvitae, boxwood, false cypress, holly, juniper, wintercreeper, azalea and rhododendron.

What shrub blooms in the winter?

Winter Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) This is a must-have shrub for winter flowers and their intoxicatingly delightful, lemony fragrance. This deciduous shrub hails from China and grows 8 to 10 feet tall with a spread of 6 to 8 feet as far north as zone 5.

What plants look best in winter?

Snowdrops and winterberry are obvious choices—they have those names for a reason, after all. Surprising plants like ornamental kale can bring unexpected color and lovely texture to your winter garden. And some varieties of fragrant flowers like camellias and shrubs like witch hazel bloom in the middle of winter.

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