Gardens

The best seasonal plants – and how to care for them – according to expert florist Nikki Tibbles

Florist to the stars – Nikki Tibbles – shares her favourite flowers for winter and beyond...

best seasonal plants
(Image credit: Future / Mel Yates)

Famed florist Nikki Tibbles talks to Homes & Gardens about the best seasonal plants for blooms throughout winter – into spring – and beyond. 

Nikki started Wild at Heart – her much-loved flower boutique –  in 1993. Now one of the most celebrated British luxury florists around, she’s known for her opulent, visionary and creative approach, while her sought-after style has earned her several accolades and an A-list following. 

'My favorite winter plants are heather and hellebores,' explains Nikki. 

'If you plant them and keep them inside over the festive period they will last way past Christmas and can be planted in your garden.' 

But what other seasonal plants and flowers does Nikki recommend? Read on to find out... and see more Christmas foliage ideas – decorating ideas with greenery – in our beautiful, inspiring guide.

1. Hellebores  

Best seasonal plants

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Garrett)

Blow away the January blues with these delectable perennials that flower from now until spring.   

Ideal for semi-shade, these honey-scented beauties are a beacon in winter, blooming through frost and snow.   

Grow them in borders, under trees, over banks, or in raised beds and containers, where you can appreciate their attractive foliage and rose-like flowers borne on upright stems. They’re bee-friendly too , and will self-seed freely, gifting you more plants for free. 

2. Snowdrops  

Best seasonal plants

(Image credit: Future / Adrian Briscoe)

There’s no need to visit a grand country estate to appreciate the beauty of snowdrops – you can create a head-turning display on your own plot.   

These diminutive flowers require so little space that they can be planted wherever there are gaps. They look stunning mixed with other large winter and early spring flowering bulbs, or when planted among trees, shrubs or evergreen grasses.   

Our love affair with snowdrops – known botanically as galanthus – dates to the middle part of the 19th century, when soldiers returning from the Crimean War brought home varieties indigenous to the Caucasus. Plant breeding of these and the common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis), a species that’s thought to have been introduced to our shores in the 1600s, has led to the introduction of around 300 different ones in the UK.  

To the uninitiated, one variety of snowdrop looks remarkably like another, but there are differences. Plants range in height from 4in (10cm) to relative whoppers of around 10in (27cm). 

3. Amaryllis 

Best seasonal plants

(Image credit: Future / Annaick Guitteny)

The beautiful showy blooms of hippeastrum (also known as amaryllis) look wonderfully festive in a simple, modern arrangement. Their rich colors and structured looks make a strong statement for the Christmas table.   

Alternatively, mix some branches of silver birch or pussy willow in among the flower stems for a more relaxed feel. Put in an early order from the florist if you want cut stems. Or grow the bulbs in pots of compost indoors from October to January.   

Position in a well-lit spot and water sparingly until the new leaves develop, them more regularly. The bigger the flowers the more the plant will need staking. 

4. Hyacinths 

Best seasonal plants

(Image credit: Future / Catherine Gratwicke)

Showy and fragrant, the jewel-like colors of hyacinths are a welcome sight during winter or spring. While hyacinths naturally flower in spring in the garden, specially treated indoor bulbs can be ‘forced’ to bloom in winter.   

Hyacinth flowers should last for around two to three weeks, so they’re ideal for Christmas and will carry on into the New Year. Plant successively and they’ll take you right through to spring.   

Hyacinths come in shades of red, pink, orange, salmon, yellow, purple, white and blue. The number of florets on the flower stalks will depend on the size of the bulb. The bulbs of large Dutch cultivars can produce 60 to 70 florets, so it’s worthwhile splashing your cash and buying big.   

Prepared hyacinths are given a short period of sub-zero temperatures to convince the bulbs that they have experiences winter, making them ready to be forced into flower. 

'Always keep indoor plants away from direct sunlight and not too close to the radiator,' advises Nikki Tibbles. 'They will like natural light but not direct sunlight. 

'Keep them moist but be careful not to over water them. A good tip is to cover the base with moss which helps to keep the moisture in. It looks quite earthy and festive too which I like.   

'When your plants are done flowering you can cut them back and keep the bulbs outside. '

5. Heather

Best seasonal plants

(Image credit: Future / Michelle Garrett)

Heather have long been a staple plant in gardens across the country, thanks to their variation in foliage, flower color and scent.   

Following a brief period of being considered by some gardeners as dated and unfashionable heather is now back in the spotlight once again.   

Early flowering heather is a wonderful addition to the garden on several levels. Heather are low-maintenance plants that need little in the way of hands-on care. However, they so need trimming after flowing to keep them in shape and encourage prolific flowering the following year.  

 If you don’t get round to pruning them don’t worry, it isn’t the end of the world, but you will see a difference if you do tidy them up.