(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 27, 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.)

While a winter-flowering garden may not look as lush and colorful as the summer garden, it has its own calm beauty; it's all part of the many moods of nature. A winter flowering garden will help you beat the winter doldrums by getting you outside even for a little while. Although there is a dead of winter where not much will flower, you can plant the right plants to make the gap between fall and spring much smaller.

There are some excellent ways to create a winter flowering garden; it all depends on the look you want. If you have the space, you can make a garden just for winter flowers. It may not be much to look at in the spring and summer, but with most plants you will have some nice foliage. You also have the option of using containers. You can add winter beauty by keeping your containers going with winter flowering plants. There is also the option of mixing winter flowering plants in your flower beds. This idea is my favorite because as things fade, new flowers emerge almost seamlessly. If you plant something for all bloom times you will create a nice transition.

Late fall to early winter

Late fall blooming plants are great to start your winter flowering garden. If you keep them deadheaded and watered, you can keep them going until the first hard frost.

Full size picture of Heath Aster, Squarrose White Aster, Tufted White Prairie Aster (<i>Symphyotrichum ericoides</i>)
Full size picture of Chinese Gentian (<i>Gentiana sino-ornata</i>) Full size picture of New York Aster, Michaelmas Daisy 'Believer' (<i>Symphyotrichum novi-belgii</i>)Full size picture of Candytuft 'Alexander's White' (<i>Iberis</i>)
Heath aster Chinese gentian
New York aster Candytuft

Mid- to late-winter

Mid- to late-winter flowering plants can really brighten up the landscape. They bring cheer and a reminder of spring during a time when it seems like we never even see the light of day. It gets dark at four-thirty and there is snow on the ground, but the happy little crocus pop through the cold to remind us that there is still life under the cold, sleepy ground. Hellebores are another excellent choice. The pretty cool tone colors go perfectly with the winter landscape. Wonderful shrubs and trees also bloom during this time.

Full size picture of Snowdrop 'Virescens' (<i>Galanthus nivalis</i>) Full size picture of Early Crocus, Tommasini's Crocus, Snow Crocus, Tommies 'Whitewell Purple' (<i>Crocus tommasinianus</i>) Full size picture of February Daphne, Garland Flower (<i>Daphne mezereum</i>)
Snowdrops Crocus Helleborus Winter daphhne

Late winter to early spring

The time from late winter to early spring is the home stretch; the hard part is over. Somehow we managed to survive along with our gardens. The flowers that bloom during this time are proof that spring is near and we need to get ready. Enjoy this time because it won't be long before we will be out dividing, planting and sweating.

Flowering trees and shrubs that bloom at this time are beautiful, as well as many other plants not listed. Some alpines are also great for blooming in cold weather.

Planning a flowering winter wonder isn’t hard. Start by shopping the nurseries early; many retailers sell things as they flower. Check PlantScout for vendors that have some winter-blooming plants available. Many people pass up winter-blooming plants because they are eager for spring and summer flowers, so remember to include them in your spring purchases. Now is a good time to take a look at your winter space and plan a serene winter flowering wonderland.

Photo credits

  1. Thumbnail courtesy of kennedyh
  2. Heath aster courtesy of frostweed
  3. Chinese gentian courtesy of Todd_Boland
  4. New york aster courtesy of Daylilyslp
  5. Candy tuft courtesy of kniphofia
  6. Snowdrop courtesy of Galanthophile
  7. Crocus courtesy of Todd_Boland
  8. Winter daphne courtesy of growin
  9. Primula courtesy of altagardener
  10. Creeping phlox courtesy of Todd_Boland
  11. Lungwort courtesy of Galanthophile
  12. Blackfoot daisy courtesy of frostweed
  13. All other photos are the author's