Winter-flowering shrubs to plant in fall – 10 bright and beautiful choices for the colder months

Update your winter garden by planting these pretty picks now

winter flowering shrubs
(Image credit: (From left to right) Jane Tregelles / Alamy Stock Photo – Nick Kurzenko / Alamy Stock Photo – John Richmond / Alamy Stock Photo)

The colder months are generally a quieter time in our backyards, with glorious summer blooms and vibrant fall leaves long gone. However, there are some beautiful flowering shrubs that lift the spirits by bringing pops of color to the landscape.

If you're looking to create a more eye-catching winter garden – this year and beyond – fall is the perfect time to add these plants to your yard. This allows them to establish their roots before the ground freezes. Just remember to check that they are well-suited to your particular region's conditions to ensure their success, advises landscape designer Ward Dilmore.

Ward Dilmore
Ward Dilmore

Ward Dilmore is a landscape designer and Founder of Petrus Landscape, redefining outdoor spaces in the Bay Area, California. With an unconventional blend of horticulture expertise and international relations background, Ward brings youthful innovation and sustainable creativity to his designs. Ward's commitment to merging beauty with eco-conscious practices marks him as a dynamic artist in the industry, carving a path of bold, fresh perspectives in the world of landscaping.

10 winter-flowering shrubs for your garden

Consider planting these shrubs as part of your fall gardening to-do list.

1. Forsythia


Forsythia delights with its vibrant blooms

(Image credit: Stephen French / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Height: 2-10ft
  • Width: 3-10ft
  • Hardiness: USDA 4-8
  • Best for: Bright yellow flowers

'Forsythia is known for its vibrant yellow flowers that appear in late winter or early spring,' says Ward. It's a surefire way to brighten the garden during the months when there's not much else to admire.

It's an easy-care, fast-growing shrub, with various-sized cultivars available to suit all types of spaces. Forsythia x 'Meadowlark', available from Nature Hills, for instance, grows to around 10ft tall, making an effective privacy hedge. For something smaller, try forsythia 'Courtasol', also from Nature Hills – an attractive container plant. 

Plant them somewhere sunny for the best blooming display.

2. Loropetalum

Loropetalum in flower

Loropetalum flowers have ribbon-like petals

(Image credit: Cynthia Lee / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Height: 1-15ft
  • Width: 3-6ft
  • Hardiness: USDA 7-9
  • Best for: Evergreen beauty

'Loropetalum shrubs have colorful foliage and produce small, spiky flowers in shades of pink or white,' says Ward. They are well-suited to warmer regions, such as California.

Also known as Chinese fringe flower, these shrubs are compact or large, depending on the cultivar. They are evergreen, and drought-tolerant once established. Plant them in full sun or partial shade and slightly acidic, well-draining soil for the best results.

Loropetalum chinense 'Irodori', from Fast Growing Trees, is a particularly attractive variety due to its variegated leaves.

3. Witch hazel

flowering witch hazel in the snow

Add a spicy scent to your winter garden with these shrubs

(Image credit: Jacky Parker Photography / Moment / Getty Images)
  • Height: 6-20ft
  • Width: 8-20ft
  • Hardiness: USDA 4-8
  • Best for: Easy-care color

A list of winter-flowering shrubs wouldn't be complete without witch hazel, recommended by both Ward and Lindsey Chastain, the Owner of The Waddle and Cluck blog. 

Their flowers have strappy petals in tones of coppery red or yellow, and a pleasing scent. 'Diane' witch hazel, from Fast Growing Trees, is striking with its bright red blooms.

They tolerate partial shade to full sun and are low maintenance, says Lindsey. 'Prune them in spring after flowering.'

Lindsey Chastain
Lindsey Chastain

Lindsey started gardening in 2005, when her first son was born, as a way to save money. It started with a small window herb garden, then expanded to potted vegetables, and now, she and her husband can regularly be spotted in the garden on their homestead.

4. Oleaster

Elaeagnus x ebbingei in flower

These evergreens look beautiful all year

(Image credit: John Richmond / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Height: 8-10ft
  • Width: 8-10ft
  • Hardiness: USDA 7-9
  • Best for: Hedging plant

Elaeagnus x ebbingei, commonly referred to as oleaster, is an evergreen hedging plant with silvery-green leaves. 

Opt for 'Gilt Edge' for its attractive variegation. It has 
tiny white flowers throughout fall and winter which fill the air with fruity sweetness, highlights gardening expert John Negus.

These fast-growing shrubs offer multi-seasonal interest to the garden, as in spring, oleasters produce vivid orange berries. They are very easy to look after and adapt to many environments (including coastal backyards), but won't tolerate soil that's overly wet.

John Negus
John Negus

John has been a garden journalist for over 50 years and regularly answers readers' questions in Amateur Gardening magazine. He has also written four books and has delivered many talks over the years on horticulture.

5. Winter jasmine

winter jasmine

Although not as fragrant as summer jasmine, the winter variety offers bold color

(Image credit: Iuliia Serova / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images)
  • Height: 4-15ft
  • Width: 3-6ft
  • Hardiness: USDA 6-10
  • Best for: Climbing vines

'Winter jasmine is a hardy, drought-tolerant shrub that produces bright yellow flowers in late winter,' says Ward. 'It's well-suited for sunny locations.'

If you give it support, it will climb upwards with its vining stems. But, it also can be planted in pots or as a landscaping shrub.

Pruning should be done after it's finished flowering to control its size and shape, advises Lindsey.

6. Flowering quince

flowering quince

Flowering quince shrubs can be used to make an informal hedge

(Image credit: Kseniya Starkova / Moment / Getty Images)
  • Height: 3-10ft
  • Width: 3-10ft
  • Hardiness: USDA 4-8
  • Best for: Cut flowers

Flowering quinces (chaenomeles) are deciduous shrubs with spiny stems and eye-catching red flowers in late winter. They are often used as attractive, informal hedging plants. And, the cut stems can be used to brighten interiors during the colder months – they look gorgeous in a vase.

These shrubs are unfussy about soil type, but like a good amount of sunshine. 

Chaenomeles speciosa 'Scarlet Storm', from Nature Hills, is a particularly striking cultivar with double, crimson-red blooms. And, unlike the traditional varieties, it's thornless.

7. Mahonia

mahonia in flower

Mahonias are tough plants with sweetly-scented flowers

(Image credit: Jane Tregelles / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Height: 1-8ft
  • Width: 3-6ft
  • Hardiness: USDA 5-9
  • Best for: Large, easy-care shrubs

Mahonias are well-suited to both coastal and inland west coast regions, says Ward, adding that they perform well in the shade. They offer clusters of vibrant, yellow flowers with a delicate, lily-of-the-valley-like scent and spiky, evergreen leaves.

Note that some varieties flower in spring or fall, so double-check before you buy if you're specifically looking for winter blooms. Give them plenty of space to grow and remember to mulch them to help them flourish.

8. Camellia

Camellia sasanqua 'Shishigashira' in flower

Camellia sasanqua 'Shishi Gashira' dazzles in the garden

(Image credit: Nick Kurzenko / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Height: 4-15ft
  • Spread: 6-10ft
  • Hardiness: USDA 7-10
  • Best for: Large flowers

If you live somewhere with milder winters, you can enjoy the early and impressive blooms of some camellia cultivars.

Autumn Hilliard-Knapp of Perfect Plants Nursery recommends the 'Shishi Gashira' variety. 'This plant has glossy dark green leaves and beautiful hot pink round flowers with a golden center that make for a stunning cutting for a vase,' she says. It has a long bloom time, she adds: from January to March.

'Make sure it's located in an area that receives full sun or partial shade and has acidic, well-draining soil,' Autumn continues. Newly planted camellias require regular watering until their root system is established, she adds. 'If you want to help retain moisture, mulching the plant with a 2in layer of organic material, like pine bark or compost, is always a good idea.'

Camellia sasanqua 'Yuletide', from Nature Hills, is another winter-flowering option, offering bright red blooms with yellow centers.

Autumn Hilliard-Knapp
Autumn Hilliard-Knapp

Autumn is a horticulture specialist and marketing professional at Perfect Plants Nursery. With four years of experience in the horticulture industry, she has developed a passion for helping people create beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces to enjoy. Her expertise in horticulture encompasses a broad range of activities, including plant care and selection, landscape design, and maintenance.

9. Daphne

daphne in flower

Daphnes are well-loved for their fragrance

(Image credit: Photos from Japan, Asia and othe of the world / Moment / Getty Images)
  • Height: 3-4ft
  • Width: 2-4ft
  • Hardiness: USDA 4-9
  • Best for: Intense fragrance

Daphne (Daphne spp.) is a winter-blooming shrub with a compact habit suitable for smaller yards, says Janet Loughrey of Garden Design. 'Intensely fragrant clusters of flowers that occur in late winter and early spring can perfume an entire yard on warmer sunny days.

'This broadleaf evergreen or deciduous shrub is deer-resistant, needs little pruning, and is virtually carefree once established,' she continues. 'Plant early in the fall to allow roots to establish and provide winter protection for first-year plants.' A sunny or partially-shaded site is best, with good drainage.

'Provide regular water during the first year of growth and mulch plants around the base to suppress weeds and retain moisture,' Janet adds. 'Apply a time-release all-purpose fertilizer in spring.'

John recommends Daphne odora 'Aureo-marginata', which has variegated leaves. 'The only downside is that it isn't fully hardy, which might be a problem in colder and more exposed areas,' he says, but adds that it should be fine if the position is sheltered and not in a frost pocket.

Janet Loughrey
Janet Loughrey

Janet Loughrey has been a full-time garden photographer and writer for 25 years. She lives and gardens in Portland, Oregon. Previously, Janet gardened in the Adirondack region of upstate New York where she grew up. Experiencing different climates has given Janet a greater appreciation of the gardening challenges they present. In her own personal garden, Janet tends to an eclectic mix of roses, shrubs, perennials and bulbs. Her most recent passion is growing annual flowers in containers from seed.

10. Sweet box

sweet box in flower

Sweet box is a structural, evergreen shrub

(Image credit: John Richmond / Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Height: 2-5ft
  • Width: 1-4ft
  • Hardiness: USDA 6-9 (depending on variety)
  • Best for: Shaded areas

Sarcococca, otherwise known as sweet box, is an evergreen shrub with delicate, creamy-white flowers in late winter that emit a pleasing smell. These are followed by berries.

'Sarcococcas are happy in all soil types,' says John. 'The structure can be loam, clay, chalky or sandy and the pH can be alkali, acidic or neutral. Using loam-based ericaceous compost is absolutely fine, 
as would be using ordinary loam-based compost.'

Popular species include S. confusa, S. hookeriania 
var. digyna, S. orientalis, 
S. ruscifolia, and S. saligna. 'All are hardy apart from S. saligna, which needs protection in a cold garden,' John says. 'No regular pruning is needed apart from shortening frosted and dying shoots to live buds in late spring.'


What are the best winter-flowering shrubs for containers?

There are lots of pretty winter plants for pots, but if you are specifically looking for flowering shrubs, try camellia or winter jasmine. Skimmia japonica is another option – although it isn't in full flower during winter, the colorful clusters of buds are eye-catching.

What are the best winter-flowering shrubs for shade?

Witch hazel, camellia, and sweet box will grow happily in shade. Combine them with hellebores and snowdrops for even more pretty blooms.

As Ward Dilmore points out, soil preparation, watering, and care are essential for plants' health and longevity. If you plant your shrubs properly and look after them well, you'll be rewarded with their winter display year after year.

Holly Crossley
Contributing Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then; over the years, she's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator. Having worked for for two years, Holly now regularly writes about plants and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.