Two plants I’ve grown for years come to mind when thinking about favorite plants with winter interest. The golden-yellow Ligustrum sinense “Sunshine” shrub and the many varieties of the perennial Heuchera or coral bells provide year-long color in the landscape.
“Sunshine” Ligustrum forms a cheery compact shrub about 3-6 feet tall (.9-1.8 m.) and 3-4 feet (.9 – 1.2 m.) wide. It’s compact enough to fit in tight places, but its bright yellow color makes it stand out in the garden. The dainty looking leaves belie its evergreen nature; you are sure it will defoliate come autumn, but the color persists all four seasons. One winter, we had some extreme cold temperatures and it did lose most of its leaves, but they quickly returned as soon as spring arrived.
Sunshine Ligustrum is not usually bothered by pests or diseases, and you can pretty much “set it and forget it.” It also does not bloom so it won’t reseed and become a problem as many other Ligustrum varieties can. It is hardy in USDA zones 6a to 10a. It does best in full sun but will tolerate less, however, the color will not be as golden, but more of a lime green. Plant several shrubs for a hedge, or use Sunshine as a specimen planting. In the warmer zones, it will look spiffy in containers. In the colder zones it will need winter protection to survive in a container.
“Black Pearl” and “Carnival Watermelon” Heuchera
Another plant that offers year-round color is Heuchera. I currently have “Black Pearl” and “Carnival Watermelon” as edging plants in my front foundation bed. I love passing by and seeing the colorful leaves on my way to the front door, no matter what time of year. Heuchera is hardy to USDA zone 4 and may die back in the colder zones. In my zone 6, they stay evergreen all winter.
Carnival Watermelon is a peachy pink color that fades to bronze and Black Pearl is, you guessed it, a nearly black purplish color. They do well edging a woodland garden or as part of a container grouping.
In early summer, sprays of tiny bell-shaped flowers emerge and bring in the hummingbirds. It’s another low maintenance plant. The tag says it grows to a height of 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm.), but mine grew taller than that this spring. It shot up for some reason, so it didn’t look quite as neat and compact.
Heuchera performs best in part shade but will tolerate full sun to shade. They need moderate moisture; I watered my Heuchera when I irrigated the annuals on each side of them last summer.
Plants with winter interest form the backbone of the winter garden. It’s important to include those in your landscape plans to keep your gardens interesting all year round.