Create a Winter Garden: The Ultimate Guide on How to Grow Plants in Winter

Most people think of gardening as purely a summer activity which is put to bed when the cold weather arrives in Autumn, but creating a winter garden is a great way to liven up a dull border or even an uninspiring space by the front door. We are often asked how to grow plants in winter, but the truth is it’s easy if you choose the right plants! Many evergreens look their best in winter as we appreciate them all the more when other flowering plants and shrubs have gone dormant.

There are also some great winter flowering plants to add a pop of colour to your garden during the darker months. Our Garden on a Roll Evergreen Sunny Border, or even our Evergreen Shady Border contains a wonderful selection of tough, resilient evergreens that will thrive in the coldest of weathers. Winter is a great time to plant evergreens and winter flowering shrubs and plants as it is easy to see where they would be most admired at this time of year. Keep in mind that for most of the winter months, you will be looking out from inside the house, so position the winter plants where they are easily appreciated through the window or near to a path that you walk daily. 


Follow our guide on how to grow plants in winter and take the first step towards creating your perfect garden in the colder months.

Choose Your Favourite Winter Plants and Shrubs 

Many evergreen plants thrive in winter, with some plants even flowering through the colder season. Our top 10 plants to grow over winter are:

  • Aucuba
  • Carex grasses
  • Cornus (dogwood)
  • Ferns
  • Helleborus
  • Mahonia
  • Nandina
  • Osmanthus
  • Phormium
  • Skimmia

Get Creative with Containers

Arrange your winter plants and shrubs into ornamental pots, or troughs if the budget is available. By growing your winter plants in containers, you can easily move them to a less visible spot as the seasons change to allow the summer plants to take centre stage. They can later be returned to once again become triumphant in autumn.

Plan Your Winter Garden Layout

Start by arranging the taller plants at back and grade forward, using complimentary leaf or stem colours and forms that sit well next to each other. Layering your plants is a great way to disguise any plastic pots by placing lower or trailing plants at the front of your winter garden arrangement.

Add a Pop of Colour with Flowering Winter Plants

To add extra colour amongst your evergreens, use bedding plants such as winter/universal pansies or primroses which flower continuously in mild spells until spring.

Bulbs are also great to incorporate amongst your winter plants, you may forget about them initially but by planting them now you'll get a very pleasant surprise in spring!

Maintain a Wildlife-Friendly Winter Garden 

Winter flowering plants, such as Mahonia, are a great magnet for bees looking for essential nectar to keep them going until spring. Be sure to include shelter and bird feeders to create a wildlife winter sanctuary. It is amazing to see insects, bees and the occasional butterfly lured to their scented yellow flowers on mild days in mid-winter. Other useful winter plants for wildlife are:

  • Wild ivy: flowers and berries
  • Viburnum Bodnantense: scented flowers
  • Daphne (late winter spring): scented flowers
  • Elaeagnus: scented flowers autumn/winter 
  • Helleborus showy flowers winter to spring
  • Sarcococca: scented flowers winter to spring
  • Crab apple: small tree with fruits that birds love
  • Rowan: medium-sized tree with berries loved by all birds, especially waxwings!
  • Cotoneaster: very tough evergreen shrub with masses of berries that birds love 
  • Pyracantha: a prickly evergreen, best trained along a fence or wall producing an abundance of red, orange or yellow berries. Adored by birds.

Avoid Overwatering

Water once, thoroughly, then leave until you see visible signs of any dryness. The amount of time this takes will vary depending on the plant, but we’d expect the initial watering to last a good few weeks. Be careful not to leave saucers under your containers in winter as the plants may get waterlogged. 

Enjoy the Fruits of Your Winter Labour!

Whether you’re wondering how to grow plants in winter to spruce up your garden, create the WOW factor outside your front door, or create a beautiful winter scene in a limited space such as a patio or balcony, our winter gardening guide has got you covered. 

Contact us for more expert advice and guidance on creating your perfect winter garden.