Winter Flowering Plants
Winter Flowering Plants - Not As Scarce As You May Think
There are not too many winter flowering plants that grow naturally in most locations, especially the colder climates. What we see from day to day, besides bare branches, are the non-flowering evergreens, and of course the bare soil where the summer flowers once bloomed. With not too much effort, you can find some plants that will give you winter blooms outdoors, and of course there are also a few things you can do to bring some color indoors.
You're generally not going to see much in the way of winter flowering plants when there's a foot of snow on the ground, nor should you reasonably expect to. As spring approaches, a few smaller bulbs, such as snowdrops and crocus peek through, but that often doesn't measure up to what would be considered a showy display. There are some winter annuals and perennials though that will give you blooms anywhere from early to mid-winter, to early spring. Just don't count too much on things happening in late December or mid January.
Flowering Plants - A few of the winter flowering plants are annuals such as white sweet alyssum. Stick them out as seedlings in late fall. They'll re seed and spread. There are colored varieties of alyssum, but the white ones seem to do the best by far. Iceland poppies (Papaver nudicaule) are another good choice, and can put on a nice show if planted in larger masses rather than in small groups of 3 or 5. You'll have the best chance of success with these if you plant them in a somewhat sheltered location, where they aren't subject to fierce winter blasts. Snapdragons, planted in the late fall, will often bloom into mid-winter, at least in some climates. With snapdragons, you usually have a nice choice of colors, and these quite hardy plants will hang on until the weather really turns cold, and bounce right back when things start warming up. Another plant which looks good in larger clumps, and also comes in a wide choice of colors, is the fairy primrose, or primula (Primula malacoides). The primrose is often thought of as an early spring blooming plant, which is true, but in some climates where the winters are not extremely severe can give you winter color.
Flowering Shrubs - There are a number or ornamental shrubs, a few of which bloom during mid winter, but at the very least will give you some color as early as February. These include the flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa), which will give you a nice display of flowers on bare stems, in addition to being a very bird friendly plant, at the time of year when birds need all the friends they can get. By forcing the branches of this shrub you can bring a little color indoors. Winter hazel (Corylopsis spicata) is another shrub which puts on its display in very late winter or very early spring. Often the winter hazel will bloom in conjunction with early crocus. If you want an attractive screen, consider the winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), which is semi-evergreen and first provides fragrant blossoms, then red berries which in themselves are very attractive.
Don't Forget Heather - There is also quite a variety of winter flowering heathers you can choose from. Heather is a very hardy plant, and as far as winter flowering plants are concerned will give you blooms for an extended portion of the winter season. Whether you plant heather as a ground cover, a shrub, or in containers, these plants can give you color almost anywhere in your garden at almost any time of the year. Heather is an easy plant to grow, and most varieties, once established, will start to spread, but seldom at a rate where they could be considered in any way invasive. You do have to keep heather pruned to keep it looking good, as the plants can sometimes get a rather scraggly look, especially if they're allowed to get too large.
Indoor Bloomers - As far as indoors is concerned, forced bulbs are often the choice for winter flowering plants, but other plants which bloom naturally in the winter or at any time of the year include African violets, the Christmas cactus, cyclamen, and to some degree geraniums and miniature roses.
You may not get quite the colorful display you've come to expect in May or June, but with a little planning, you can actually add quite a bit of color, indoors an out, with a selection of winter flowering plants.