Winter Blooms

If you think there’s no such thing as a winter-blooming plant, think again. Here are some stunners that lift spirits and ferry us into spring.

Snow drops are an early cure for winter blues

Galanthus elwesii bhagen
Photo/Illustration: Steve Silk
Galanthus nivalis
Photo/Illustration: Steve Silk

Snow drops ( Galanthus  spp., USDA Hardiness Zones 3-9) produce crisp white blossoms that hang pendent from arching stems. These brave little flowers have collected quite the following of galanthophiles for blooming when little else does. Plant them en masse in rich soil and keep them from drying out in summer for a breathtaking late-winter display.

Hellebores lend grace to the off-season

Helleborus odorus
Helleborus orientalis

Hellebores ( Helleborus spp., Zones 4-9), also known as lenten roses, are woodland perennials that produce long-lived blossoms at the tail-end of winter. These grand nodding flowers are best appreciated on a hill or slope where they can be seen and appreciated from below. There is no one ideal set of conditions for the group, so do your research when you plant your varieties.


Crocuses spring from the cold ground

Crocus vernus
Crocus sativus
Crocus speciocus

Is there anything more hopeful than a bunch of spring crocuses ( Crocus  spp., Zones 3-8) emerging in the winter landscape? The wide variety of these diminutive flowers offers lots of color and pattern, so you’d have to be very picky to not find a favorite. Plant them in drifts in fall; if you end up liking the look, consider planting some of their fall-blooming cousins ( Colchicum spp., Zones 4-9) in summer.

Which hazels provide dramatic winter scenes

‘Arnold Promise’
Photo/Illustration: Jennifer Benner
Photo/Illustration: Jennifer Benner

Ever the popular shrub for its winter blooms, witch hazels ( Hamamelis spp. and cvs., Zones 4-9) provide structure and color in the winter garden. All over its upward-reaching branches, small confetti-like blooms provide appear and sometimes even give off fragrance.

Winter heaths are fabulous in winter

Not only does winter heath ( Iris unguicularis, Zones 7-9) act as an effective groundcover, it puts out oodles of striking light purple to violet flowers in late winter and early spring.


Further reading

For these and other winter blooms, consult these articles:

The Season’s First Flowers by Mike Lee

Witch Hazels by Tim Brotzman

Fill Winter With Flowers by Nancy Goodwin

Hellebores Cure the Late-Winter Blues by David Culp

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