snow flower

If the gardening bug has bitten you hard, it can be difficult to let your garden go fallow over the winter. On the other hand, in colder climates, it can be difficult to motivate yourself into heading out into the frosty air. But as it happens, there are a ton of low-maintenance shrubs that become particularly beautiful in the winter. With the right plants, your garden can be colorful year-round.

You’ll have to set aside a little space for these shrubs, but most of them come in dwarf varieties, so they’ll work for balcony or porch gardens. And you can brag about how smart your plants are: winter-blooming flowers evolved to take advantage of an otherwise barren winter landscape. They’re the only pollen game in town for five months, making them a meet market for bees! Here are our five favorites for a colorful winter:

  1. Witch Hazel: This plant will flower from October to December, its branches filling up with sprays of yellow blooms. They look like tiny firecrackers and attract beneficial bugs to the garden. And if you come into enough blooms, you can use them to make witch hazel essential oil.
  2. Japanese Pieris (or Andromeda, or Lily of the Valley Bush): Glossy and green year round, this popular container plant will bloom with clusters of small white flowers from November to May. Varieties are also available that start as bright red buds before becoming off-white flowers.
  3. Winter Jasmine: The stems on this elegant plant stay green throughout the winter, a nice contrast to other winter blooms on woody branches. The tall stalks produce rows of white and yellow flowers from December to June – just remember that the winter varieties aren’t fragrant like their summer sisters.
  4. Burning Bush: Though this plant does not flower, in the winter it becomes true to its name and turns a bright, rich shade of red. It thrives even in the coldest of winters, and goes back to dark green in the spring.
  5. Winterthur: This is probably our favorite of the winter plants. It’s actually quite dramatic even before it flowers in the spring: in the winter, the red leaves are accented with pink, then blue berries. (They look like tiny blueberries, but don’t do a taste test.)

(image via Richard Cocks)

Follow Katherine on Twitter!