Winter interest plants are a wonderful addition to any garden. Not only do they add beauty to the winter garden, they also provide food for wildlife, and allow us to enjoy our garden all year round! In this post, I’ll explain what it’s all about, and share a list of my favorite plants with winter interest.
I’ve been thinking a lot about winter interest in the garden lately. It’s probably because winter has not been kind to us so far this year, giving us lots of cold and snow.
On these frigid days where nobody wants to be outside, I appreciate the winter interest plants in my gardens more than ever.
I used to be the kind of person that had to completely clean my gardens every fall. I would spend hours cleaning up every last piece of plant material. As a result… well my gardens were non-existent during the winter.
After a few inches of snow, you could look out into my backyard and you’d never know there were gardens under all that snow. It made me sad.
Well not anymore! I like to look out into my backyard during the winter to see reminders of my gardens, and know that there’s still life under the snow. It’s just hibernating.
What Is Winter Interest?
By now, you may be thinking “Wait, what does winter interest mean?”. No, I’m not talking about what plants grow in winter (though you’re lucky if you can grow plants outside through the winter!).
Creating winter interest in the garden is a way to continue to enjoy your gardens year-round. Even after everything goes dormant, is covered by snow, and the landscape would otherwise be baron.
Many people leave plants in their winter garden because they like to split their cleanup between the fall and spring. Another reason to leave plants through the winter is so that animals and birds have a source of food.
But some people (like me!) purposely add winter landscaping plants and other elements into their garden design. And there are definitely benefits of doing that.
What Are The Benefits Winter Interest Plants?
One of the main benefits of winter interest plants is to create four-season gardens that you can enjoy all year round. I love seeing the flower spikes capped with snow, seed heads half eaten by the birds, and some of my cute garden accessories towering above the snow.
I also find that winter garden interest is important to help ease the ache of spring fever during those times when winter drags on and on and on. Plus, winter interest plants make great subjects for photography, which gives me a good reason to get outside.
Leaving plants in the garden also benefits wildlife, providing shelter from the frigid temperatures and sources of food. Many outdoor winter plants have seeds that feed the birds and other wildlife.
These days, my winter gardens are full of life, and are constantly visited by my favorite birds (and my not-so-favorite squirrels and rabbits). It’s fun to look out there and see that my gardens are still teeming with life, even on the coldest of days.
17 Plants For Winter Interest In The Garden
To make it really easy for you to create a winter interest garden, I decided to put together a list of winter plants and shrubs for you. These are really common plants, and you might already have them growing in your garden…
Winter Interest Perennials
1. Astilbe – I love using astilbe as winter interest plants because they look like tiny evergreen trees to me. What could be more perfect than that?
2. Coneflowers – I’m willing to bet that many people would agree that coneflowers are one of the best winter garden plants. They look cute after snow has piled on top of their delicate looking flower heads, plus the seeds are another source of food for our feathered friends.
3. Tall grasses – Don’t forget to leave perennial grasses for winter interest in the garden. Not only are they beautiful, they provide shelter for our favorite garden critters, and the seed heads are a great food source for them too.
4. Liatris – Liatris are excellent plants for winter interest because their thick flower spikes stand tall all season long.
5. Gaillardia – Another one of my favorite perennials with winter interest, gaillardia looks beautiful sticking up through the snow.
6. Clematis – Leaving clematis vines covering a trellis is a awesome addition to the winter garden. Snow will accumulate on the vines, and the seed pods can also be really cool looking.
7. Bee Balm – Not only do they add pops of color to our summer gardens, bee balm are decorative winter plants too. The flower spikes stand tall above the snow, and the snow-capped flower heads look fantastic too.
8. Black-eyed Susan – With their tall stems and interesting flower heads, Black-eyed Susans are great plants with winter interest. Be careful with this one though, they tend to like to reseed themselves.
9. Hardy yucca – Some types of yucca are hardy perennial plants that stay green in winter, making them wonderful winter interest plants. The spiked foliage on these evergreen plants looks really cool poking through the snow.
10. Sedums – If you ask me, sedums might just be the best perennials for winter interest in the garden. My favorite thing about leaving the flowers in my winter garden is that, after it snows, they look like they’re wearing tiny snow hats.
Winter Interest Shrubs
11. Winterberry – One of the most well know shrubs with red berries in winter, the winterberry is one of the best garden shrubs for year-round beauty.
12. Red Twig Dogwood – There are a few different types of dogwoods, so make sure to look for the shrub with red stems in winter (some types even have orange or yellow stems in winter!).
13. Arborvitae – Arborvitae are lovely shrubs that stay green in winter. Not only are they beautiful winter evergreen shrubs, they can also be used a wind barrier.
14. Barberry bush – A lovely bush with red berries in winter! My barberry bushes are right next to the window, which makes it fun to watch the birds eating the berries all winter long.
15. Hydrangea – All types of hydrangeas make very pretty winter plants because their large flowers stay on all winter long. Plus they are perfect for capturing the snow as it falls, which makes the flowers look even more beautiful.
16. Elderberry – Another one of the best shrubs for winter interest, elderberry produces berries that are not only pretty, they’re another food source for wild animals.
17. Japanese Maple – Even though Japanese maples lose their leaves in the fall, they are still wonder trees for winter interest. The interesting shape of their branches, along with the red stems in winter can be stunning.
One thing’s for sure, going on a walk (more like a light jog) around the gardens when the wind chills are -30F is invigorating. I was only out there for about 15 minutes taking these photos, but when I came back inside (and thawed out) I felt alive.
Your garden doesn’t have to be a boring, depressing mass spans of white all winter long. With a little planning (or maybe just a bit of laziness and procrastination), your winter gardens can be very beautiful. So, as you plan your new summer garden beds, be sure to add in a few of these lovely winter interest plants.
Winter Garden Books
- Winter Gardens: Reinventing the Season
- The Garden in Winter
- Wonders of the Winter Landscape
- Garden: Create a Garden that Shines Through the Forgotten Season
More Posts About Winter Gardening
- How To Winterize Your Garden In The Fall
- 10 Garden-Safe Snow Removal Tips To Prevent Salt Damage To Plants
- How To Winterize A Pond Step-By-Step
- How To Prepare Your Vegetable Garden For Winter
What winter interest plants would you add to this list? Share your top picks in the comments below.