How to add colour to a winter garden – garden experts reveal how to brighten up your outdoor space

You don't have to wait for summer to transform your garden into a riot of colour...

Cyclamen blooming in a colourful winter garden
(Image credit: Alamy)

If you've been poring over Monty Don's Instagram account of late (guilty!), you'll undoubtedly have noticed that – from bright purple blooms to striking glossy green hedges – it's filled with shots of his enviably colourful winter garden. 

Considering the weather has been incredibly grey and dreary of late, it's little wonder that these photos have inspired many of us to follow in Monty's footsteps and learn how to add colour to a winter garden of our own.

And, from winter flowering shrubs to a bevy of beautiful winter gardening ideas, we're here to help you do exactly that. You're welcome.

How to add colour to a winter garden

We know, we know: when it's cold and raining cats and dogs, the last thing you want to be doing is digging around in the garden. 

Here's the thing, though: there are a few key things all amazing winter gardens have – and, if you put the work in, you can easily brighten up your outdoor space and transform it into a riot of colour. The kind that, sure, all your neighbours will be peering at jealously from their own windows before too long.

1. Plant winter flowering natives

'The first way to add colour to a drab and dreary winter garden is to plant some colourful winter flowers,' says Craig Wilson, co-founder, director & in-house gardening expert at Gardeners Dream.

Craig Wilson at Gardeners Dream
Craig Wilson

Craig Wilson, co-founder and director of Gardener's Dream Ltd has established himself as a key figure in the online gardening industry. With over two decades of plant knowledge and gardening experience, he takes pride in sharing his top tips and tricks for the garden.

Snowdrops growing in ground

(Image credit: Polly Eltes Photography/Future PLC)

'These plants can withstand colder temperatures and frost better than most and are certain to bring a little splash of colour back into any winter garden,' he continues. 

Opt for the likes of pansies, cyclamen, snowdrops, dwarf irises, hellebores and violas to add some colourful winter charm to your space.

2. Prioritise evergreen hedging and trees

Sweet box, a winter flowering shrub in full bloom

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the best and easiest ways to add colour to a winter garden is planting evergreens.

'Evergreen hedges and trees retain their glossy green leaves all year round, so when most of the garden is sleeping over winter, evergreens will keep their leaves all year,' says Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries.

Morris Hankinson of Hopes Grove Nurseries
Morris Hankinson

Morris Hankinson is the founder and managing director of Hopes Grove Nurseries Ltd, the UK’s only specialist grower-retailer of hedging plants. He established the thriving business in 1992, shortly after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex. 

Morris goes on to suggest that you try one of the best hedging plants, or something like Choisya, Thuja, Cotoneaster, Buxus and Elaeagnus, as 'these will also give wildlife shelter during the colder months'. 

'Sarcococca confusa, also known as Sweet Box, is one of the most wonderfully fragrant hedging plants to grow for winter interest,' he adds. 

'Not only is it evergreen but it also flowers from December to March with a sweet fragrance and then later has big black berries.'

We're a big fan of azalea, the Pinterest star of 2024, too – not least of all because it packs a colourful punch alongside all that greenery!

3. Consider some winter-flowering trees

It doesn't matter how big your garden is (trust us: there are plenty of gorgeous trees for small gardens to choose from), you can easily add some colour to yours with a winter-flowering tree.

'Hamamelis (witch hazel) is a well-known tree that gives winter interest, thanks to its wonderful structure, recognisable fragrance and colourful flowers,' suggests Morris. 

'You’ll see the flowers usually in January and February which can be yellow, orange or slightly peachy depending on the variety.'

You can buy a wide range of witch hazel from Thompson & Morgan, if you're keen to make good on this tip.

Witch hazel growing in a garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Alternatively, Morris adds that 'there is even a cherry tree that blooms with pretty pink flowers from November to March'.

You can buy a Prunus Subhirtella Autumnalis ‘Rosea’ from Hopes Grove Nurseries.

4. Include plants with interesting stems and bark

Dogwoods growing in a winter garden

(Image credit: Alamy)

Another brilliant way to add colour to a winter garden is to remember that 'winter interest isn’t all about colourful flowers,' says Morris. 

'The bark of many trees and stems of plants can also bring beauty to a winter garden,' he continues. 'Betula Pendula (Silver Birch) with its silvery-white and almost ghost-like trunk looks phenomenal in winter, especially as a backdrop to some bright red, orange or yellow stems of Cornus, such as ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’ and the black stems of Cornus alba ‘Kesselrinii’.'

Where to buy Cornus:

5. Leave perennials over winter


(Image credit: Getty)

Any and all  gardeners on the lazier side of the spectrum will be pleased to know that you can add colour to a winter garden simply by letting things go.

'After perennials finish flowering in autumn, instead of cutting them back, leave them until spring when new growth appears,' suggests Morris. 

This way the stems, old foliage and seedheads will not only provide homes and food for winter birds and animals (making them ideal for your list of wildlife garden ideas) but they can also give added beauty to a quiet winter garden. 

'Perennials such as Sedum, Echinops, Asters and Phlomis, plus many more, will look great with a dusting of snow or frost on,' adds Morris. 

6. Invest in some garden lighting

Home of lighting designer Sally Stone. Garden lighting

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Garden lighting ideas will add some extra texture and shadow (and warmth) come the colder months.

'Lighting is another great, inexpensive and easy way to add a pop of colour to your garden in winter,' says Craig. 

'String lights draped along fences or garden sheds in an array of colours will add a layer of interest to dark winter gardens, whilst lanterns and solar lights will create warm and inviting spaces amongst even the chilliest of gardens.'

'To really brighten your space and give it a new lease of life, try layering your lights, and creating different feels in different areas,' adds Craig. 

'Light up winter flower beds with hidden spotlights, create a cosy retreat with hanging festoon lighting, and even add coloured spotlights around ponds and water features.'

7. And, finally, don't forget to accessorise

Cosy garden ideas: garden chairs around a firepit and surrounded by fairylights

(Image credit: Future PLC/Tim Young)

That's right: you can use your favourite fire pit ideas to add colour to a winter garden, promises Craig – but be sure to accessorise yours when you do so.

'Accessories are a great way to introduce some colour back into the garden during the winter months,' he says. 'If you have a fire pit and like to spend time around it in the evening, then accessorising this space with colourful cushions and throws could make it a much more enjoyable seating area.'

If you don’t fancy sitting outside, then Craig says that you can try some upcycling garden ideas to create a bevy of colourful pots and planters for your garden.

'A fun way to do this, and save money at the same time, is to indulge in a little bit of DIY. Simply spraying pots with some spray paint can transform them in minutes!'


How do I get my garden to colour all year round?

The easiest way to add colour to your winter garden is to consider adding more evergreens and winter flowers to your planting schemes.

'Evergreen shrubs and hedges are one way of ensuring colour all year round, without too much work,' says Craig. 

'Planting shrubs such as azalea, rhododendron, pyracantha and japonica will keep your garden looking alive whilst other plants and flowers lay dormant.'

Morris agrees, adding that you should 'plant Snowdrops, Winter Aconites and Cyclamen, too, as these will all flower in late winter, giving colour and interest to otherwise bare garden beds'.

How can I add more colour to my garden?

From the best winter plants for pots and hanging baskets, to making good on all of the cosy garden ideas on your list, there are plenty of ways to add more colour to your garden. 

Even something as simple as choosing one of the best colours to paint a garden fence is a surefire way to a brighter garden over the winter months.

Now that you know how to add colour to a winter garden, it's time to transform yours into a feast for the eyes – no matter which season it is. Good luck!

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.