The Best Shrubs And Bushes For Winter Color In The Outdoor Landscape
So you want more color during the winter season and are looking for shrubs and trees that will fit the bill. I chose the following shrubs and trees based upon several factors: winter color being the most important, overall performance in the landscape based upon my own experience with these plants, the feedback I've received from many fellow gardeners and nursery customers over the years, and availability. What good is a plant to you if it isn't available? 



Camellias are cool season wonders with magnificent blooms that are sure to color up your landscape. Not all of them bloom during the winter, but most do. Many Sasanqua camellia varieties start blooming in fall and continue well into winter. 'Yuletide', pictured above, is perhaps my favorite. It starts blooming in mid-to late fall and continues all the way to Christmas here in north central Georgia, hence the name. On the other hand, most of the Japonica camellia varieties and Hybrid camellias start blooming in mid to late winter and continue early to mid spring. 


When it comes to ornamental shrubs that provide outstanding texture and foliage color, Nandina, commonly called Heavenly Bamboo, are hard to beat. Aside from their unique foliage textures and various shapes and sizes, the foliage of many Nandina varieties turns to brilliant shades of red, orange and pink during the winter. Then, in spring, some varieties produce pretty spikes of white flowers followed by red berries that persist through winter. Other varieties are sterile so produce no flowers. 


Abelia have everything any gardener could want in a shrub. They are very dependable, evergreen flowering shrubs displaying colorful foliage throughout the year, and an abundance of summer and fall fragrant flowers. Perhaps my favorites of the Abelia varieties is the Kaleidoscope Dwarf Abelia (pictured below), which has bright golden-yellow foliage during the summer that turns to brilliant shades of red and orange during the winter. 

I also really like 'Rose Creek' Dwarf Abelia, (pictured below) which has green leaves during summer that turn to burgundy during the winter that contrasts beautifully with the pink calyxes left over from the flowers. All Abelias are low maintenance shrubs anyone can easily grow, which are exceptionally drought tolerant shrubs when established. 


A cousin of Winter Daphne, Edgeworthia, also known as Paper Bush, has to be one of our favorite plants in our gardens. During the warm season, the plant is adorned with long, plumeria-like leaves. The leaves drop in early winter to reveal both the wonderful bark and the large, silvery flower buds. In January, the flower buds begin opening to wonderfully fragrant, golden-yellow, honeysuckle like flowers densely packed in round clusters that continue to April. We don't always have this rare one available but when we do grab it quick!

Winter Daphne

Winter Daphne is a superstar of an evergreen flowering shrub. When Winter Daphne begins to bloom in late winter it heralds - with its intoxicating perfume - the promise of spring. It's attractive, glossy, evergreen leaves are an excellent backdrop for the flowers. The highly fragrant blooms are crystalline white inside and purplish-pink outside. Winter Daphne usually begins blooming sometime in January or February (depending on climate) and continues through March or April, when not mulch else is blooming. The flowers are good for cutting and last well in a flower arrangement. Despite the remarkable variety of gardening myths about its requirements, Winter Daphne is very hardy and easy to grow. In our gardens it grows very well under large shade trees where not may other shrubs will grow.

Forsythia 'Lynwood Gold'

Originally discovered in 1935 growing in a garden called Lynwood, located in Cookstown, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, 'Lynnwood Gold' Forsythia is a vigorous, heavy-blooming forsythia noted for its spectacular late winter to early spring bloom of larger-than-usual, stunningly bright, yellow flowers. The flowers literally cover the branches with flowers before the new spring foliage emerges. The willowy green foliage emerges after the bloom cycle and is attractive throughout the season, turning purple in fall. Give this forsythia plenty of room to grow as it can spread to 9 feet in width.


If you live and garden in a region where the average low winter temperature doesn't go below 0 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, and you're looking for low-maintenance, super-hardy, pest and disease resistant, evergreen flowering shrubs to color up your landscape year round, it does't get much better than the Loropetalums, sometimes commonly called Chinese Witchazel or Chinese Fringe Flower. The masses of pink, white or red flowers (depending on variety) explode onto the scene in late winter, standing out wonderfully against the purple, evergreen foliage. Well, at least most of the one's we offer have purple foliage. There's one variety called 'Emerald Snow' Loropetalum that produces white flowers on plants with lime green new leaves that mature to deep green. From 'Purple Pixie' Loropetalum, which grows to 2 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide, to Zhu Zhou Loropetalum, which grows upwards of 15 feet tall and wide, Loropetalums come in various shapes and sizes to fit almost any need in the landscape. 

Florida Sunshine Anise

Florida Sunshine Anise,  Illicium parviflorum 'Florida Sunshine', is a brilliant beacon in the shade garden - guaranteed to brighten the shady to partially shaded areas of your garden year round with it's brightly colored foliage. The anise-scented evergreen leaves are a bright chartreuse during the warm season. As the weather cools in the fall, the leaf color brightens to screaming yellow that persists through the winter. During the same time, the upper stems take on a brilliant red cast, contrasting vividly with the leaves. In late spring, white flowers are borne from the branches. Each blossom has many tepals (false petals, and dangles downward. The penny-size fruits ripen from an olive color to brown and have the scent of anise, when crushed. They look like tiny pumpkins. This one will grow in sun but we like it better in shade, or morning sun with afternoon shade. 


When it comes to ornamental shrubs that provide outstanding texture in the landscape or garden, Mahonia are unrivaled. Aside from their unique foliage textures, in winter these shade loving evergreen shrubs produce pretty clusters of yellow flower spikes atop almost every branch. After flowering, some varieties then produce grape-like clusters of blue berries the birds will love! Mahonia shrubs are a must in every shade garden where they will grow.