As temperatures drop, so often do our hopes of having full flowerbeds. But winter doesn’t always have to be so dull and bleak. Whether you’re buying a new home or updating your landscape for wintertime, there are many different plants to choose from that enjoy cooler temperatures.
“Generally you’re going to be in pretty good shape if you’re using native plants,” said Andrea DeLong-Amaya, director of Horticulture at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. “Native plants are a great way to reinforce Texas heritage and Texas pride.”
Whether using native Texas or non-native plants, here are our picks for adding color and texture to your winter garden.
1. Baby Blue Eyes – Nemophila menziesii
These charming sky-blue flowers are great choice for late winter/early spring color. In moderate winter temperatures, flowers will grow (even in shade) until they bloom. This low growing plant is easy to start from a seed and requires little maintenance.
2. Camellias – Camellia japonica
Delicately scented camellias are a great, winter hardy option for the cooler months, with the exception of unusually cold winters. The large blooms can be white, pink, red, yellow and lavender. Camellias dislike irregularity in watering or sudden temperatures changes, but can tolerate droughts or light freezes while still remaining bright. Camellias are a versatile option for a garden, as they can define spaces or spread in front of flowerbeds.
3. Christmas Fern – Polystichum acrostichoides
“Christmas fern got its name because it stays green right through the holiday season,” according to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center online database. This robust, glossy fern is a great option for a border or accent plant. Although it won’t flower, ferns are easy to grow and stable in the right conditions. The evergreen fronds grow in clusters that will increase in size over time.
4. Coral Honeysuckle – Lonicera sempervirens
Some species of honeysuckle such as Hall’s Japanese are not native, so DeLong advises people to stick with Coral, also known as Trumpet. This high-climbing vine is a great option for a fence or trellis and can often bloom sporadically in January and beyond, especially in a warm spot or south-facing wall. The beautiful clusters of red or coral flowers will attract hummingbirds and large butterflies, and it has glossy evergreen foliage.
5. Hellebore – Helleborus niger
Hellebore, also called Christmas roses, are a late-winter blooming perennial that can bloom sometimes even when snow is still present and continue into the spring. The cup-shaped blooms are around three inches and pure white, although hybrid varieties are available in a range of other colors.
6. Ornamental Cabbage & Kale – Brassica oleracea
Ornamental cabbage and kale are low-maintenance fall and winter plants that become more vibrant as temperatures drop. They provide unique texture to a landscape or flowerbed with their colorful foliage. Cabbage leaves are broad and flat while kale leaves are ruffled, and the plants cover a lot of space. Leaves can be cream, lavender, purple, and bicolor green/white and can survive several frosts.
7. Pansies and Violas – Viola tricolor var. hortensis
Pansies and violas are a popular bedding choice for cooler temperatures because they bloom continuously through fall and spring. The plants come in a variety of colors such as yellow, purple, red, white and lavender and also look great as a border or in containers.
8. Snowdrops – Galanthus
These delicate, white blooming bulbs prefer cool climates and can be expected to bloom in the winter, even through snow cover. The flower resembles drops of snow, hence its namesake.
9. Southern Wax Myrtle – Morella cerifera
Perhaps known for its spicy smelling foliage, wax myrtle (in the bayberry family) is an evergreen shrub with olive green leaves and grey-white bark. In the winter, female plants have pale blue berries. This is a great option for screens, hedges and landscaping.
10. Winterberry (also known as possum haw) – Ilex decidua
Winterberry is an iconic plant in the holly family with bright red or orange berries. When it loses its leaves, the berries are left behind and will last until spring. The bark is a beautiful silvery white. However, be cautious when planting this one: the berries are poisonous and should be kept away from children and pets. This holly is great for homemade wreaths during the holiday season.
If you’d like to learn more about native Texas plants, click here.