Winter is often viewed as ‘down time’ in the garden, with little to do but wait until spring. Not so. There are many winter plants for the garden, particularly when used in seasonal pot and container displays.
Bright flowers, vivid berries, evergreen foliage and colourful stems can all be combined to great effect. With the right plants you can create a high-impact but low-maintenance scheme, to lift the spirits on even the darkest of days.
For a bee-friendly container, opt for plants with a generous supply of nectar, like crocus, hellebores and snowdrops. Sitting in a frost pocket? Try growing robust plants like Hakonechloa macra, Hylotelephium spectabile and Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’.
Before you plant, remember to make sure your pots are winter ready too. Clay or terracotta pots are prone to cracking in frost so either avoid using these for your winter displays or look for frost-proof pots and containers. Plastic, fibreglass, wooden and treated terracotta and clay are all good materials for winter pots. Look for pots labelled frost-proof rather than frost resistant which can still crack when temperatures plummet.
Raising pots up by standing them on blocks or pot ‘feet’ over the winter will also allow water to drain away, prevent them becoming waterlogged and help to reduce the risk of frost damage.
More on winter plants:
Browse our choice of plants for winter pots, below.
Snowdrops are perfect for growing in winter pot displays. Team with black lilyturf and hellebores for a modern look.
Height x Spread: 15cm x 8cm
Wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is a naturally festive-looking, neat, low-spreading evergreen with large red berries and reddish-tinged leaves in winter.
H x S: 30cm x 1.5m
Winter-flowering pansies with yellow, maroon, white or purple ‘faces’ will keep flowering except in the very worst weather. But they will recover and then continue until June.
H x S: 20cm x 30cm
Hardy cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium and Cyclamen coum) are neat, free-flowering plants, perfect for growing at the base of trees and shrubs or naturalising in grass. They work well in winter pot displays, and can be planted into the garden after they have flowered.
H x S: 8cm x 10cm
Carex are tuft-forming evergreen perennials with green, variegated or bronze, curly or arching leaves. Very tough and contemporary, and will look good all winter.
H x S: 20cm x 30cm
Skimmia ‘Rubella’ is a rugged, hardy and reliable evergreen shrub with grape-like clusters of tight pink buds throughout winter. Teams well with heathers.
H x S: 75cm x 75cm
Phormium is a colourful architectural evergreen with arched strap-shaped leaves in pink, purplish and bronzy shades, including stripes. A good mixer for contemporary schemes.
H x S: 1m x 1.2m
Ajuga is a rugged evergreen perennial that’s low-spreading with rounded purple or purple-variegated leaves depending on variety. Makes a non-traditional alternative to ivy.
H x S: 20cm x 80cm
The Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, bears large, round, white flat-faced flowers above low-growing mounds of leathery, deep green foliage.
H x S: 45cm x 45cm
With wiry stems clothed in evergreen needles, usually deep green but sometimes in other shades, winter heathers are usually derived from Erica carnea, which grows wild in the Alps and other cool mountainous regions.
H x S: 25cm x 30cm