11 Winter Flowers to Plant in Your Garden

Bright pink flowers of a Japanese apricot tree covered in icy snow

Deacon MacMillan / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The shorter days of autumn trigger the flowering process of an amazing variety of plants that bloom in the winter garden. The color palette of these winter bloomers, like the pinks of Japanese apricot or the yellows of winter jasmine, is as brilliant as that of the more familiar offerings of spring and summer gardens.

Fall time is the perfect time in most parts of the United States to plant winter-flowering trees and shrubs. But, because temperatures vary from one part of the country to another, it may be helpful to use a plant hardiness zone map as a planting guide for winter bloomers.

Here are 11 winter flowers to brighten up your garden during the darkest days of the year.

Warning

Some of the plants on this list are toxic to pets. For more information about the safety of specific plants, consult the ASPCA's searchable database.

1
of 11

Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica)

A rounded green bush with a couple dozen pink Japanese camellia flowers in full bloom

Drew Avery / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Japanese camellia is an evergreen shrub that blooms flowers in pink, lavender, yellow, red, and white from December to March in warm winter regions like the southeastern United States. It should be planted in partly shady locations with protection from intense, afternoon sun and strong winds. Buds form in clusters, and pruning each cluster down to one bud will increase the size of the flower. Japanese camellias should be provided with consistent and even moisture levels.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist, acidic, loose, organically rich, and well-drained.
2
of 11

Winter Daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’)

A cluster of pale pink, four-petaled flowers grow above a shelf of dark green leaves

Megan Hansen / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Winter daphnes, named for their January to March blooming period, feature powerfully fragrant flowers of purplish-pink that may be best appreciated when planted near walkways with high-volume foot traffic. If you choose to plant winter daphnes, consider doing so in a raised bed filled with heavy clay soils to guarantee proper drainage. Keep the plant out of full sunlight in the summer to avoid scorching its leaves.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist, rich, sandy, humusy, and well-drained.
3
of 11

Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha)

A spherical cluster of small yellow flowers grows on a paperbush tree

Ruth Hartnup / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Paperbush, a four to six foot tall deciduous shrub native to China, forms buds on its stems in late summer that blossom into bright, round clusters of yellow flowers in the depths of winter. The shrub gets its common name from the use of its inner bark to craft fine, quality paper. Paperbush should be planted in shady areas to protect it from the heat of direct summer sunlight.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 10.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist, humusy, and well-drained.
4
of 11

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa)

A tangled, woody bush with hundreds of small pink blossoms sits in a field

brewbooks / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

A fruit-bearing shrub that can reach heights of 10 feet, the flowering quince boasts a late-winter flower of red (sometimes pink or white) that gives way to an early spring unfurling of its glossy leaves. Its fruits, quinces, are hard, yellow, and slightly oblong, and are used to make delicious jams and jellies. The flowering quince appreciated full sunlight and is accepting of a wide variety of soil types as long as they are well-drained.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained.
5
of 11

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

Bright red stalks of winterberry fruit against a snowy winter woodland

Jay Cross / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Winterberry is a deciduous holly shrub native to North American swamps and low woodlands whose fertilized female flowers produce bright red berries that are sometimes used in crafting Christmas wreaths. The attractive berries appear in the late summer to early fall, but persist through the dead of winter—hence the name. Winterberry shrubs do well in damp areas and grow to be anywhere between three and 12 feet tall.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist, acidic, and organic.
6
of 11

Japanese Apricot (Prunus mume)

A small Japanese apricot tree in full bloom of pink against a bright blue sky

JR P / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Japanese apricots are fast-growing fruit trees that bloom aromatic pink flowers from January to March. Fuzzy, one-inch-round apricots appear in spring and reach maturity in the summer, when they may be harvested for use in preserves. The Japanese apricot tree should receive plenty of sunlight to achieve optimal flowering, but shade is required, too, in the heat of southern summers. Plant these fragrant ornamentals near a deck or patio where the floral scents can be enjoyed.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist, acidic, and well-drained.
7
of 11

Leatherleaf Mahonia (Mahonia bealei)

Green and yellow flowers of the leatherleaf mahonia plant grow out of a bed of green leaves

阿橋 HQ / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Leatherleaf mahonia, also commonly known as Beale’s barberry, is a shrub native to China that produces fragrant yellow flowers, alongside its long and leathery leaves, from February through April. The showy evergreen prefers shady locations, moist soils, and protection from strong winter winds. The leatherleaf mahonia bears ornamental, grapelike fruits of blue-black in early summer.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist and well-drained.
8
of 11

Winter Jasmine (Jasminium nudiflorum)

Hundreds of small yellow flowers grow amidst the thin, tangled mass of woody shrubbery of winter jasmine

Andrey Zharkikh / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A sprawling, viny shrub, winter jasmine is noted for its late-winter bloom of yellow flowers that grow along the plant’s stems. It can be grown as a ground shrub or trained up a trellis or wall as a decorative vine. If grown as a vine, winter jasmine should be placed on a south-facing structure so that it receives the maximum amount of winter sunshine.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 10.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist, sandy, and well-drained.
9
of 11

Common Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

The bright yellow-orange leaves of a common witch hazel tree in full bloom

Nicholas A. Tonelli / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Common witch hazel is a small deciduous tree with clusters of yellow, ribbonlike flowers that bloom from late fall into early winter. Flowers that have been fertilized produce small, green-to-brown seed capsules that fall and split open after roughly a year. Common witch hazel trees can be expected to grow 15 to 20 feet and perform best when planted in areas with maximum sunlight.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist, acidic, organically rich, and well-drained.
10
of 11

Ivy-Leaved Cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium)

Bright pinkish white, lobed petals flower from the brown clay ground

Rab Lawrence / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A small cyclamen native to western Asia, the ivy-leaved cyclamen displays a series of pink flowers through the dark winter months each year. The hardy perennial grows between four and six inches tall and succeeds in humusy, moist soils that receive protection for intense sunlight. The dark green leaves of the ivy-leaved cyclamen feature ivylike shapes and white marbled patterns on the interior.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist and humusy.
11
of 11

Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger)

A round maroon flower with a yellow center blossoms in the snow

F. D. Richards / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Known as the Christmas rose, this variety of hellebore bears its white flowers, eventually fading to a pale red, in the depths of winter. It can be difficult to successfully grow a Christmas rose, but the likelihood will improve if the plant is left undisturbed and is protected from harsh winter winds. The Christmas rose should be provided with shady conditions, like underneath a tree or near a house.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist, humusy, and organically rich.

To check if a plant is considered invasive in your area, go to the National Invasive Species Information Center or speak with your regional extension office or local gardening center.