Winter Flowering Plants For Year Round Interest

There's something uplifting about seeing brightly coloured and scented flowers on a grey Winter's day. At this time of the year most people turn to bedding plants, however these tend to be short lived and require you to purchase more plants to replace them in the Spring and Summer.

As with most of the plants featured here on Plant Post the evergreens mentioned stay green all year round and are hardy in most of the UK. So if you are looking for some low maintenance year round plants that look great in the colder months then read on.

mahonia mature september flowering
Mahonia can provide much needed colour to your garden as the year closes
coronilla valentina subsp glauca citrina march 2016 flowering
Coronilla has a long flowering period from Autumn often through to early Summer

Winter Flowering

For long term colour it is worth investing in evergreen winter flowering plants and shrubs that will provide you with masses of colour at the coldest time of the year in the UK.

Lower Maintenance Evergreens

The main benefit of choosing evergreens is that as the name suggests stay green all year round. They provide screening, a home for insects such as ladybirds to overwinter, reduce air pollution and improve the quality of the air around your home.

The Best Winter Flowering Evergreens

Whilst not an exhaustive list these are proven winners requiring little attention, are hardy and provide a great show over the colder months. What's great about these plants is that they will flower every year and stay green and lush all year round in most parts of the UK.

Sophora microphylla Sun King 'Hilsop'

Sophora Sun King produces bright yellow bell like flowers in late Winter. The foliage is almost tropical looking with reams of small dark green leaves which provide good contrast to the exotic looking flowers.

sophora microphylla sun king hilsop
Sun King producing bright yellow winter flowers over small dark green leaves
sophora microphylla yellow winter flowers
Sophora is one of the more exotic looking winter flowering plants you can grow in a British garden

Awarded an RHS merit this shrub can grow to 2.5m in 10-20 years but can be maintained at the required height. Sun King is quite hardy (rated H4 to -10°C) and is unlikely to suffer any damage in our comparatively mild British winters.

sophora microphylla close up flowers
A close up of sophora microphylla flowering
sophora microphylla established
An established Sophora growing unsupported up a wall

Coronilla valentina subsp. glauca 'Citrina'

There are a few varieties of Coronilla including a variegated leaf variety but the one you want for winter flowering is 'Citrina'. It flowers over winter and spring and I have found it starts producing the highly scented two tone yellow flowers from November onwards.

coronilla valentina subsp glauca september 2015
Coronilla valentina subsp. Glauca with its brighter yelow flowers
coronilla valentina subsp glauca citrina november 2014
coronilla valentina subsp. glauca citrina have paler yellow flowers

If you grow the standard variety Coronilla valentina subsp. Glauca alongside Citrana you will get a flowering period cover much of the year.

coronilla valentina subsp glauca citrina march 2016 flowers
Citrina flowers close up still flowering in March
coronilla valentina subsp glauca citrina march 2016
Coronilla produces a woody stem
coronilla valentina subsp glauca citrina march 2016 ladybird
Coronilla (bastard senna) does attract wildlife such as ladybirds

As a general rule anything that flowers in the colder months will benefit from a sunny sheltered spot, ideally south facing. The fragrance you get from Coronilla is at its best on a sunny day.

This plant is just as tough as Sophora Sun King being a hardy evergreen (rated H4 to -10) and enjoys much the same conditions. It shouldn't grow as tall only to about a metre in height but can be trimmed and shaped.

I find a modest trim encourages the plant to become more bushy and produce more flowers.

Mahonia

You are likely already familiar with Mahonia, particularly japonica, Mahonia x media Charity and Mahonia x media Winter Sun. These are a stalwart of council and amenity planting as they produce distinctive yellow winter flowers, are tough and low maintenance.

mahonia mature september
A mature mahonia makes an impressive plant
mahonia mature september flowering
Mahonia produces bright yellow flower spikes in winter
mahonia autumn colours
Mahonia x media can take on a plum red colour as the temperature drops and green up again in spring

Whilst these are great plants to have in your garden (mostly for their winter flower display) there are other less well known Mahonia that are worth investigating if you want something a little bit different.

If you want more distinctive and less spiky foliage then go for Mahonia eurybracteata and Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress' the latter having more of a tropical appearance.

Mahonia eurybracteata

mahonia eurybracteata narrow leaved
The narrow leaves of mahonia eurybracteata
mahonia-eurybracteata-leaflets
Close up you can see how much slimmer and less spikey the leaflets are compared to most Mahonia

Mahonia eurybracteata is a parent of the now well known 'Soft Caress'. It has slightly wider leaflets compared to the more delicate and feathery looking leaflets of its offspring.

It has a similar habit to its more famous offspring and reminds me a little of Heavenly Bamboo. You will have to visit an independent nursery to find this rare plant or seek it out online at somewhere like Grug Farm. I got mine from Colin at Swines Meadow Nursery.

Mahonia eurybracteata 'Soft Caress'

mahonia eurybracteata soft caress tropical jungle
'soft caress' can help create a tropical or jungle effect even in mid winter
mahonia eurybracteata soft caress side view
From more of a profile angle

Like it or not you have to admit that 'Soft Caress' is now probably the most popular of the Mahonias and for good reason. It is more compact, flowers quite impressively and as the name suggests has no spikes on the leaflets.

mahonia eurybracteata soft caress young plant
as a young plant, mahonia eurybracteata 'soft caress' won't grow as tall as other mahonia
mahonia eurybracteata soft caress leaflets
The only spike free mahonia

I have had good success with it and is ideal if you want a smaller Mahonia. It has the most tropical looking foliage (bar maybe oiwakensis when mature) if you want to add to that effect and is probably the most widely available.

Mahonia gracilipes

mahonia gracilipes mature
mahonia gracilipes when mature is quite distinctive
mahonia gracilipes leaf white underside
Even more distinctive is the white underside
mahonia gracilipes leaf
mahonia gracilipes has the typical mahonia leaf shape
mahonia gracilipes
The young plant growing in the garden

The most distinctive feature of M. gracilipes is the white colour of the underside of the leaflets. It makes quite a nice mature plant and so if you are looking for something a little unusual and quite rare in the UK then this makes a good alternative to the standard Mahonia x media.