13 Perennials That Will Add Winter Interest To Your Garden

By Hilary Rinaldi

Just because it is going to turn cold in a few months, doesnt mean your yard has to look dull or lifeless. Believe it or not, there are other plant options that you can use to make your yard and garden look great year round.

So instead of thinking about plants going dormant, its time to start planning and planting a few things that will stay colorful and look good while everything else is brown and leafless. Actually, anything that remains evergreen throughout the winter months may be considered a candidate for winter interest, but I chose some plants that flower, have great structure, or produce berries.

Nows the time to add some strong interest and color to your yard while there is still time to get everything planted, and established, before the really cold weather sets in.

I have included each plants ideal climate zone so you can get an idea of what will do well for you in your area. A brief list of zones is at the end of this article.

Many more than 13 perennials could have been listed here, but I wanted to touch on some that are not as widely used, so you can really liven up your garden!

1. Viola tricolor – Johnny Jump Up Zones 4 to10

Produces neat flowers with faces in shades of yellow, blue, violet, and white. Flowers in fall and often in winter. Self-seeds readily.

2. Rosa rugosa Rugosa Rose Zones 2 to 10

This is a large shrub that grows to 8 feet. Has good fall color. What makes this plant appealing for winter are the large tomato-like hips that are produced after it flowers. The hips are quite a feature and last all winter long.

3. Sedum Herbstfreude (Autumn Joy) Zones 5 to 10

This plant has fleshy leaves and grows to 24 in (60 cm). It has large heads of pink flowers that appear in the fall that eventually fade to copper color and then turn red. So dont cut them back until the spring to get the most interest from this plant.


4. Arum italicum Italian Arum Zones 7 to 10

Grows to 12 inches (30 cm). This is a tuberous perennial with broad arrow-shaped leaves that appear in the fall. The foliage dies back in the summer just as the berries appear, which to me, aren’t worth it. After the berries die, the foliage reappears, remains until the next summer and is lush and green all winter.

5. Acorus gramineus Sweet Flag Zones 3 to 11

Native to Japan, it has soft, curved leaves under 12 inches (30 cm) long and about inch (6 mm) wide. This plant is grown mainly for its foliage, which is sweet smelling. In the winter, it has beautiful texture and pleasing green, white and chartreuse colors.

6. Miscanthus sinensis Eulalia Zones 4 to 10

One of the most beautiful and least invasive ornamental grasses, it forms arching clumps up to 12 feet (3.5 m) Other varieties are smaller, but most have fine leaves that have color well into winter.

7. Rohdea japonica Lily of China Zones 7 to 10

During the winter months it forms clumps of deep green long leaves that are 8 -18 inches (20-45 cm) long. This plant has bright red berries during winter that contrast the dark green leaves very well.

8. Dianthus gratianopolitanus Cheddar Pink Zones 5 to 9

Has neat and tidy mounds of blue-gray, linear leaves that develop into broad mats that are 12 inches (30 cm) or more in width. The low-growing silvery foliage contrasts nicely with other perennials. Flowers will continue until a hard frost.

9. Veronica blue Speedwell Zones 3 to 9

Even with the temperatures as low as 9F and several snow days, this plant still has beautiful burgundy foliage and looks great in front of some dwarf pine shrubs.

10. Iberis sempervirens – Candytuft Zones 4 to 11

Good for rock gardens. Grows 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm) high with a spread of 18 to 24 inches (45 60 cm). Snowflake is very attractive with glossy, dark green leaves. Very frost hardy.

11. Helleborus Zones 6 to 9, others 3 to 9

This genus has tons of choices that are hardy in many climate zones. The Christmas Rose is popular for its mid-winter white flowers, often appearing in the snow. Others have flowers in shades of green, red, and purple. Awesome for winter interest, with its great foliage and flowers.

12. Erica carnea Winter Heath Zones 5 to 9

This is a low growing plant usually under 12 inches (30 cm) with very dense branches. Through most the winter and into early spring in has a great display of small urn-shaped flowers that are purple pink. There are many well known cultivars to choose from.

13. Liriope muscari and spicata Zones 6 to 10, and 4 to 10

A clump forming perennial with some cultivars having leaves so dark they are practically black. This is good to group with other plants for interest. Good for a ground cover or path edging.


1below – 50

2-50 to – 40

3- 40 to – 30

4- 30 to – 20

5- 20 to -10

6- 10 to 0

70 to 10

810 to 20

920 to 30

1030 to 40

11above 40

About the Author: Hilary Rinaldi is a professional landscaper with over 20 years gardening industry experience. She also is a professional public speaker and educator sharing gardening advice and tips to as many people as she can. For more gardening advice go to her website:




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