Now is the perfect time to plan for winter interest in the garden. Curl up next to a window and survey your landscape. Take a walk on a beautiful winter day through your yard. Is there anything missing? Bare spots that you’d like to see filled?

Snow on hydrangea

Hydrangea. Photo by Benson Kua, Wikimedia Commons

Attention to garden design is not just for the summer months. There are many plants that provide winter interest, and now is the perfect time to plan for the winter landscape.

Red or yellow twig dogwood

Dogwood are great shrubs for screening and can handle a bit of shade. In winter, against a stark white backdrop of snow, red or yellow twig dogwood is impossible to miss and really adds interest to the winter landscape.


Ornamental grasses of varying heights and seed head types provide bright, golden hues against the snow, especially when the sun shines. Perhaps even more stunning, however, is when a gentle snow rests on the seed heads. Plant at least two or more types of ornamental grasses in clumps throughout the landscape for impact all year around.


Is there any season in which hydrangea don’t excel? If left throughout the winter, the large flower heads will gather snow and sway in the winter wind.


The long blooming flowers of yarrow are excellent performers in the summer garden, and the strong blooms can be left year-round to provide beauty throughout the winter as well.


Any kind of evergreen gathers snow and provides a welcoming landing spot for birds. Low-growing evergreens planted near a window allow for a chorus of chirps to be enjoyed on still, quiet days – even from inside the house!

Snow on coneflowers

Coneflower in the snow.

Black-eyed Susans and coneflowers

There are no better flowers to leave standing if you’d like to see the birds. These flowers provide sturdy landing zones and food for the birds, as well as entertainment for us humans!


Allow your rose bushes to form hips and you’ll have the option of leaving them for interesting color in the yard or cutting a few to add to spruce top pots and other winter arrangements. Pavement roses are particularly good for producing large hips that can be enjoyed all winter.

Remember, too, that besides the look of the plants themselves, it’s good to consider what function the plants perform year-round. Screening, bird nesting and landing places, bird food, and how a plant moves are all possible considerations for making the winter landscape interesting. When thinking about what to plant in your landscape that will be interesting in the winter, consider plants with these features:

  • Colorful berries or stems that stand out against the snow and “show up” even on dreary days.
  • Branch patterns of trees and shrubs. Even after the leaves are gone, the branches will provide viewing pleasure when covered with snow or frost.
  • Large flower or seed heads that will gather snow and attract wildlife.

Despite the cold and sometimes bitter winter weather of Minnesota, it really is possible to garden all year long – or at least prepare for planting and enjoy the results, even when the earth is frozen solid!