Planning for Color in Fall and Winter Gardens

 Planning for Color in Fall and Winter Gardens

Winter doesn't have to be brown and gray with bare branches and evergreens. Aside from a few short years in Colorado, most of my gardening experience has been in the southeastern United States, in Zones 7b, 8b, and 9a.

For these areas, there are a number of colorful plants to beautify the fall and winter garden, and it is not necessary to limit yourself to green shrubs with red berries, although those are good too. Some of the plants shown below will also bring color to areas further north.


Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) are my favorite cool-season flowers. They love sun, and will bloom from September or October (depending on your area) through warm weather. Have a little to beat the summer heat, then take the opportunity to look your best again next fall and winter. Although it tends to look very raw in the summer.

It requires very little maintenance. Instead, once established, they appear to be self-sufficient. The other good thing is that they will set their own seeds later in the season and again next year to produce more flowers.

Ornamental Cabbage

These plants with colorful leaves will decorate your garden in cool and cold weather. They will likely suffer from freezes, but should thrive when cool winter temperatures return. After another freeze, simply cut away the damaged material.
In late winter or early spring, they emerge and release long shoots as they go to seed. I have been known to cut them to stop them locking up before I was ready to replace them.


These cheerful little flowers, also called "pinks" (Dianthus chinensis), belong to the same plant family (Caryophyllaceae) as carnations (Dianthus caryophyllus) and Williams' sweet plant (Dianthus barbatus). They are available as annuals, short-lived perennials, and biennials. Available in many colors, they add a pop of color to your fall, winter, spring and fall garden. It will thrive longer for you if it is deadheaded regularly enough.
It has been my experience that the pinks are called "Dianthus" in garden centers, so I call them that.


Mums (Chrysanthemum They are available with white, pink, purple, multi-colored flowers, and even “daisy mums” that feature white petals with a yellow center.

Different species have other scientific names. Some of them are soccer moms, florist moms, daisy moms and so on. Pictured below is one of two large mums I bought a few years ago in a small pot. Planted side by side, they now cover about 3 square feet of one of our flower beds. At the time I wrote this article, it was full of huge buds set to open this weekend. It will bloom for more than a month.


Of course, there's the old standby for the fall and winter garden, the pansy or "garden flower." Viola × Witrochiana is one of several species within the Violaceae plant family. The family includes the small, delicate-looking viola, and even the wild violet, which usually blooms in warm weather.
Pansies and violas are tried-and-true favorites for those who love winter colors.


Although it is only native to East and South Asia, people everywhere love camellias. The state of Alabama even adopted this beautiful, non-native flowering shrub as its state flower.

Camellia Sasanqua

Camellia sasanqua usually blooms from December to fall. I have a Sasanqua, and it already has large flower buds and I expect it to bloom sometime in November. The photo below was taken in the fall of 2021 when it was in peak bloom.

Camellia Japonica

Camellia japonica typically blooms in January and February, sometimes extending into early March depending on your growing zone. I have two japonicas, and they already have very small, tight buds. It is called "High Fragrance".

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