As fall turns to winter, you might be thinking about how to plant your garden for year round color. While non-deciduous colorful foliage planting is one way to go, there are also a number of beautiful perennials that bloom in the winter in our area. Some, like Salvia and Penstemon, are really summer bloomers but will sometimes bloom in winter if they are placed in a particularly sunny spot. But there are also some true winter bloomers; here are a few suggestions.
There are many varieties of Helleborus (e.g. Helleborus argutifolius variegated, Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’, Helleborus niger), which bloom in winter and early spring. These shade loving perennials grow to 3 ft. in height, and deliver lovely bell shaped flowers on slender stalks in shades of dusty rose, chartreuse, mauve, green and white. For best results provide moist, rich, well drained soil. Makes a lovely and long-lived cut flower.
This tender evergreen shrub grows to 6 ft. in height with pendent clusters of 3-inch long, slender tubed, red flowers that appear in winter and throughout the year. Likes part sun to shade and moist soil. Good container plant.
Pink Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum glutinosum)
Also known as the “Winter Currant”, this CA native shrub brightens the garden on a rainy winter day. In bloom February-April, the 2-4″ drooping clusters of pink flowers are also an early food source for hummingbirds & bees. The berries are black with a whitish bloom & are enjoyed by birds. The leaves exude a delightful resinous scent & are not attractive to deer. Naturally found in woodlands areas, it makes itself at home in light-moderate shade (essential for inland gardeners), full or morning sun OK on the coast. The shrub grows in a natural vase shape & can become 5-12’ tall & wide, but it can be pruned hard after it has finished flowering in the spring. Little or no irrigation is necessary, thus great under oaks. Fine companions would be other woodland plants like Heuchera, Tellima & Aquilegia. Bee & bird habitat plant.
Want some dramatic foliage? This Senecio has fuzzy, lobed, dinner-plate sized leaves that are dark green on top & rich purple underneath. The thick stems are fuzzy & purple too. Grows to 8’ tall & 6-8’ wide so it will create quite a presence. It has attractive, blooms too. In winter it blooms with clusters of bright yellow flowers. Evergreen, but can be pruned to the ground if it needs rejuvenation. From Chiapas, Mexico.
This super easy Wallflower blooms in winter and throughout the year, sporting mounds of tangerine colored blooms and evergreen foliage. Not picky about soil and doesn’t need a lot of water.
Fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus)
This small scale perennial with daisy like pink and white flowers blooms year round… just shear after bloom and it will make more, over and over and over again. Part shade to full sun, any soil, low water and it spreads! Looks great as a border plant or tumbling over low walls.
An evergreen vine that climbs by twining stems to 10 ft. or more, Hardenbergia produces clusters of bright violet flowers in mid to late winter when little else is blooming. Attractive dark green leaves make an attractive cover for fences all year round. Sun or shade.