Our top tips for choosing winter container plants

Winter containers are a great way to add colour and cheer to your garden – and they’re easy to reuse when it comes to summertime.

Gardens can often look a bit sparse in winter, but it’s easy to bring your garden back to life with carefully-selected winter plants. One of the best ways to do this is using winter containers. These are a great way to inject your garden with foliage and flowers. You can use a range of colours, greenery and scent to brighten up your garden, patio or balcony - and because some winter plants don’t look as attractive in summer, having them in containers means you can move them in and out of the limelight according to the season.

Plants for winter

In winter you can choose from a wide selection of shrubs, herbaceous plants, bedding and bulbs. But there are a few things to remember:

  • Plants grow very little in winter, so make sure you consider this when selecting the size and quantity of plants, as you’ll want to buy enough to make a real impact with your containers.
  • As the winter days are short, with less daylight, it’s important to position your containers so your plants will get the most light possible.
  • While you don’t need to feed container plants in winter, when it comes to watering them you’ll need to take special care and check the compost regularly, as it can dry out easily in mild spells.
  • It’s also a good idea to raise containers off the ground on bricks or pot feet. This aids drainage and helps protect them against the freezing conditions that can cause them to crack.
  • For added protection, choose frost-proof terracotta or containers made from plastic, fibreglass or wood. You can also bubble wrap containers when the weather is at its worst to limit the damage to plant roots.

Protecting citrus trees

Evergreen shrubs are great for adding colour and depth to your winter garden. They keep their green leaves year-round and can even be mixed with other dwarf shrubs to create a variety of foliage and flowers. We recommend box (Buxus sempervirens), bay (Laurus nobilis), skimmia, euonymus and ivy (Hedera). You can also include ornamental cabbage and kale for extra interest.

Resilient evergreen ferns like hart’s tongue fern (Asplenium scolopendrium), common polypody (Polypodium vulgare) and soft shield fern (Polystichum setiferum) are particularly useful as they can be used to fill up shady corners.

While winter bedding plants flower mainly in spring, cyclamen, winter-flowering pansy, viola, primula and polyanthus will also bloom intermittently in mild spells during winter.

Bulbs are versatile and bring colour to your winter display. We particularly like Narcissus, Muscari, Tulipa and Iris, which are likely to flower in spring. When you switch to your summer display, you can replant the bulbs in the ground to flower the following spring.

Herbs are another great way to bring diversity to your winter display – and also to fuel your kitchen. It’s best to choose evergreen perennials like rosemary, sage, thyme, lavender and curry plant – but position them where they’ll receive some sunshine.