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Past Articles Library | Perennials | 12 Perennials for Winter Interest

12 Perennials That Will Add
Winter INTEREST to Your Garden!

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Just because it is going to turn cold in a few months, doesn't mean your yard has to look dull or lifeless. Believe it or not, there are other plant options that you can use to make your yard and garden look great year round.

So instead of thinking about plants going dormant, it's time to start planning and planting a few things that will stay colorful and look good while everything else is brown and leafless. Actually, anything that remains evergreen throughout the winter months may be considered a candidate for winter interest, but I chose some plants that flower, have great structure, or produce berries.

Now's the time to add some strong interest and color to your yard while there is still time to get everything planted, and established, before the really cold weather sets in.

I have included each plant's ideal climate zone so you can get an idea of what will do well for you in your area. A brief list of zones is at the end of this article, or you can use our zone map.

Many more than 12 perennials could have been listed here, but I wanted to touch on some that are not as widely used, so you can really liven up your garden!

Click on pictures to see a larger view

1. Viola tricolor - Johnny Jump Up - Zones 4 to 10
Produces neat flowers with faces in shades of yellow, blue, violet, and white. Flowers in fall and often in winter. Self-seeds readily.

2. Rosa rugosa - Rugosa Rose - Zones 2 to 10
This is a large shrub that grows to 8 feet. Has good fall color. What makes this plant appealing for winter are the large tomato-like hips that are produced after it flowers. The hips are quite a feature and last all winter long.

3. Sedum 'Herbstfreude' ('Autumn Joy') - Zones 5 to 10
This plant has fleshy leaves and grows to 24 in (60 cm). It has large heads of pink flowers that appear in the fall that eventually fade to copper color and then turn red. So don't cut them back until the spring to get the most interest from this plant.

4. Arum italicum - Italian Arum - Zones 7 to 10
Grows to 12 inches (30 cm). This is a tuberous perennial with broad arrow-shaped leaves that appear in the fall. The foliage dies back in the summer just as the berries appear, which to me, aren't worth it. After the berries die, the foliage reappears, remains until the next summer and is lush and green all winter.

5. Acorus gramineus - Sweet Flag - Zones 3 to 11
Native to Japan, it has soft, curved leaves under 12 inches (30 cm) long and about � inch (6 mm) wide. This plant is grown mainly for its foliage, which is sweet smelling. In the winter, it has beautiful texture and pleasing green, white and chartreuse colors.

6. Rohdea japonica - Lily of China - Zones 7 to 10
During the winter months it forms clumps of deep green long leaves that are 8 -18 inches (20-45 cm) long. This plant has bright red berries during winter that contrast the dark green leaves very well.

7. Dianthus gratianopolitanus - Cheddar Pink - Zones 5 to 9
Has neat and tidy mounds of blue-gray, linear leaves that develop into broad mats that are 12 inches (30 cm) or more in width. The low-growing silvery foliage contrasts nicely with other perennials. Flowers will continue until a hard frost.

8. Iberis sempervirens - Candytuft - Zones 4 to 11
Good for rock gardens. Grows 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm) high with a spread of 18 to 24 inches (45 - 60 cm). 'Snowflake' is very attractive with glossy, dark green leaves. Very frost hardy.

9. Helleborus - Zones 6 to 9, others 3 to 9
This genus has tons of choices that are hardy in many climate zones. The Christmas Rose is popular for its mid-winter white flowers, often appearing in the snow. Others have flowers in shades of green, red, and purple. Awesome for winter interest, its great foliage and flowers.

10. Erica carnea - Winter Heath - Zones 5 to 9
This is a low growing plant usually under 12 inches (30 cm) with very dense branches. Through most the winter and into early spring in has a great display of small urn-shaped flowers that are purple -pink. There are many well known cultivars to choose from.

11. Liriope muscari and spicata - Zones 6 to 10, and 4 to 10
A clump forming perennial with some cultivars having leaves so dark they are practically black. This is good to group with other plants for interest. Good for a ground cover or path edging.

12. Ophiopogon planiscapus - Black Mondo Grass - Zones 6 to 10
An interesting cultivar is 'Ebony Night' because it has purple-black stiff leaves that form clumps 10 inches (25 cm) in height, and 12 inches (30 cm) in width. Slow growing, but beautiful when combined with other plants to show off its unusual color.

Climate Zones

  ZONE  °F
  1    below - 50
  2  - 50 to - 40
  3  - 40 to - 30
  4  - 30 to - 20
  5  - 20 to - 10
  6  - 10 to 0
  7    0 to 10
  8    10 to 20
  9    20 to 30
  10    30 to 40
  11    above 40

See Zone Map

The writer has landscaped and worked with perennials for home owners, commercial properties, and retail businesses. She also has been a professional public speaker and educator in the gardening industry for over 20 years sharing gardening advice and tips to as many people as she can.

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