By Liz Baessler
Winter can be a tough time for the gardener. Not only are all those fresh flowers and vegetables gone, but so are their bright colors. Where you used to have more colors than words for them, now you have white, gray, and the occasional brown. Come to think of it, winter’s a tough time for everyone. But it doesn’t have to be! While the options may be whittled down a little, there’s plenty of brightness to be had if you know where to look. Here are our top 6 plants for winter color.
1. Holly – There’s a reason so many Christmas wreaths are made of holly. Most varieties are evergreen, which means they provide bright green foliage all year long. It’s their vivid red berries that are the showstoppers, though.
2. Cranberry bush – Similar to holly, cranberry bush is a plant that produces bright red berries (hence the name) that appear in the fall and last well into winter. Unlike holly, the cranberry bush loses its leaves every year. It does it with style, though, turning stunning shades of yellow and purple in autumn.
3. Witch hazel – Instead of lasting from fall into winter, witch hazel actually starts blooming in winter, often as early as February. Maybe the first bloomer of the year, its delicate yellow flowers emerge on sunny but cold days and can thrive well below freezing. Witch hazel actually needs cold nights to bloom and does best in zones 5-7.
4. Pansies – If you live somewhere a bit warmer, you can actually get flowers to bloom through the winter, as long as you choose the right ones. Pansies can survive temperatures well below freezing and bounce back with the warm weather, making them perfect for southern states where cold weather comes but doesn’t stick around forever.
5. Sweet peas – Another great flowering plant for warm climates, sweet peas are great climbers, and oh so fragrant. Plant them in the fall with your bulbs and they should start growing like crazy in late winter.
6. Swiss chard – Vegetables may not be at the top of your list when you think of bright colors, but Swiss chard comes in some truly dazzling shades and produces big leaves that look almost tropical. They’re also frost resistant, so in warm climates they can be grown long into the winter.