Garden Photo of the Day

Unusual Plants for Winter Interest

A plant nerd’s choices for winter color

My name is Andy Schenck, and I am a self-professed plant nerd, having worked in the horticulture industry since graduating from the University of Delaware many years ago. As the owner of a local wholesale nursery in Malvern, Pennsylvania (Zone 6b), I pride myself on introducing new plants to my customers. I often try plant introductions in my own garden, where I can see firsthand how they perform. I’m sharing photos of plants from my garden that look particularly nice right now and are great selections for winter interest.

Ilex Solar FlareHollies are always tops for winter interest, but how about a variegated one? Pretty stunning! This is Ilex ‘Solar Flare’ (Zones 6–9).

Hamamelis SunburstHamamelis ‘Sunburst’ (‘Sunburst’ witch hazel, Zones 5–8) unfurls its yellow winter blossoms against the backdrop of the bark of Pinus taeda (loblolly pine, Zones 6–9).

Conifer with yellow needlesThis beautiful conifer—Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Korean Gold’ (Zones 6–9)—has a narrow, upright form and new growth flushed golden yellow.

evergreen foliageThis mix of evergreen foliage is from a seed-grown Aucuba japonica (Zones 6–10) and a Cephalotaxus sinensis (Zones 6–10).

Illicium floridanum Forest MirageIllicium floridanum ‘Forest Mirage’ (Zones 6–10) is a variegated version of an evergreen shrub or small tree native to southeastern North America.

heavenly bamboo berriesThe bright red berries of Nandina domestica (heavenly bamboo, Zones 6–11)

Flower buds of Cornus angustataFlower buds of Cornus angustata ‘Elsbry’ (Zones 6–9, also marketed under the name Empress of China®). Most gardeners are familiar with deciduous dogwoods, but this is an evergreen species, with abundant showy white blooms in the spring and evergreen foliage all year.

Winter cyclamenThis hardy winter cyclamen (Cyclamen coum, Zones 4–8) has beautifully patterned leaves all winter. Then in late winter or early spring, it puts out showy pink or white blooms.

Berries on Rohdea japonicaRohdea japonica (Zones 6–10), an extremely durable evergreen perennial for shade, is grown mostly for its glossy green leaves, but the red berries are a nice bonus.

variegated Hiba arbovitaeThujopsis dolabrata ‘Variegata’ (variegated Hiba arbovitae, Zones 5–8) has evergreen branches irregularly marked with white.


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View Comments


  1. Rebeccazone7 02/03/2021

    Witch hazel has been on my list for a long time. We have a fairly local nursery that offers several different species, but the picture you have is soooo gorgeous. Impressive pictures of ways and what to plant for winter interest.

  2. Sunrosa 02/03/2021

    Lovely plants Andy! How gorgeous must your garden be in the barreness of winter! Please share your yard pics in the Spring and Summer as well. Thank you for giving me some ideas for winter interest here in 8a ( North East Texas).

  3. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 02/03/2021

    Nice to see some familiar faces amongst your selection Andy. We happen to be growing quite a few of the same items. I'd show you, but right now everything is buried under a couple feet of snow. :)

  4. User avater
    treasuresmom 02/03/2021

    Oh my word, Andy!! I wish I was not so far away from you -- would love to visit your nursery!!!

  5. alicefleurkens 02/03/2021

    Andy. Are these pictures from now? some of these I dont think will grow in Southwestern Ontario, I could only wish. Are you a relative of Hollands most famous long distance skater .

  6. User avater
    cynthia2020 02/03/2021

    Hi, Andy. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and photos with us. I am especially interested in the Cornus angustata ‘Elsbry’ and the Hamamelis ‘Sunburst’.
    In the zone 7b neighborhood where I live the Ilex, Aucuba, and especially the Nandina are noticeable in gardens right now.

  7. User avater
    simplesue 02/03/2021

    I'm on the other side of Pennsylvania which is a world away...darn...I like your plant choices and would have checked out your nursery if only closer.
    I'm so impressed that you grew the Aucuba Japonica from a SEED! I'm growing them too but from stem cuttings.
    Love that Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Korean Gold’ !!!

  8. btucker9675 02/03/2021

    Wonderful variegated foliage and the beautiful red berries! I've made a list from these that I'll definitely want to try. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!

  9. user-5117752 02/03/2021

    Simply marvelous pictures and ideas for winter interest. I particularly love the idea of an evergreen dogwood. Yes, thank you for sharing your expert knowledge with us!

  10. Maggieat11 02/03/2021

    Love your selections! Wish I could grow them....I'm zone 5.😕🍃

  11. Musette1 02/04/2021

    Andy - thank you so much for sharing these gorgeous options for Winter interest! I'm zone 5b (which I ooch to a 6 microclime) so most of your beauties are borderline for me - but that doesn't take away from the enjoyment of seeing them here!

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