What to grow outside in the Winter

Blooming flowers, berries and cheerful shrubs add color and interest to a wintry landscape.

With snow falling and temperatures dropping, we stay warm and cozy indoors as nature thrives outside, offering a variety of colorful plants and flowers that grow in an outdoor winter garden.
Transform summer’s greenery and autumn’s changing scenery into a winter garden with blooms and berries that brighten the yard among bare branches and grey skies.
Flowering shrubs contrast with evergreens in cold climates for an element of surprise.
Your yard will come alive with vivid pinks and yellow buds, and you may even enjoy some winter vegetables and herbs if your climate allows. Fragrant blooms and sprigs will grace your home with seaonal aromas, too.

The following are some perfect plants to grow for an inspiring winter garden:

  • Christmas rose: known as Hellebores, this evergreen blossoms in January—even in snow—across a range of colors, from pink and maroon to white
  • Snowdrops: these small, white bell-shaped flowers emerge in snow
  • Iris: striking purple flowers, perfect for cutting, love the sun and stony ground

Flowering shrubs
  • Camellia: an evergreen that blossoms from fall to spring with rose-like flowers from pink to rich red; plant where it will get both sun and shade
  • Heather: a winter plant that blooms year-round, with delicate blooms that contrast with dark foliage; plant in sunlight
  • Witch hazel: a deciduous bush with bunches of aromatic yellow, red or orange petals that flower from fall to early winter; needs full sun to partial shade

Fragrant plants
  • Honeysuckle: small, sweet lemon-scented flowers
  • Wintersweet: its branches of perfumed blooms in winter are a nice addition indoors
  • Daphne bholua: from Nepal, its pink clusters of flowers offer a potent fragrance

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Berry bushes
Create a wildlife sanctuary with berry-bearing bushes that feed birds in winter, such as firethorn, chokecherry, Virginia creeper and chinaberry. Enjoy bird-watching!

  • Winterberry: this shrub loses its leaves in winter to display stems filled with bright red berries that attract birds happy to munch in your garden during the cold months; takes a couple years to germinate but it's worth the wait
  • Holly: is synonymous with the winter holidays, its berries, from crimson to yellow, and shiny hard leaves add texture to a garden year-round

After the last of the summer vegetables wilt, clear out your beds to make room for winter’s root and leap-crop vegetables like beets and Swiss chard. These don’t grow well in heat, but need to be planted in summer for a winter harvest.
Edible winter garden plants provide perfect vegetables for a hot pot of soup during the cold months. Ask your local nursery about the hardiness zone to know what to grow and when before the first frosts.

  • Around mid-August you may be able to plant carrots, leeks and turnips, which take about 60 days to grow.
  • In mid-September plant broccoli, radishes and spinach, which grow in just 30 days. Other autumn and winter vegetables include cabbage, onions and kale.
  • Brussels sprouts and cauliflower take more than 90 days. In warmer climates, planting from November to February will yield veggies from lettuce to peas and potatoes.

Plant near a south-facing wall to create a windbreak and to soak up sun. Cover lightly with bubble wrap if there’s a cold snap.

While you will have to move some herbs, like basil and mint, indoors during winter, some herbs are cold-hardy and will survive outdoors year-round. Though they grow slowly, some herbs can still be picked sparingly, such as:
Rosemary: if your plant is well established, snip some sprigs for your roast potatoes
Bay trees: survive through winter but be sparing in your leaf-nipping
Parsley, sage and thyme: also make it through winter with some snipping possible
Some foods, like garlic and shallots, go dormant in winter surviving the cold temperatures, and are ready to be harvested in spring.
Winter gardens are a marvel. Come spring, everything blooms!

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Winter veg can be grown in the greenhouse to protect them from frost. If you can, use saved rainwater on your greenhouse vegetables rather than tap water. I even have Brussels sprouts in big pots on the greenhouse floor and I will be picking lovely fresh brussels for Christmas dinner along with the cabbage and Carrots. This helps to save a few pennies on the food shop bill so that I have a bit more towards a blanket to cosy up in after stuffing myself on Christmas day.

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