We all know that flowers bloom in the winter, daffodils bloom opportunistically this time of year. And in the woods, the maple and elm trees are flowering, giving nectar to the bees on warm days. It is nature in late winter preparing itself for early spring. One season blends into the other. But what about plants that bloom throughout the winter, from November through January? While we do not usually think about plants blooming in the dead of winter, it does happen. This article is going to take a quick look at dozen of these plants. The zones of hardiness mentioned are the old standard. Tennessee is in zone 5, north of us is zone 4, and south of us is zone 6.
The first is the type of scrub that is growing in my front yard, the Winter Jasmine. Winter jasmines (Jasminium nudiflorum) are an actual jasmine, originating in China. These arching, evergreen shrubs grow 3 to 4 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide. While their peak blooming season is in late February and early March, flowers open over a long time. Starting before Christmas, their red buds open into bright yellow flowers on green stems. Give this plant full sun for the best production of flowers. Hardy from zone 4 south.
Winter daphne(Daphne odora) is an evergreen winter-flowering shrub also native to China and Japan. It is slow growing, eventually achieving a mature height of 4 feet with a 4-foot spread. The rounded form and dense foliage are understated and attractive year-round, although the shrub’s real charm appears in late winter when it blooms. From late December until February, winter daphne bears elongated clusters of fragrant, pale-pink flowers. The blooming season of this plant is short, but it keeps a garden active and fragrant during the dormant season. Hardy from zone 5 south.
Blooming from early January until late February, wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) The hanging heads of yellow, bell-shaped flowers give off a spicy scent. This is a large shrub, growing to 12 feet in height with a 10-foot spread. And if properly fertilized it will give a colorful midseason show. It deciduous with large glossy leaves that turn yellow in the fall. Well-established plants are hardy to well below freezing temperatures, although the roots of young plants should be protected by mulch. Hardy from zone 5 south.
Viburnums, a group of shrubs known for their showy and often fragrant flowers, have a number of varieties that bloom in winter. They grow in a wide range of soils, but grow best in locations offering sun or partial shade. Viburnum burkwoodi, generally evergreen, produce pink buds that open into white flowers from November and throughout winter. Hardy from zone 4 south.
Found in cool, mountainous areas from southern Europe to Russia, snowflake (Leucojum vernum) is suited to winter gardens. This bulb-borne perennial comes out in late winter, sending up long leaves and bell-shaped flowers. The individual blooms are white with a green or yellow spot at the tip of each petal, and slightly fragrant. But handle carefully, snowflake is mildly poisonous if ingested, so wash your hands after handling it. Snowflake is best planted in mass or in the front of flower beds.
Kaffir lilies (Schizostylis coccinea) can furnish splashes of bright red or pink in a winter landscape. While it blooms in summer, the kaffir lily also blooms during mild days from November through January. The kaffir lily, which originates from South Africa, produces cup-shaped, pink or deep-red flowers that resemble gladiolus.
Native to the mountains of Europe, Cyclamen is a genus of flowering plants that includes hardy, winter-flowering varieties. Ivy-leafed cyclamen (Cyclamen hederifolium) is the most cold-tolerant species, able to withstand temperatures to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit, if protected by mulch or snow. Ivy-leafed cyclamen can grow to 6 to 12 inches in height with slightly mottled or variegated basal foliage. From early fall until midwinter, individual pink and purple flowers emerge at the tip of each reddish-brown stalk. The flowers are nodding with five swept-back petals.
This perennial iris blooms in white, blue, violet, or purple, often starting in October and continuing through April. If the temperature dips too low, the buds will die. However, as soon as the weather warms to above freezing, the iris will send out new buds and bloom again. Plant this Mediterranean native on the south side of the house. Hardy from zone 5 south.
Hellebore Helleborus orientalis)
Also known as Lenten Rose, this plant’s clusters of drooping, bell-shaped flowers appear from November to March. The evergreen leaves are deep green on top and red underneath, with prominent silver veins. . Their broad spectrum of colors include red, pink, purple and green, yellow to even white or near-black. Provide them with minimal care and each plant can form clusters of flowers measuring 18 to 24 inches high with a spread of 2 to 3 feet wide. Lenten roses are also resistant to rabbits and deer. Hellebores grow best in rich soil and partial shade.
Yes there are varieties of honeysuckle that people actual grow. Two of these bloom in the winter. Semi-evergreen and particularly hardy, honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima is a scrub producing small white flowers from winter into early spring. Because it sprawls, it is best planted against a wall or trellis where it will receive support and shelter. Lonicera x purpusii, ‘Winter Beauty’, a hybrid between Lonicera fragrantissima and Lonicera standishii, also blooms in the cold, and the bloom gives off a delicate lemony smell. Hardy from zone 3 south.
During winter or early spring, the bluish-green leaves of this plant are covered with dainty yellow flowers. An evergreen, it’s variety of sizes and shapes, including creeping groundcovers, upright bushes, and full-size trees make it useful in landscaping. It likes loamy soil, but is otherwise not especially fussy
Camellia sasanqua, a different species from the spring-blooming varieties, has a mass of apple-blossom-like flowers from autumn to early winter, depending on the cultivar and climate. Varieties with ‘Snow’ or ‘Winter’ in their names will survive in below zero temperatures . This shrub prefers dappled shade, but will tolerate full sun and grows in many different soil types. Hardy from zone 6 south.
If you miss the color of flowers during the winter, remember there are hardy plants just waiting to be enjoyed as part of your landscape. These plants are not more difficult to grow than other plants; they just bloom at an unusual time. So free your mind of the spring, summer, and fall stereotypes. When you think flowers, think winter.