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The Best Plants for Creating Colorful Winter Containers

Taking the time to freshen the container plantings at your front entry will reward you all winter long and brighten your spirits every time you come home. Likewise, a window box planting can bring the outdoors in, where you can enjoy a foliage-rich scene from the cozy interior.

Creating an eye-catching and spirit-lifting winter container can be quick and easy. And really almost anything goes, plant-wise—as long as it looks good in winter. Think about texture and color echos. And just like in your in-ground garden, you’ll want to strive for a variety of plant forms and leaf sizes.

In the image above, colorful curly willow stems play a key role (far right). And here's a pro hack—buy or cut stems from your existing landscape shrubs to conserve space in your container. You can usually find them at your local independent garden center or florist in autumn. Also featured prominently in the container above: Fatsia japonica, Carex 'Everillo', Tassel fernMahonia 'Soft Caress', Helleborus argutifolius 'Snow Fever', Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Snow' and finally a coprosma to the far left echoes the coral tones of the willow stems.

Foliage First Winter Container Combo
This container vignette has it all! It sings through the winter months with yellow foliage that brightens gray days, hellebore blooms in late winter enliven the scene further, and overall it has a pleasing variety of leaf shape, plant forms and texture. Get the details, including the full plant list here.
Foliage First Winter Container Combo
Look for opportunities to accentuate your underlying color story by picking up color echoes. For example, the coral undertones of the cordyline are enhanced by proximity of a Heuchera ‘Delta Dawn’. Additionally the textural contrast between varied leaf sizes and shapes of the heuchera, Cordyline ‘Cha Cha’, and Abelia ‘Kaleidoscope’ add another layer of interest.
Foliage First Winter Container Combo
Tender/borderline hardy plants that are in containers can be whisked away to a protected spot when the inevitable cold snap comes along. I love having New Zealand flax in my garden. I always have several phormiums growing in containers—bulking up for their eventual planting out into the garden when and if my in-ground plants succumb to the weather.

Remember to consider your container—its color, shape, etc.—as an equally important component of your vignette. If you can weave it into your color story with creative color echoes or consider its shape as you create your composition, the overall effect of your vignette will be amplified.

And finally, it can help to think of it as a temporary installation—shrubs that will eventually be in-the-ground-big can start their life with you in a container. Creating a decorative scene in a high-traffic, regularly visible spot is a great way to temporarily enjoy evergreen shrubs and perennials up-close over the winter, before graduating them to an in-ground position in your garden come spring.

The focus of this post is on the building blocks of winsome winter containers—the plants! To dive deeper into the design aspects of creating container plantings, you might enjoy this post: How to Create Show-stopping Containers for Your Garden .

What makes a particular plant an appealing choice for your winter scene? Some of the best options are singled out based on their attractive evergreen foliage, winter flowers, colorful stems, or architectural form. However, your container planting really starts to come together when you start creating vignettes that combine a pleasing array of textures, colors, and forms. Listed below you'll find some of my go-to faves.


SOME OF MY FAVORITE PLANTS FOR WINTER CONTAINERS

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Published January 02, 2020


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