Shrubs, whether deciduous or evergreen, are useful in winter for the structure and interest they provide.


For winter colour, go for evergreen or winter-flowering shrubs, such as yew and holly. For scent, Christmas box and witch hazel are ideal.

As for planting shrubs, it's usually too cold at this time of year. However, it's the perfect time to survey your garden and spot gaps in beds and borders, in preparation for spring plantings.

Find more ideas for what to plant in December and our picks of the best Christmas plant ideas.


Our native yew, Taxus baccata, is highly valued for its attractive evergreen foliage and red autumn-winter berries. It can also be clipped into a neat hedge or into topiary shapes. Here's our advice on how to plant a yew hedge.

More like this
Yew clipped into shapes
Topiary yew with a variety of white flowers


The best cornus, or dogwoods, to choose for their winter interest are those with vividly coloured stems, including cultivars of Cornus alba, Cornus sanguinea and Cornus stolonifera.

Cornus Midwinter Fire
Red and orange stems of dogwood 'Midwinter Fire'


When adding winter interest to a garden, it's important to consider the faded flowerheads of plants like hydrangea and phlomis. Though dead, they look especially spectacular when touched with frost.

Frosted hydrangea flowerheads
Frost encrusted dead hydrangea flowerhead


Holly is an especially good plant to have in the garden. It's a native, easy-to-grow plant, with evergreen foliage and bright red berries, which are a treat for birds. Cultivars to grow include 'Argentea Marginata' (pictured) and 'Hollywood'.

Variegated holly
Bright red berries and variegated foliage of holly 'Argentea Marginata'

White-stemmed bramble

Don't worry – white-stemmed brambles like Rubus cockburnianus and Rubus biflorus won't take over the garden. Try planting with other intensely-coloured plants like cornus, shrubby willows and Ophiopogon planiscapus.

White stemmed bramble
White-stemmed bramble planted amongst black grasses

Scented shrubs for winter

  • Witch hazel, Hamamelis
  • Christmas box, Sarcococca confusa
  • Paper bush, Edgeworthia chrysantha