10 Best Plants for Winter Landscapes

Feb 25, 2022advice

David Beaulieu for The Spruce on the best plants for winter landscapes.

Ideas for Turning Yards Into Winter Scenes Worth Painting

After the weather cools down and colorful autumn leaves have fallen from the trees, the rest of your home’s landscape in winter can still keep thriving. Whether you live in an area with long, cold seasons or you’re simply sprucing up your outdoor space for the chillier months of the year, there are plenty of winter landscaping ideas to surround your home.

Conifer trees, evergreen shrubs, and more can add visual interest to winter scenes. An important factor to consider is height: The best plants for winter will be tall enough to stay visible during the average snowfall in your region. It’s also helpful to pick species that attract wildlife like birds to admire during winter and bring a lively feeling to your home when it’s cold outside.

Here are our 10 favorite plants for landscaping in winter to make your yard feel lush and vibrant no matter the temperature.

Characteristics to Look For

The best plants for your winter landscape depend on your hardiness zone and personal preferences. Choose species that are hardy to your region and have the visually appealing features you’re looking for. Here are a few characteristics to consider when deciding which varieties to plant at home:

  • Berries that attract birds
  • Sturdy branches to withstand snow
  • Attractive bark
  • Evergreen foliage

While conifer species are always an excellent choice, there are plenty of lesser-known plants for landscaping in cold weather that can upgrade your outdoor space. Browse ideas in our list of attractive winter plants below to choose the best options for your home.


When choosing plants to landscape your yard, opt for species that can aid each other’s growth—like various types of shrubs that increase pollination—and leave space between the plants for their roots to spread as they mature.

01of 10


Christmas Holly Shrub (Ilex opaca)

Evergreen holly (Ilex opaca) is popular due to its year-round, fast-growing foliage and bright berries that attract many bird species. Sprigs of cut holly have long been used in winter holiday decorations. Variants like China holly (Ilex meserveae) and compact inkberry holly (Ilex glabra ‘Compacta’) are hardy enough for far northern climates.

China holly is a rounded holly that can reach eight feet high and equally wide. This drought-tolerant variety is a great pick for regions with dry winters. Compact inkberry holly has dark green foliage resembling boxwood shrubs. Its berries are black rather than red, and it reaches a height of four to eight feet; its width is a bit less. You can also grow the similar Ilex glabra ‘Densa’.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9
  • Color Varieties: Dark green, yellow-green
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, part shade
  • Soil Needs: Acidic, moist but well-draining
  • Mature Size: 4 to 8 ft. tall, 15 to 30 ft. tall (depends on variety)
  • Deer Resistant: Yes
02of 10


Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Allemans’)

Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Allemans’) is another extremely hardy plant, thriving in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8. The May flowering of red osier dogwoods yields white blooms that are followed by white fruit. This species is an especially unique pick thanks to its bark, which ranges in color from red to burgundy.

Red osier dogwoods typically reach heights of six to 10 feet with a similar spread, and they may grow more than two feet per year. A patch of fiery red osier dogwood against a backdrop of fresh snow makes for an unforgettable winter scene.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
  • Color Varieties: Red, burgundy
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, tolerates part shade
  • Soil Needs: Acidic, moist
  • Mature Size: 6 to 10 ft. tall and wide
  • Deer Resistant: Yes
03of 10


Plume Grass (Erianthus ravennae)

When planning your winter landscape, an addition of tall perennial grass can create depth and visual interest among other plants. An ornamental grass with a stately, thin shaft and fluffy foliage exhibits a delicate structure that can lend a touch of charm to any winter landscape. Plume grass (Erianthus ravennae), which grows quickly up to 11 feet tall and 4 feet wide, is hardy as far north as zone 4. If you live in a warmer climate, it is also listed to thrive in temperatures as hot as zone 9.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9
  • Color Varieties: Beige, white, purple, orange
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Rich, moist but well-draining
  • Mature Size: 11 ft. tall, 4 ft. wide
  • Deer Resistant: Yes
04of 10


Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)

Grown between zones 3 through 7, bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) is a shrub with spreading growth that reaches 4 to 6 feet tall and equally wide (though they are slow to reach maturity). Its glossy, aromatic foliage complements its waxy, gray fruit. In fact, these unusual berries are widely used to scent candles—if you can get to the berries before the birds do, that is. It is also a drought-tolerant shrub. While birds are drawn to bayberry, this species is also a deer-resistant plant.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 7
  • Color Varieties: Green
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, part shade
  • Soil Needs: Slightly acidic, moist but well-draining
  • Mature Size: 4 to 6 ft. tall and wide
  • Deer Resistant: Yes
05of 10


Cranberry Bush Viburnum (Viburnum trilobum ‘Compactum’)

Compact American cranberry bush viburnum (Viburnum trilobum ‘Compactum’) yields large amounts of red berries that serve as a food source for birds in winter landscapes. A rounded shrub, this species bears white flowers in May and June that are followed by red fruit. As a bonus, the shrub offers foliage ranging from red to purple in the fall.

American cranberry bush viburnum is hardy to zone 2, and it reaches 4 to 5 feet high with a slightly smaller spread. This species typically grows between 1 and 2 feet per year.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 7
  • Color Varieties: Green, red, purple
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, part shade
  • Soil Needs: Acidic to neutral, moist but well-draining
  • Mature Size: 4 to 5 ft. tall and wide
  • Deer Resistant: No
06of 10


Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata)

Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) is a slow-growing, deciduous holly bush indigenous to wetlands in the eastern half of Canada and the U.S. The fruit of this bush is known for attracting birds, and its deciduous nature makes it an excellent candidate for landscaping in cold weather—since the plant loses its leaves in the fall, its winter berries are visible throughout the season (and a great backdrop for fresh snow).

As a deciduous shrub similar to bayberry and evergreen holly, it’s best to plant winterberry holly close to several other shrubs to increase the likelihood of pollination between plants.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9
  • Color Varieties: Dark green
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, part shade
  • Soil Needs: Acidic, moist
  • Mature Size: 3 to 5 ft. tall and wide
  • Deer Resistant: No
07of 10


Yew Shrubs (Taxus spp.)

Yew shrubs are commonly included in holiday traditions. These conifers are slow growers bearing evergreen needles and bright red berries that are sure to bring liveliness to your home’s outdoor space. Be sure to keep children and pets away from both the foliage and the berries of these plants, however, as the seeds and needles are toxic when ingested.1

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 10
  • Color Varieties: Dark green, blue, gold
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, part shade, shade
  • Soil Needs: Slightly acidic to neutral, moist but well-draining
  • Mature Size: 4 to 60 ft. tall, 4 to 20 ft. wide (depends on variety)
  • Deer Resistant: No
08of 10


Canadian Hemlock Trees (Tsuga canadenesis)

Canadian hemlock trees (Tsuga canadenesis) may not be your first thought when it comes to landscaping, but these tall trees—which can reach up to 70 feet tall in the wild—have been bred by plant developers to create cultivars that can be used as shrubs and hedges at home.

Shear this species to your desired height during their medium growth of one to two feet per year. Whether used in hedges or as standalone specimens in your yard, these evergreen conifers will help give your winter landscape some much-needed visual interest.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 7
  • Color Varieties: Brown, red
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil Needs: Acidic, moist
  • Mature Size: 70 ft. tall, 25 to 35 ft. wide
  • Deer Resistant: No
09of 10


Viking Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’)

Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’) provides foliage similar to American cranberry bush viburnum that ranges from red to purple in fall, making it a two-season standout. Like other plants that grow berries in winter, this species serves as emergency food for wild birds. These berries are astringent or otherwise unpalatable, which is why they stick around so late into the season—making them a last choice for birds, but a long-term visually appealing plant for landscaping.

Viking black chokeberry grows to maturity within five years and produces white flowers in May that yield purplish-black berry clusters. Like winterberry holly, this species tolerates poorly-drained soils, and it grows from 3 to 5 feet tall with a similar spread.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
  • Color Varieties: Dark green, red, purple
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun, part shade
  • Soil Needs: Acidic, well-draining
  • Mature Size: 3 to 5 ft. tall and wide
  • Deer Resistant: Yes
10of 10


Birch Trees (Betula spp.)

While birch trees lose their leaves in winter, variants of this species are popular choices for landscaping in cold weather thanks to their unique bark. Birch trees are fast growers that typically add between 1 and 2 feet of height per year. Young’s weeping birch (Betula pendula ‘Youngii’) grows in a similar pattern to weeping willow trees and can reach 10 feet tall and 15 feet wide.

Paper birch (Betula papyrifera) is known for its pale white bark that peels back to reveal darker sections underneath. It typically grows up to two feet per year and can reach 60 feet tall at maturity. Another popular pick, Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis) has golden bark that offers a pop of color in the winter months and can reach heights of 75 feet.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 2 to 7
  • Color Varieties: White, yellow, silver, black, reddish-brown
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Acidic, medium to moist, well-draining
  • Mature Size: 10 to 15 ft. tall and wide, 40 to 70 ft. tall, and 35 to 60 ft. wide (depends on variety)
  • Deer Resistant: No

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