Echinacea spp. • Zones 3 to 9
This native plant attracts attention from summer till the next spring. Plant groups in a sunny space for maximum impact and put off deadheading until the snow melts. Because a coneflower’s prickly seedpod is so substantial, a bunch of them will add a big architectural element to any winter garden.
Sedum spp. • Zones 3 to 10
Long after frost has dulled sedum’s vibrant colors, many varieties’ flower heads add to winter gardens. You don’t have to cut back the flowers or foliage until early spring, so this flower can add interest to a garden all winter long.
Calluna vulgaris • Zones 5 to 7
While heather is a celebrated plant throughout Europe, it’s often forgotten here in North America. This versatile flower boasts color during every season, making it ideal for winter gardening. From the little florets in summer and autumn to gorgeous foliage in winter, this beauty makes a strong impact in any garden with acidic soil. In locations where snowfall is light, insulate heather with mulch and pine branches.
Galanthus • Zones 3 to 9
When it pops up in late winter, snowdrop’s bright-green leaves send the message loud and clear that spring really is on its way. The snowdrop requires virtually no maintenance and spreads readily. For a larger collection of these 4- to 6-inch plants, simply lift and divide bulbs after they bloom, before the foliage dies back. Snowdrop is especially attractive scattered throughout naturalized settings and under deciduous trees and shrubs.
Viola tricolor • Zones 3 to 9
This old-fashioned classic produces a plethora of charming yellow, blue, violet and white flowers. Seeds planted the previous spring will bloom in fall and often hang on through winter. Johnny-jump-up thrives in containers, so if you live in a cooler climate, sow it in a planter and bring it inside when the temperatures plummet. You’ll be able to enjoy the colorful display even while there’s a blizzard raging outside.
Helleborus • Zones 4 to 9
No cold-weather garden is complete without hellebore’s lovely cup-shaped blossoms. With numerous colors, and heights ranging from just 2 inches to 2 feet, this distinctive bloomer will enhance any garden, although it may be difficult to choose just one variety. You’ll probably enjoy this moisture- and shade-loving plant so much that you’ll wish it bloomed year-round.
Acorus calamus ‘Variegatus’ • Zones 7 to 11
Grown in wet areas for its grass-like, aromatic foliage, sweet flag has a sometimes wrinkly texture and can reach about 5 feet tall. The leaves are strongly variegated with creamy white bands, making it a fun accent in a winter garden alongside a pond.
Arum italicum • Zones 6 to 9
This Mediterranean native sends up red and green berry stalks and broad, arrow-shaped leaves marked with green veins in fall. The foliage remains evergreen in milder climates, adding a pop of color to shady spots. Arum is an easygoing plant, perfect for novice gardeners and winter gardening.
Erica carnea • Zones 5 to 7
Through most of winter and into early spring, this reliable, low-growing plant puts on an attractive show of small, urn-shaped purple-pink flowers. Acidic soil is a must.