There’s something uplifting about seeing brightly coloured and scented flowers on a grey Winter’s day. At this time of the year most people turn to bedding plants, however these tend to be short lived and require you to purchase more plants to replace them in the Spring and Summer.
As with most of the plants featured here the evergreens mentioned stay green all year round and are hardy in most of the UK. So if you are looking for some low maintenance year round plants that look great in the colder months then read on.
Winter Flowering Evergreen Plants
For long term colour it is worth investing in evergreen winter flowering plants and shrubs that will provide you with masses of colour at the coldest time of the year in the UK.
Lower Maintenance Evergreens
The main benefit of choosing evergreens is that as the name suggests stay green all year round. They provide screening, a home for insects such as ladybirds to overwinter, reduce air pollution and improve the quality of the air around your home.
The Best Winter Flowering Evergreens
Whilst not an exhaustive list these are proven winners requiring little attention, are hardy and provide a great show over the colder months. What’s great about these plants is that they will flower every year and stay green and lush all year round in most parts of the UK.
Mahonia mature september flowering
MAHONIA CAN PROVIDE MUCH NEEDED COLOUR TO YOUR GARDEN AS THE YEAR CLOSES
Coronilla valentina subsp glauca citrina march flowering
CORONILLA HAS A LONG FLOWERING PERIOD FROM AUTUMN OFTEN THROUGH TO EARLY SUMMER
Sophora microphylla Sun King ‘Hilsop’
Sophora Sun King produces bright yellow bell like flowers in late Winter. The foliage is almost tropical looking with reams of small dark green leaves which provide good contrast to the exotic looking flowers.
Sophora microphylla sun king hilsop
SUN KING PRODUCING BRIGHT YELLOW WINTER FLOWERS OVER SMALL DARK GREEN LEAVES
Sophora microphylla yellow winter flowers
SOPHORA IS ONE OF THE MORE EXOTIC LOOKING WINTER FLOWERING PLANTS YOU CAN GROW IN A BRITISH GARDEN
Awarded an RHS merit this shrub can grow to 2.5m in 10-20 years but can be maintained at the required height. Sun King is quite hardy (rated H4 to -10°C) and is unlikely to suffer any damage in our comparatively mild British winters.
Sophora microphylla close up flowers
A CLOSE UP OF SOPHORA MICROPHYLLA FLOWERING
Sophora microphylla established
AN ESTABLISHED SOPHORA GROWING UNSUPPORTED UP A WALL
Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’
There are a few varieties of Coronilla including a variegated leaf variety but the one you want for winter flowering is ‘Citrina’. It flowers over winter and spring and I have found it starts producing the highly scented two tone yellow flowers from November onwards.
Coronilla valentina subsp glauca september 2015
CORONILLA VALENTINA SUBSP. GLAUCA WITH ITS BRIGHTER YELOW FLOWERS
Coronilla valentina subsp glauca citrina november
CORONILLA VALENTINA SUBSP. GLAUCA CITRINA HAVE PALER YELLOW FLOWERS
If you grow the standard variety Coronilla valentina subsp. Glauca alongside Citrana you will get a flowering period cover much of the year.
Coronilla valentina subsp glauca citrina march flowers
CITRINA FLOWERS CLOSE UP STILL FLOWERING IN MARCH
Coronilla valentina subsp glauca citrina march flowering in late winter
CORONILLA PRODUCES A WOODY STEM
Coronilla valentina subsp glauca citrina march ladybird
CORONILLA (BASTARD SENNA) DOES ATTRACT WILDLIFE SUCH AS LADYBIRDS
As a general rule anything that flowers in the colder months will benefit from a sunny sheltered spot, ideally south facing. The fragrance you get from Coronilla is at its best on a sunny day.
This plant is just as tough as Sophora Sun King being a hardy evergreen (rated H4 to -10) and enjoys much the same conditions. It shouldn’t grow as tall only to about a metre in height but can be trimmed and shaped.
I find a modest trim encourages the plant to become more bushy and produce more flowers.
You are likely already familiar with Mahonia, particularly japonica, Mahonia x media Charity and Mahonia x media Winter Sun. These are a stalwart of council and amenity planting as they produce distinctive yellow winter flowers, are tough and low maintenance.
Mahonia mature september
A MATURE MAHONIA MAKES AN IMPRESSIVE PLANT
Mahonia mature september flowering
MAHONIA PRODUCES BRIGHT YELLOW FLOWER SPIKES IN WINTER
Mahonia autumn colours
MAHONIA X MEDIA CAN TAKE ON A PLUM RED COLOUR AS THE TEMPERATURE DROPS AND GREEN UP AGAIN IN SPRING
Whilst these are great plants to have in your garden (mostly for their winter flower display) there are other less well known Mahonia that are worth investigating if you want something a little bit different.
If you want more distinctive and less spiky foliage then go for Mahonia eurybracteata and Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’ the latter having more of a tropical appearance.
Mahonia eurybracteata narrow leaved
THE NARROW LEAVES OF MAHONIA EURYBRACTEATA
Mahonia eurybracteata leaflets
CLOSE UP YOU CAN SEE HOW MUCH SLIMMER AND LESS SPIKEY THE LEAFLETS ARE COMPARED TO MOST MAHONIA
Mahonia eurybracteata is a parent of the now well known ‘Soft Caress’. It has slightly wider leaflets compared to the more delicate and feathery looking leaflets of its offspring.
It has a similar habit to its more famous offspring and reminds me a little of Heavenly Bamboo. You will have to visit an independent nursery to find this rare plant or seek it out online at somewhere like Grug Farm. I got mine from Colin at Swines Meadow Nursery.
Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’
jungle” src=”https://tropicalplantguy.com/wp-content/uploads/mahonia-eurybracteata-soft-caress-tropical-jungle.jpg” alt=”Mahonia eurybracteata soft caress tropical jungle” width=”400″ height=”400″ /> Mahonia eurybracteata soft caress tropical jungle
‘SOFT CARESS’ CAN HELP CREATE A TROPICAL OR JUNGLE EFFECT EVEN IN MID WINTER
Mahonia eurybracteata soft caress side view
Like it or not you have to admit that ‘Soft Caress’ is now probably the most popular of the Mahonias and for good reason. It is more compact, flowers quite impressively and as the name suggests has no spikes on the leaflets.
Mahonia eurybracteata soft caress young plant
AS A YOUNG PLANT, MAHONIA EURYBRACTEATA ‘SOFT CARESS’ WON’T GROW AS TALL AS OTHER MAHONIA
Mahonia eurybracteata soft caress leaflets
THE ONLY SPIKE FREE MAHONIA
I have had good success with it and is ideal if you want a smaller Mahonia. It has the most tropical looking foliage (bar maybe oiwakensis when mature) if you want to add to that effect and is probably the most widely available.
Mahonia gracilipes mature
MAHONIA GRACILIPES WHEN MATURE IS QUITE DISTINCTIVE
Mahonia gracilipes leaf white underside
EVEN MORE DISTINCTIVE IS THE WHITE UNDERSIDE
Mahonia gracilipes leaf
MAHONIA GRACILIPES HAS THE TYPICAL MAHONIA LEAF SHAPE
THE YOUNG PLANT GROWING IN THE GARDEN
The most distinctive feature of M. gracilipes is the white colour of the underside of the leaflets. It makes quite a nice mature plant and so if you are looking for something a little unusual and quite rare in the UK then this makes a good alternative to the standard Mahonia x media.
Best winter plants for colour and scent
Winter flowering plants
Looking at most British gardens in the winter you’ll probably be overwhelmed by the lack of colour and greenery. Most UK gardens remain dormant throughout the colder months and gardeners turn to annuals as a temporary fill in until spring returns.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I’ve grown a colourful lush year round garden for over a decade now and from winter through to spring the garden is bursting with scent and colour.
So here are the winter plants that flower I’ve been growing that do great in British gardens that will bring joy and colour during the dull dark months. Having greenery and flowering plants in winter also creates a much needed source of food and shelter for insects, birds, frogs and small mammals.
Take a look below at what I believe are some great plants that will flower to cover a long winter season. I hope it convinces you to try some of these evergreen plants that will last for years and for some decades and provide much more value for you and help support native UK wildlife.
Best plants for early winter flowering
Fatsia japonica winter flowers
Early on in winter when most plants are no longer flowering a great late source of nectar for insects is the unusual white flowers of Fatsia Japonica. There are actually a few varieties that you can grow but the best for flowering is the standard large green leaved F. japonica.
The picture of the flowering Fatsia was taken mid December when it was in full bloom.
It can grow in both full sun and deep shade and almost any type of soil. Around December time they produce large heads of white flowering spheres that look otherworldly and produce an unusual scent. The smell is not sweet or perfume-like but sort of musky but I grow this shrub for the large deeply lobed leaves.
Fatsia is a plant that adds a tropical or jungle like look in the garden and requires almost zero maintenance. They can grow to several metres over many years but if you are looking for a variety that is much smaller and has variegated foliage I strongly recommend Fatsia japonica ‘Annelise’ or Fatsia japonica ‘Murakumo Nishiki’ with the most beautiful 3 colour variegated leaves that are more stunning than the flowers they produce.
Coronilla yellow winter flowers
Coronilla is not grown widely enough in the UK in my opinion. It flowers over most of winter in a mass of fragrant perfumed bright yellow showy flowers. It’s an evergreen shrubs with small glaucous green blue leaves, mid green leaves or variegated leaves depending on the variety you pick.
If you want a plant to brighten up your garden over winter then Coronilla should be something you grow. The more sun it gets the more flowers it produces attracting bees when the winter days are warm enough.
The picture above was taken on New Years day. I have found that in the UK it flower pretty much consistently for the whole of winter and is pretty much guaranteed year after year. Sunlight encourages more prolific flowering so Coronilla performs best in a sunny position.
Coronilla frost winter flowers
Just to show how great a winter flowering plant it is here is a picture I took of Coronilla flowers covered in frost in late January after weeks of sub zero temperatures. This plant just never gives up which is why it deserves a place in your garden.
Mahonia x media
Mahonia yellow winter flowers
Mahonia is generally an early winter flowering plant although there are some sports that flower later in the year.
Mahonia japonica, Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, Mahonia charity and Mahonia aquifolium are probably the varieties you have seen online or in the garden centres. Both the Mahonia x media varieties Winter Sun and Charity produce upright bracts of yellow fragrant flowers from early winter and are a good choice for winter colour.
Take a look at our pictures of other great Mahonia types that are shade loving plants and our suggestions for winter plants for more ideas.
White flowering Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis f. albiflorus)
Rosemary white winter flowers
There are many different types of Rosemary but the White flowering Rosemary I grow aka Rosmarinus officinalis ‘albus’ the white flowered Rosemary actually flowers in winter. The picture taken shows it producing bright white flowers on January 1st.
I also grow trailing Rosemary if you want to grow winter plants in pots as well as pink flowering and blue flowered Rosemary. It’s also a great sensory herb, when you rub your hands on the leaves you release that lovely Rosemary smell.
Best plants for late winter flowering
From late winter to early spring there are some great plants producing late winter flowers that will make you think spring has come early. I’ve suggested some great plants including climbers that will add a third dimension to your garden to clamber up walls or a trellis to cover a larger area with flowers.
These shrubs and climbers are all evergreen and hardy in our British climate. I’ve grown these plants for many years so can attest to their toughness and flower performance. These plants are a great way to cover ugly walls and fences with year round greenery with the added bonus of fragrant bright winter flowers.
Bergenia pink winter flowering
Bergenia is a low growing large leaved evergreen that produces flowers around March to April time. Pictured is a pink flowering variety but you can get them with flowers that cover reds, pink and purplish colours and like all the evergreen plants flower every year without having to be replaced like most tray bought winter flowers.
Winter flowering Clematis
Clematis armandii late winter flowers
I’d recommend Clematis armandii (pictured) as a great late winter flowering evergreen climber if you want to cover a vertical space and add an extra dimension to your garden.
There are several varieties of Clematis for winter flowering such as Clematis cirrhosa but I have found that the best Clematis in winter is either Clematis armandii, Clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’ or Clematis armandii Snowdrift.
Clematis armandii can become rampant at times but can easily be pruned to tame it. The only problems that I have experienced with Clematis is that sometimes for no apart reason they die back only to return next year or some years later.
Sophora microphylla ‘Sun King’
Sophora microphylla sun king yellow winter flowers
I have been growing Sophora microphylla ‘Sun King’ for its largish bright yellow tropical looking winter flowers that appear around February or March time. Pictured are the flowers at the end of March against the small dark green evergreen foliage.
As a self supporting plant you can grow this on its own or against a wall without needing any support and can be trimmed to maintain a shape much like Buxus although I wouldn’t go as far as trying to do topiary.
If you want to add some much needed yellow gold flowers into your garden in winter adding a touch of the tropics then I strongly recommend Sophora Sun King. Sun King is pretty much problem free but you may find snails or slugs are attracted to the tasty leaves of young plants.
Holboellia coriacea winter flowers
The oddly named Sausage vine Holboellia coriacea is quite rare in the UK but can be grown in a sheltered spot against a wall. I’ve had no trouble growing it up a drain pipe as it loosely twines its way up other plants or objects without doing any damage. It doesn’t cling like Ivy.
It produces small white bell like flowers in late winter that are white (pink tinged cream)on the outside but once open reveal a purple like hue as it progresses to spring. The female flowers are a creamy white tinged green. It’s an evergreen climber so can be used to climb up a trellis or wall but it can grow as tall as your house after 3 or 4 seasons. It can however be easily trimmed back.
Later in the year the flowers once pollinated produce purple fruits, I’d describe them as looking a little like elongated plums. The exotic looking fruits add some extra colour later on in the year.
Winter flowering Rosemary
Rosemary late winter flowers
I mentioned white flowering Rosemary earlier as a plant that can produce white flowers in early winter. Here again is the same Rosmarinus officinalis f. Albiflorus in flower in March, it really does flower till early spring especially if you get some winter sunshine.
I took this picture to show that it does provide food for Bees early on in the season. Rosemary is a plant that will last for decades and provide a great display of flowers year after year.
Euphorbia amygdaloides green winter flowers
Euphorbia amygdaloides var. Robbiae, the Wood spurge or Mrs Robb’s bonnet produces unusual iridescent green flowers in late winter. I’ve added this plant as it is a great plant for dry shade and brightens up those shadowy areas of your garden where most other plants will not grow.
This is a plant that will spread to cover the area around where you plant it over time. It spreads through rhizomes that tend to stay quite shallow in the ground so they are easy enough to pull up should they spread too far for your liking. If spreading plants are a concern then I can recommend Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow that produces green and red flowers about the same time of year and does not spread.
Daphne pink winter flowers
Daphne’s are renowned for their strong sweet perfume and their delicate clusters of pink winter flowers. If you are not growing Daphne odora or one of the closely related highly perfumed varieties then you really are missing out.
Daphne has it all, the sweet fragrance, the pretty pink winter flowers and even after the flowers have faded you have the green or variegated green and white evergreen foliage that remains all year round.
Winter Flowering Plants – January
January in the UK often means grey cloudy skies, rain and cold. People tend not to venture out into their gardens, not just because of the weather but because there is little to delight the eye.
Lawns, concrete, gravel or borders with some winter flowering bedding plant can often leave your garden looking bland and uninteresting. In winter as most plants are deciduous there are few plants in leaf leaving little or no greenery.
Most people consider gardens places you only spend time in during the summer but it needn’t be like this. There are plenty of evergreen plants with coloured foliage and flowering shrubs to fill most gardens.
In January many shrubs are flowering and these tend to be fragrant flowers that will fill the garden when the sun shines.
January Variegated Foliage
Coronilla valentina variegata variegated
I took this picture at the start of January. You can see Chinese privet (Ligustrum lucidum tricolor) to the left with the dark green and light green leaves with a variegated cream edge. In spring the new growth is tinged a red pink colour.
Even though Chinese privet does not flower in winter the multi coloured foliage adds colour and brightness to the garden in the winter months. It is also a very hardy small tree that keeps its colourful leaves all year round and can take temperatures as low as -15°C.
To the right of the privet is the variegated leaf Coronilla valentina variegata with the bright yellow winter flowers. Coronilla flowers reliably over winter and has a fantastic and noticeable scent that carries for some distance especially on calm sunny days.
Coronilla Variegated Winter January Foliage
Coronilla valentina variegated leaf
As you can see from the close up of the leaves they are blue green in colour with a cream edge. The foliage is quite small but on mass it creates a bright and cheery display. With the addition of the bright yellow flowers you could almost be mistaken for thinking that I took this picture in the middle of summer rather than the depths of winter.
Yellow Winter January Flowers
Coronilla winter flowers
The above image is one I took of a close up of the yellow flower of the variegated form of Coronilla valentina. You can see how bright and distinctive this winter flowering shrub is. It will brighten up the shorter winter months adding much needed colour and scent to a garden in winter.
Pale Yellow Winter January Flowering Coronilla
Coronilla january yellow flowers
Pictured is the paler yellow winter flower of Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca ‘Citrina’. The plain blue green foliage acts as a backdrop to highlight the mass of fragrant pale yellow flowers on this winter flowering plant.
Bee on January winter flowering plants
Coronilla really is a reliable flowering plant which has a relatively long flowering period for a shrub.
Often people will think of winter jasmine flowers but the deep yellow scented flowers of Coronilla over the glaucus blue leaves trumps Jasmine. Plus Coronilla is evergreen so it retains its foliage throughout winter and is a great food source for any flying insects this time of year. It has been warm enough this January 2019 for Bees to be out foraging.
Winter January Flowering Mahonia
Mahonia winter yellow flowers
Many of the Mahonia sports flower in winter including the popular Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ and ‘Winter Sun’. There are many other types of Mahonia with far more spectacular foliage but Mahonia x media is renowned for its numerous spikes of flowers.
Mahonia winter flowers closeup
The flowers rise up above a plate of spiky leaves and they are very prickly. If you are looking for a Mahonia that has less spikes then I can recommend both Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’ and Mahonia eurybracteata.