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Plant for Winter Color

By Justin W. Hancock


In the South
In frost-free areas (such as Miami, where our headquarters and Trial Garden are), you don’t have to worry about cold temperatures, so you can plant Northern favorites -- such as petunias and geraniums -- which can’t take the tropical summer heat and humidity. SunPatiens, marigolds, celosia, and zinnias are also good bets. 


In areas that remain mild through winter, but still experience light frosts and cool spells, there are still plenty of cool-season winter flowers you can grow. Plant them in the fall so they’ll get established and bloom all season long. Some of our favorites include:

Calendula: Offering bright flowers in shades of yellow and orange, calendula is an old-fashioned favorite. The flowers look like daisies or zinnias and are delicious when used in salads and desserts.
Flowering kale: Grown for its attractive leaves rather than blooms, flowering kale shows off rich pink, purple, red, and white shades, especially as the weather cools. It’s a top pick for adding texture and is one of the hardiest annuals for winter color; it withstands freezing temperatures like a champ.  
Pansy: Boosting the winter landscape, cheery pansies bloom in nearly every color, from pure white to rich, velvety black. They do as well in containers as they do in the ground.
Snapdragon: Whether you grow trailing, mounding, or the tall upright snapdragons, they’re showstoppers in the winter garden. The flowers come in lovely shades of white, pink, purple, red, orange, and yellow.
Stock: The most fragrant flower in the spring garden, stock smells heavenly. It produces frilly little flowers on upright spikes in a range of soft pinks, purples, yellows, reds, and whites.
Sweet alyssum: Creating a carpet of color, this little annual groundcover offers fragrant flowers in shades of white, cream, lavender, and purple. Newer varieties, such as Snow Princess, hold up better to the heat, flowering longer into the season.
Viola: Pansy’s smaller cousin, violas are just as cheery and appear in an even wider array of color combinations. They’re tough, too, tolerating light frosts.

In the North
Decorating your yard with color from plants gets a little harder if you live in Northern areas that regularly experience freezing temperatures. But take heart: There are still bold, beautiful choices. Instead of getting color from flowers, look for plants that have beautiful bark or fantastic evergreen foliage.

Some of our favorite plants for fun bark include
Flame willow: Grown as a big shrub or small tree, flame willow is a winter favorite for the bright orange-red colors of its stems. It looks best when planted in groups so you can maximize its color impact.
Paperbark maple: This small tree offers beautiful bark that looks like polished copper. As it ages, the bark peels off in strips, like a birch, adding another layer of interest to this beautiful tree.
Red-twig dogwood: An easy-growing, North American-native shrub, red-twig dogwood shows best in winter, after it drops its leaves.  The bold red stems look especially brilliant with a backdrop of snow.
Winterberry: A North American native holly, this shrub puts on a bold winter show thanks to its abundance of brightly colored red or orange berries.

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