Winter Beauty in the Southern Garden

20 Plants to Keep Your Landscape Beautiful in the Winter

Winter is here! Although the temperatures are dropping along with the last leaves, your winter landscape does not have to be barren. There are still plenty of evergreens and perennials to enhance your landscape this winter season. With careful planning, you can enjoy a beautiful landscape year-round.  

Evergreens – the Backbone of the Winter Landscape

Evergreens are workhorses in the winter landscape for many reasons. Evergreens stay rich and green all year long. These plants often act as background support for more colorful plants and provide a framework in a balanced landscape. They come in a variety of hues such as dark green, yellow, blue spruce, and more. Just make sure that you continue to water them throughout the frosty winter or else the evergreens’ water stores may be depleted. Popular evergreen varieties include boxwood, juniper, and arborvitae. Boxwood’s small tidy shapes make them perfect for very low hedge-type borders, or as specimens in pots. The fast-growing arborvitae reaches 10-15 feet and is conical in shape. They work well in groupings, or in rows as hedges. Junipers, on the other hand, come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. A member of the Cyprus family, there are some 60 species of junipers, from low-growing varieties to large trees. Low growing varieties make for good ground cover or slope retention.

  • Boxwood
  • Arborvita
  • Juniper  

Winter Berries and Blossoms

Many winter plants sport berries and blossoms as well. Ever a classic, little is more seasonal than a green holly with red berries, especially when those of us in the South are lucky enough to have a dusting of snow to complete the picture. For a truly spectacular show of berries, try the firethorn, a semi-evergreen, thorny shrub. Its brilliant orange berries begin in the fall and continue into winter. Another very popular plant is the camellia, which is evergreen with hardy flowers ranging from yellow to pink to red. A variety that begins blooming in December is the Yuletide camellia, which has bright red flowers with yellow centers.

  • American Holly
  • Yuletide Camellia
  • Firethorn

Annual and Perennial Winter Plants

Annual winter bloomers include pansies and their smaller cousins, violas. These flowers are small but can manage light frosts right onto fall and throughout most of the winter season. They drop lots of seeds and will often pop up on their own in the springtime. Snapdragons can bloom into the winter in mild Southern climates. While technically a perennial, they are often grown as an annual.

Some of our perennial favorites include Lenten rose, which lends greenery year-round, and beautiful white flowers with golden-yellow in the center that open and bloom around Christmas time. Other hardy perennial garden favorites are ornamental kale and cabbage, which commonly have lovely purple or white centers.

  • Pansies
  • Violas
  • Snapdragon
  • Ornamental cabbage and kale
  • Lenten rose
  • Edgeworthia

Winter Bark for Visual Interest

An often overlooked aspect of the winter landscape is the interest bark can provide. When a tree or shrub can pull its weight in the winter, it’s a good reason for considering it for your landscape. From outstanding colors to interesting textures, here are a few of our favorites.

Trees and shrubs that have interesting bark that can flourish well in the Southern climate are river birch, with its white papery bark, which grows well in zones 5 through 9. Birch shed leaves a lot and can be “messy,” so we recommend them in a naturalized location rather than over a lawn. The Crepe Mrytle looks attractive year-round when pruned properly, with its smooth trunks and graceful branches. Many Japanese Maple varieties have red-colored limbs that add interest to the winter landscape, such as the Paperback Maple, which grows zones 4-8, and Coral Bark Japanese Maple, zones 5-8. While many of those in the South are familiar with the dogwood tree, the red twig dogwood is a shrub with red twig-sized stems that make for interesting winter color.

A beautiful combination for winter is white paper birch in the midground, with evergreens behind, and red-twig dogwood in the front.

  • Birch
  • Crepe Myrtle
  • Paperbark Maple
  • Red twig dogwood

Early Blooming Spring Bulbs

While traditionally associated with spring, early-blooming bulbs bridge the gap between winter and spring. Some bulbs bloom early enough to peek through snow. The earliest to make an appearance are snowdrops, followed by crocus and then daffodils.


  • Snowdrops
  • Crocus
  • Daffodils

When it comes to cool-season landscaping, the possibilities are endless! By adding plants and flowers that thrive in cooler conditions, you can keep your garden flourishing and enjoyable year-round. Setting down winter annuals is a wonderful way to enhance your landscape all throughout the season and can provide a colorful arrangement when other plants may not be in bloom. Blending these with year-round perennial flowers and evergreens can result in a gorgeous landscape, no matter the season.

Need ideas or assistance with your winter landscape? Oasis Landscapes & Irrigation can help!  Give us a call at 770.913.903