There’s nothing like a beautifully planted pot to bring life to the garden in late winter. Planted in early February and positioned near the back door, colourful containers give us something to focus on and appreciate, whatever the weather.
In late winter bulbs like snowdrops, daffodils and iris look delightful in small containers near the house, where their delicate beauty can be enjoyed from inside. But look further afield and there are many more planting options. The coloured stems of cornus and willow make the perfect foil for pot arrangements. Witch hazels (Hamamelis) and camellias flower beautifully in February. And, with its beautiful winter catkins, just a single hazel shrub can make a focal point.
More on winter containers:
Discover Carol's pick of the best plants for winter containers, below.
Not only will its graceful orbicular leaves grace any pot, but in January and February, its flowers will also be at their best. Choose plants with especially good markings or silver leaves.
Height x spread: 10cm x 10cm
South American sub-shrub akin to blueberries and whortleberries and, like them, requiring acid soil. Easy to cultivate and dependable. Will probably be full of berries when you buy it, but in future will need a male plant nearby.
H x S: 1m x 1m
Iris ‘Katharine Hodgkin’
There will be plenty of small iris, such as reticulata and histrioides irises, in pots in garden centres from February. They make vivid splashes of colour for a week or two, and you can plant them, pot and all, to add colour to your containers, but they need attention if they are to flower again next year. However, ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ keeps going year after year with no fuss.
H x S: 10cm x 10cm
Heucheras and heucherellas
Heucheras have long been regarded as ideal container plants, but they surpass themselves at this time of year. Choose varieties with large leaves, perhaps in crimson or with distinctive markings, or just big and green like Heuchera ‘Guacamole’.
H x S: 50cm x 60cm
Sweet violet is a quiet little plant that during the summer would play second fiddle to the season’s more gregarious flowers. In February and March, though, it can hold its own against all comers. Its fragrance is so sugary, the scent of Parma violet sweets is based on it.
H x S: 15cm x 15cm
Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’
Almost a cliché in this season’s pots but only because it is totally dependable and very attractive. It’s useful to have something with linear leaves as a contrast to the mainly rounder-leaved plants popular for pots at this time of year.
More like this
H x S: 50cm x 50cm
Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’
There are several dogwoods with brilliant red stems, particularly noticeable now − young wood colours best. As a cheap alternative, if you already have this shrub in your garden or can cadge cuttings from friends or neighbours, you can push stems straight into compost around other plants and root them later.
H x S: 1.5m x 1.5m
Helleborus x hybridus
Wonderful to have such exciting plants flowering naturally at this time of year and lending themselves to pot culture. There is a vast range, from fancy doubles to elegant singles in a broad variety of colours. Later, you can lift them and transfer to the garden.
H x S: 50cm x 50cm