If your landscape is barren and uninteresting in winter, consider planting some of the following specimens next year to brighten up your winter days. I've grouped the plants and shrubs according to the month(s) in which they bloom, with information about regions, if available. Many of these plants grow in almost all the zones, with varying habits of bloom. One drawback to some of these eager harbingers of spring is the often unfortunate production of buds just before a cold snap. Most will survive, but prolonged freezing temperatures usually destroy the tender buds.

  • Blue Holly (Ilex x meserveae) flowers are tiny and appear sometime in late July/August here in Ohio. They have no fragrance and are of no significant visual value--but the brilliant red and orange berries that follow are a sight for sore eyes through the winter. Holly grows in Zones 4a through 9b.
  • Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) produces red, orange, or yellow flowers that resemble spiders hanging from the branches. Some varieties are scented. Grows in Zones 3a to 8b.
  • Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) is fragrant and produces pale yellow blooms in Zones 6a to 9b.
  • Winter Jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) grows only in Zones 9a to 10b, producing fragrant white or near white flowers.
  • Winter Aconite's (Eranthis cilicica) pale yellow flowers often push through the snow, bringing an unexpected surge of delight on a gray January day in Zones 3a to 7b.
  • Hellebores (Helleborus x hybridus), often known as Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose, produces flowers ranging from pale pink to chartreuse to white. Grows well in Zones 4a to 9b.
  • Snowdrop (Galanthus woronowii) grows in Zones 5s to 8b and usually pushes its white blossoms through the snow.
  • Viburnum 'Dawn' (Viburnum x bodnantense) blooms in temperate regions from November through March, but will also perform well in colder climates if planted in a protected location.
  • Algerian Iris (Iris unguicularis) blooms through the winter in temperate regions (Zones 7a to 9b). Bloom is blue.

  • Winter-flowering Honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) blooms in winter with heavily scented flowers. Zones 4a to 8b.
  • Crocus, especially the earliest varieties (Crocus chrysanthus, Crocus sieberi, Crocus tommasinianus), bloom through the snow in shades of purple and yellow in Zones 3a to 8b.
  • Camellias (Camellia japonica) bloom from late fall through mid-winter in temperate regions (Zones 8a-10b), and come a wide array of pink, white, yellow, peach, red, and variegated colors.
  • Forsythia (Forsythia ovata) blooms in late February/early March in many cold weather regions (Zones 4a to 7b), especially during milder winters. In extreme cold weather, the blooms wait until late March to appear.
  • Squill (Scilla siberica) often appears in February and March, even through the snow, often followed by the first sign of hyacinth and daffodil growth. Thrives in Zones 2a to 8b.
  • Pussy willows (Salix discolor) emerge in late March in Zones 4a to 8b.
  • Daffodils and Narcissus grow quickly through the coldest weather, bursting into bloom once the air warms a bit. (Zones 5b to 10b)
  • Flowering Cherry (Prunus spp.) is usually the first ornamental fruit tree to produce blooms in March in Zones 6a to 9b.

With a little advance planning, you can enjoy Nature's colors through the coldest months.

Snowdrop imag used with permission under GNU Free Distribution License at Wikimedia Commons.

(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 9, 2009. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)