9 winter-blooming plants that will survive the cold and keep your backyard looking vibrant

These expert-approved flowers and shrubs will offer you a colorful display of foliage all year round

A garden border in winter with snowdrops and hellebores
(Image credit: Alamy)

With temperatures plummeting and nights drawing in, your backyard is probably the last place you're looking to spend your time right now. Although I'm a big advocate for hunkering down indoors this time of year, there's no need to disregard your outdoor space completely, especially if you keep it looking glorious through winter.

How might you do that, I hear you ask. Don't get me wrong, I know that most plants die back this time of year and, while you might be blessed with a few evergreens outside your window, your backyard is probably looking a bit sad right now. There's good news, though. There are some more hardcore flowers and shrubs out there that will continue to bloom through winter so that you still have a colorful display of foliage outside your window. 

'As the temperatures drop and winter's chill sets in, it doesn't mean your garden has to become a dull, lifeless landscape,' says Zahid Adnan, gardening expert at The Plant Bible. 'There are several beautiful, cold-tolerant flowers and plants that can add vibrant colors and textures to your garden even during the winter months.' There's no need to watch your garden fade this winter. Instead, these 10 expert-approved plant choices will offer you a beautiful backyard all year round. 

1.  Hellebores  

A close up of a purple hellebore growing in a garden border with snow settled on the petals

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Throughout USDA Hardiness Zones 4 to 9, hellebores are early bloomers, blossoming with colorful flowers as early as January which then remain through until March. 'Also known as Lenten roses, they're famous for their stunning early bloom,' says Zahid Adnan of The Plant Bible. 'They come in various colors and have evergreen foliage, making them a perfect choice for winter. Their nodding flowers are a sight to behold and can be featured in containers or woodland garden flower beds.' 

The elegant flowers are a gardener's favorite when it comes to winter bloomers. 'The evergreen perennials unfurl cup-shaped blooms in rich hues through to spring when little else colors the garden,' says Lina Cowley, gardening blogger at Trimmed Roots. 'For the best show, plant them in humus-enriched soil and partially shaded spots, and remove spent blooms to encourage additional flowering.' Hellebores are also one of the best flowers to plant in fall, so now's the perfect time to introduce some to your modern garden!

2.  Heather  

'For more floral vibrancy, incorporate Heather's tiny colorful blooms in hues of pink, purple, and creamy white,' suggests Lina. 'As an adaptable evergreen shrub, heather thrives in acidic, sandy soil and full sun exposure. Winter heather and spring heather offer abundant blooms during the coolest months when cheer is needed most.'

When it comes to choosing a variety, 'White Perfection' is a popular strong-growing heather that offers masses of brilliant pure white flowers that stand out against the foliage from mid to late winter. 'Heather is also drought-tolerant and low-maintenance,' adds Zahid, making it a suitable grass alternative if you want a more colorful groundcover. 'You could also use it in rock gardens or mixed borders,' he suggests. 'Their pink, purple, or white flowers will brighten up your winter garden.' 

3. Winter Pansies  

Two terracotta pots with purple winter pansies growing inside

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A go-to choice for container gardening, winter pansies are one of your best options for bright blooms through winter. 'The ultimate cold-weather annuals, winter pansies are known for their vivid, cheerful flowers which look great in containers, borders, or window boxes,' notes Zahid. 'They can survive even in light snowfall.' To plant them, make sure they have moist, well-draining soil, but they'll thrive best in full to partial sun.

Lina also suggests planting these cheerful blooms in raised beds. 'They gardens and containers with vivid splashes of sunny yellow, sunset orange, rich purple, and sapphire blue,' she says. 'Just remember to pinch off spent blooms to promote continuous new growth and flowering.' 

4. Snowdrops

Snowdrops are a winter classic. To keep your backyard looking nice through winter, plant snowdrop bulbs in a few shady spots or around the base of trees. 'They're one of the earliest bulbs to bloom, often pushing through the snow, symbolizing hope and renewal,' says Zahid. 

As Lina adds, the first sight of snowdrops is strongly associated with the promise of spring. 'Their nodding white bell-shaped blooms emerge while snow still covers the ground,' she says. 'Allow them to naturalize in partly shaded moist garden corners for waves of optimism come late winter.' They're an especially sound choice for shady gardens where their white flowers will look oh-so-pretty on a gloomy January day. 

5. Winter Jasmine 

A close up of a winter jasmine plant

(Image credit: Getty Images)

You'd be forgiven for associating jasmine with summer as warm, balmy evenings are traditionally when we notice its pleasant aroma filling the air. There are some wintering varieties of jasmine, however, that will keep your backyard looking beautiful through the darkest, coldest months. 

'Cheery yellow winter jasmine flowers open against the gloomy backdrop of winter, lending a welcome pop of brightness,' says Lina. 'This vining shrub tolerates a range of light conditions, but plant it near walkways or fences to best enjoy its fragrance and bright blooms.' This Feng Shui plant is also said to encourage leadership and promote good fortune. 

6. Witch hazel 

Don't forget shrubs when landscaping your outdoor space. Witch hazel is a particularly cold-hardy option for a splash of color this time of year. 'As days grow shorter, enjoy witch hazel's singular spicy-sweet fragrance,' Lina notes. 'Delicately spidery yellow, crimson, and orange blooms burst forth on this vase-shaped shrub from late winter into early spring, arousing the senses after a long winter.' Be sure to plant it in full sun or partial shade in moist, acidic soil. 

7. Red Twig Dogwood  

'Native to North America, red twig dogwood stands out with its bright red stems during the winter, adding a pop of color to your garden,' says Zahid. 'Grow in moist soil, and use them to create stunning winter interest by planting them in masses, along garden borders, or near water features.' We think they make a great colorful front yard plant for some year-round curb appeal.

8. Eastern Red Columbine 

Close up of Eastern Red Columbine flower

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Known for the spurred petals of their flowers, Columbines are the perfect way to add some beauty to your backyard through winter because they're native to meadows and woodlands at higher altitudes, meaning they're well suited to the cold.  'This native wildflower blooms early in spring and is a valuable source of nectar for pollinators,' says Zahid. 'Its red and yellow flowers can add a touch of warmth.' 

He suggests planting this flower in well-drained soil and letting it naturalize in your space for a cottage garden look. They also do well in woodland gardens.

9. Coral Bells 

For a colorful display of foliage, try planting a variety of coral bells in your backyard. Suited for USDA zones 4-9, coral bells are tolerant of a wide range of light conditions, poor soil, heat, cold, humidity, and drought, making them one of the best flowers for beginner gardeners. Foliage comes in nearly every color under the sun, from silver to deep purple, and many varieties are best planted now, so don't wait! 

As Lina explains: 'Coral bells offer year-round texture and interest with their ever-changing foliage, ranging from chartreuse to purple. Bell-like blooms on tall flower stalks draw hummingbirds later in the year.' She recommends planting these perennials in areas with partial shade.

With these nine strategic plant choices, you can have a backyard that looks beautiful every month of the year. 'Don't let the cold weather dampen your gardening spirit,' adds Lina. 'From the elegant hellebores to the cheerful winter pansies, these plants won't only survive the cold but also bring a touch of color and beauty, so go ahead and embrace the winter wonders for a garden that will impress.'

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.