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The Best Plants for Creating Colorful Winter Containers

Taking the time to freshen the container plantings at your front entry will reward you all winter long and brighten your spirits every time you come home. Likewise, a window box planting can bring the outdoors in, where you can enjoy a foliage-rich scene from the cozy interior.

Creating an eye-catching and spirit-lifting winter container garden can be quick and easy. And really almost anything goes, plant-wise—as long as it looks good in winter. Think about texture and color echos. And just like in your in-ground garden, you’ll want to strive for a variety of plant forms and leaf sizes.

Winter Container Garden
See below for links to plants included in this container.

In the image above, colorful curly willow stems play a key role (far right). And here's a pro hack—buy or cut stems from your existing landscape shrubs to conserve space in your container. You can usually find them at your local independent garden center or florist in autumn. Also featured prominently in the container above: Fatsia japonica, Carex 'Everillo', Tassel fernMahonia 'Soft Caress', Helleborus argutifolius 'Snow Fever', Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Snow' and finally a Coprosma to the far left echoes the coral tones of the willow stems.


GALLERY OF WINTER CONTAINER GARDEN IDEAS


Remember to consider your container—its color, shape, etc.—as an equally important component of your vignette. If you can weave it into your color story with creative color echoes or consider its shape as you create your composition, the overall effect of your winter container garden will be amplified.

And finally, it can help to think of it as a temporary installation—shrubs that will eventually be in-the-ground-big can start their life with you in a container. Creating a decorative scene in a high-traffic, regularly visible spot is a great way to temporarily enjoy evergreen shrubs and perennials up-close over the winter, before graduating them to an in-ground position in your garden come spring.

The focus of this post is on the building blocks of winsome winter container gardens—the plants! To dive deeper into the design aspects of creating container plantings, you might enjoy this post: How to Create Show-stopping Containers for Your Garden.

What makes a particular plant an appealing choice for your winter scene? This post is full winter container garden ideas to help you get started. Some of the best plant options are singled out based on their attractive evergreen foliage, winter flowers, colorful stems, or architectural form. However, your container planting really starts to come together when you start creating vignettes that combine a pleasing array of textures, colors, and forms. Listed below you'll find some of my go-to faves.


SOME OF MY FAVORITE PLANTS FOR WINTER CONTAINER GARDENS

Abelia x grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope'

Kaleidoscope Abelia

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Acorus gramineus 'Ogon'

Golden Variegated Sweetflag

Type: Grass / Grass-Like, Groundcover
Exposure: Afternoon Sun, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Arctostaphylos x 'Austin Griffiths'

Austin Griffith Manzanita

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Afternoon Sun, Reflected Heat
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Aspidistra elatior

Cast Iron Plant

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Full Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade, Deep Shade
Zone: 8, 9, 10

view plant

Astelia nivicola 'Red Gem'

Red Gem Astelia

Type: Perennial, Tender Perennial
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 8, 9, 10

view plant

Beesia deltophylla

False Bugbane

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Full Shade, Open Shade, Open Shade, Deep Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8

view plant

Bergenia cordifolia 'Winter Glow'

Pigsqueak

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

view plant

Camellia sasanqua 'Chansonette'

Camellia Chansonette

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Part Sun, Filtered Sun, Morning Sun
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Carex oshimensis 'Everillo'

Evercolor™ Everillo Sedge

Type: Grass / Grass-Like, Groundcover, Perennial
Exposure: Open Shade, Full Sun, Part Sun, Filtered Sun, Morning Sun
Zone: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Carex testacea

Orange Sedge

Type: Grass / Grass-Like, Groundcover, Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Afternoon Sun, Reflected Heat, Morning Sun
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Korean Gold'

Korean Gold Plum Yew

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Part Sun, Filtered Sun, Full Sun, Morning Sun, Open Shade, Part Shade, Full Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Treasure Island'

Dwarf Port Orford Cedar

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun
Zone: 5, 6, 7, 8

view plant

Choisya x 'Gold Fingers'

Gold Fingers Mexican Orange
Choisya x dewitteana 'Limo'
CHOISYA ARIZONICA X TERNATA 'LIMO'

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Afternoon Sun, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 8, 9, 10

view plant

Cryptomeria japonica 'Little Diamond'

Little Diamond Dwarf Japanese Cedar

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Cupressus macrocarpa 'Wilma Goldcrest'

Wilma Goldcrest Cypress

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Full Shade
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Fatsia japonica 'Variegata' Camouflage

Camouflage™ Variegated Japanese Aralia

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Part Shade, Full Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Hebe pinguifolia 'Sutherlandii'

Sutherland hebe

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Afternoon Sun
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

view plant

Helleborus x ballardiae 'HGC Pink Frost'

Pink Frost Lenton Rose

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade
Zone: 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Heuchera 'Fire Alarm'

Fire Alarm Coral Bells

Type: Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Lonicera nitida 'Twiggy'

Twiggy Box Honeysuckle

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Part Sun, Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 7, 8, 9

view plant

Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress'

Soft Caress Mahonia

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Filtered Sun, Morning Sun, Part Sun, Full Shade, Part Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

view plant

Nandina domestica 'Gulf Stream'

Compact Heavenly Bamboo

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun, Part Shade, Filtered Sun, Morning Sun, Open Shade
Zone: 6, 7, 8, 9

view plant

Pittosporum tobira 'Shima'

Creme de Mint Dwarf Mock Orange

Type: Shrub
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Afternoon Sun, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade
Zone: 8, 9, 10, 11

view plant

Tsuga canadensis 'MonKinn'

Golden Duchess Eastern Hemlock

Type: Conifer, Shrub
Exposure: Part Shade, Morning Sun, Filtered Sun, Open Shade, Open Shade
Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7

view plant

Uncinia rubra 'Belinda's Find'

Belinda's Find Red Hook Sedge

Type: Grass / Grass-Like, Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Part Sun, Filtered Sun
Zone: 8, 9, 10

view plant

Yucca filamentosa 'Color Guard'

Color Guard Adam's Needle

Type: Shrub, Perennial
Exposure: Full Sun, Full Sun, Afternoon Sun, Reflected Heat
Zone: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

view plant

Published October 23, 2020


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