22 winter flowers to plant now if you want colourful blooms for Christmas

These bright winter flowers won't mind the cold

Spring flowers under the snow - stock photo
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The very best winter flowers will add colour and intrigue to your garden, no matter how dark and miserable it is outside – which makes them an absolute must-have for Christmas, quite frankly.

While it's one of our absolute favourite garden ideas, it's easy to understand why so many people (green-fingered or not) forget that there are plenty of hardy blooms that can withstand the frosts and snow of the bleak midwinter. After all, when the days are at their shortest (and the weather at its chilliest), it can feel... 

Well, it can feel a little counterintuitive to get out in the garden, to be honest. But, in all seriousness, this cheeriest of garden trends is here to change your mind about that.

The best winter flowers to plant now

Whether you want a Christmas hanging basket that'll turn all of your neighbours' heads, or to fill your garden borders with a riot of colour, it's worth researching the best winter flowers before you start.

'There are so many flowers to be had during the shortest days,' says Morris Hankinson, director of Hopes Grove Nurseries. 'And a dazzling display of berries and winter stems, too.'

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, which he established after graduating with a Commercial Horticulture Degree from Writtle College, Essex in 1992.

With these words ringing in our ears, these are the best winter flowers to get planting while the soil is still warm (just!) and the conditions are just perfect for new roots to grow:

1. Hellebores

Purple hellebore flowers blooming in a winter garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Hellebores are some of the most striking winter flowers around, thanks to the exciting array of colours available. 

'These are herbaceous plants with mostly evergreen (and handsome) foliage making a great backdrop for their characteristic nodding flowers,' says Morris. 

Noting that they are 'available in shades of green, white, pink, ruby, plum purple and almost black, not to mention bi-coloured and spotted types', it's little wonder that Morris thinks hellebores are well worthy of inclusion in a winter display.

2. Clematis 'Advent Bells'

With the name alone giving us immense Christmassy vibes, award-winning garden designer Zoe Claymore counts these winter flowers – and their unique creamy white and maroon spotted blooms – among her favourites.

Zoe Claymore - headshot
Zoe Claymore

Zoe Claymore is a multi award winning garden designer based in London. She focuses on creating outdoor places with emotional connection and ecological integrity, for her private and commercial clients.

'It is evergreen in milder locations and great for quickly covering a nasty wall or fence,' says Zoe, adding that she has one in her own garden. 'The bees and I love it!'

3. Winter Flowering Heathers

Frozen heather flowers in the winter snow. This image was taken in a forest close to Drammen city Norway.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Heathers – specifically the Erica x darleyensis variety – are versatile winter flowers that can make a dramatic display.

'Unlike some of their cousins, they are less fussy over soil type. (Some Heathers will only succeed in acid soil),' says Morris, advising that you use them in flower beds for effective low ground cover. 

They come in many shades of white, pink, lilac, mauve and red, and some even boast colourful foliage, so if you select a mix 'they can easily provide flowers from November right through until April,' he adds.

4. Cyclamen Hederifolium

These hardy heart-shaped winter flowers are beautiful and fragrant, so it's little wonder that Zoe is such a fan.

She recommends mixing them with some Cyclamen Coum for long season interest under trees, but they'd look just as striking mixed in with ferns and other shade-tolerant plants, too.

5. Winter Flowering Pansies

grasses with purple and yellow flowers

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

Pansies have become a staple plant in winter flower arrangements, and little wonder: 'these bright cheerful little flowers are tough,' says Morris.

'They prefer colder climes,' he continues, 'even popping their welcome winter flowers through a layer of snow!'

Morris suggests you combine yours with other plants of strong constitution, such as Skimmia, Heuchera or Hedera (Ivy). 

'Just don't forget to underplant with some spring flowering bulbs for an extra wave of colour,' he notes.

6. Sweet Box

Sweet Box is a firm favourite among amateur and professional gardeners, not least of all because its 'sweet vanilla perfume travels far from even the youngest batch of plants and never fails to cheer us during the short winter days,' says Morris.

Noting that their evergreen foliage looks immaculate and glossy in all four seasons, Morris explains that the plant's creamy white flowers, studded along the green stems, open in succession from December right through until March.

'This is a must-have winter flower, especially for a shady north-facing garden, where it will slowly grow into a waist-high shrub or hedge,' he says. 

'Just be sure to plant them close to a path, doorway or seating area so the scent is appreciated!'

7. Winter Honeysuckle

Close-up of blooming flower winter honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima (standishii), or January jasmine, Chinese honeysuckle

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'This little-known gem is surely one of the unsung heroes of the winter garden,' says Morris. 

Describing it as an 'indestructible hardy shrub that will fill gardens with the perfume from its sweetly fragrant white flowers', the gardening guru goes on to explain that the blooms of a winter honeysuckle will emerge in succession from December until springtime. 

'They are so easy to grow, and well suited to novice or experienced gardeners – but just be sure to plant it somewhere the scent can be appreciated,' he adds.

8. Viburnum Tinus

Also known as the laurustinus bush, the Viburnum Tinus is a 'tough evergreen shrub with deep green foliage that sets off the winter flowers,' promises Morris. 

While this one is a slow burner, it promises many months of colour to be had from November until April – and, while Morris is fond of the pink-tinged ‘Eve Price’ variety, we're personally big fans of the bolder 'Lisarose'.

Whichever variety you lose your heart to, you're guaranteed a very smooth love affair.

'These are great, wind resistant and hardy plants that can even be trimmed into topiary shapes,' promises Morris.

9. Snowdrops

Snowdrop flowers clustered together in a winter garden

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's best to plant your snowdrop bulbs in September, but you can keep sowing the seeds of these winter flowers right through until November if you've left it a little late. 

The hard work you put into your snowdrops now will absolutely pay off, as you can expect these little beauties to transform your garden into a late winter wonderland before too long.

10. Iris 'Frozen Planet'

While the name screams David Attenborough, the look of these white and ice-blue winter flowers is... well, it's giving us Disney's Frozen, quite frankly, and we're not about to let it go.

Be sure to plant your Iris 'Frozen Planet' bulbs in the autumn (either in pots or garden borders) if you want to enjoy its blooms over the late winter months.

11. Paperwhite daffodils

Winter Narcissi: Narcissus papyraceus 'Ziva' / paperwhite daffodil bulbs on top of antique books.

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Poinsettia might be the more famous of the two, but learning how to grow paperwhite daffodils for Christmas is an easy way to add a bloom of magic to your indoor plant displays. 

They're one of those 'just add water' plants, and very quick to grow, so you're guaranteed a beautiful display of flowers for your festive displays if you set to work now. 

12. Winter violas

The clue's in the name with these, as winter violas might look dainty and delicate, but they're the sort of hardy winter flowers that will bloom all season long – even if there's snow and frost on the ground.

Violas are available in many different colours, making them perfect for any and all winter flower displays – so be sure to include some in all of your Christmas hanging basket ideas, stat.

8 glorious alternatives to winter flowers

Remember the dazzling displays of winter berries and stems we mentioned? All of which would be just as welcome in a bouquet as a selection of winter flowers? 

Don't worry, we've got you covered.

1. Dogwoods

A winter garden planting of Thuja occidentalis evergreen trees with Cornus Alba 'Westonbirt', Dogwood red stems - stock photo

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'I persuade people to not just think about winter flowers,' says Zoe, 'but to also think about foliage as it lasts longer. Planting a dogwood, for example, will give you lots of interest.'

A staple of many well-designed winter gardens, Morris adds that dogwoods are not grown not for their flowers but their dazzling winter stems, noting that they 'really come into their own as soon as their leaves drop, usually after the first hard frost.'

Not sure which dogwood is right for you? Go for something like...

  • Cornus sanguinea ‘Annys Winter Orange’: this one's brilliant shades 'change as you move up the stem,  starting with buttery yellow through coral and orange to red at the tips,' says Morris. 
  • Cornus alba ‘Kesselringii’: the dark stems of this one 'are a deep purplish colour and look stunning when underplanted with brightly coloured early flowering bulbs, especially crocus,' Morris notes. 
  • Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’: the brilliant red stems of this enduringly popular dogwood will bring your garden alive during the winter months. 'Plant drifts of them with other coloured dogwoods if you have space,' says Morris. 
  • Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire': Zoe's favourite of all the dogwoods, this one reveals spectacular orange, red and yellow bare stems come winter.

All of these dogwoods are very easy to grow, but Morris still urges you to 'give them a good start by preparing their planting site with organic matter, bone meal and rootgrow'. 

He adds that you should cut them back almost to ground level come spring, as doing so means new strong shoots will soon follow.

'These one-year shoots always produce the most dazzling colours the following winter,' he adds.

2. Hollies

Christmas holly plant in the garden in Trento, Italy.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

So synonymous with Christmas they wrote a song about it, the not-so-humble holly is another beautiful way to add intrigue to your garden alongside your winter flowers.

As ever, though, there is more than one type of holly to consider:

3. Mahonia × media

With its dark green, holly-like leaves and yellow spikes of flowers in November and December, this pretty little shrub adds plenty of interest to any garden over winter.

A favourite with the experts at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), this one is guaranteed to add some all-year interest to your outdoor space.

Just remember that its fruit are ornamental and not to be eaten, so keep an eye on children and pets around it.

4. Firethorn

A closeup on the bright red berries of a winter firethorn

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bright, bold, and beautiful, the berry-laden branches of a firethorn are definitely on par with winter flowers.

'These are easy and willing evergreen shrubs that will be clothed with huge numbers of creamy white flowers in late spring, until they develop into masses and masses of berries,' says Morris. 

As the leaves fall away in the autumn, you better believe, then, that the different varieties of firethorn will put on a truly dazzling show of richly coloured berries in shades of red, orange and yellow.

'They are great for training up walls, as hedges or just as a bright evergreen back of border shrubs,' adds Morris, noting that it is a brilliant wildlife garden idea for those who want to keep the birds fed and happy over the colder months.

5. Ivy

This oft-forgotten festive plant might not be the first to spring to mind when you hear 'best winter flowers', but it absolutely should: in fact, ivy has long been associated with Christmas and other winter solstice celebrations, with many using it to ward off evil spirits and celebrate new growth.

Planting a beautiful ivy in your garden is a great way to keep it looking lush and verdant over the winter months; just be sure to pop it in a site sheltered from cold winds.


What flowers flower in the winter in the UK?

From irises to snowdrops, hellebores to pansies, there are plenty of gorgeous winter flowers to fill your garden with – so long as you get to work over the autumn, that is. 

When should I buy winter pansies?

Experts advise you buy your winter flowering pansies in September and leave them in their trays until October, when you can transplant them into their final positions in your garden for the colder months ahead.

What flower blooms in December UK?

There are plenty of flowers that bloom over December in the UK, including Sweet Box (otherwise known as Christmas Box), Cyclamen, Pansies, Hellebores, and Clematis 'Advent Bells'. 

If you're looking for indoor flowers this Christmas, you can't go wrong with a Poinsettia or a Paperwhite Narcissus!

Now that you know the best winter flowers to plant in your garden, it's time to wrap up warm and get to work.

We promise that all of your hard work will be worth it when you look out of your window on Christmas morning and find yourself gazing at a sea of vibrancy and colour...

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.