Plants for a purpose: winter containers

Mixed winter pot

An attractively planted container will bring colour and interest to your garden even in the depths of winter when all around is dormant, waiting for the spring. A winter container can be squeezed into almost any garden space, whether a small balcony or patio, or they can take pride of place on your doorstep. Here we share some of our favourite plants for containers, guaranteed to brighten up the darkest of days. Our choices include recommendations from the Gardeners’ World team and familiar faces from across the gardening industry.

Find more container ideas:

Container plants for winter scent
Colourful winter containers
Carol Klein’s favourite plants for winter containers

Skimmia japonica

Skimmias are an easy plant to grow, offering good structure and year- round interest

Chosen by Frances Tophill, Gardeners’ World presenter

Skimmia japonica – the female one. I love the bright, red berries on this shrub, and its glossy, green leaves. People usually go for the male plants, with pink spires of flowers, but for me the red berries are so cheerful and the stems are really lovely in Christmas wreathes.

Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis

Sarcococca hookeriana
The perfumed white flowers of Sarcococca hookeriana are followed by small blue-black berries

Chosen by Arit Anderson, Gardeners’ World presenter

Winter containers need to battle the cold and lower light levels. Sarcococca hookeriana var. humulis is great as a background foil for any combination with its glossy evergreen leaves giving good structure. With the bonus of a highly scented white flower, it is perfect for a pot near a back or front door.

You may also like:

Helleborus argutifolius

Corsican hellebore
A great choice for a shady spot, enjoy the long-lasting flowers of this hellebore throughout winter

Chosen by Ashley Edwards, Horatio’s Garden head gardener

Corsican hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius) is a hardy evergreen with leathery blue-grey leaves. It adds dramatic texture to your container, with lime green flowers held high above the foliage from late winter into spring.

Leucojum vernum var. vagneri

Leucojum have a lovely purity, are a wonderful source of nectar and pollen for bees. Alamy

Chosen by Chris Beardshaw, garden designer

Large pearl-white, pendant lampshade flowers, tipped with lime green on stout stems amongst rich strappy foliage are the selling points of this characterful winter-blooming plant. Often mistaken for snowdrops, leucojum are more bold, statuesque and solid in stature. Plant densely, with bergenia, under the canopy of the classy Ribes sanguineum ‘Albescens’ in a large container for an orchestrated winter blooming experience.

Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’

Juniperus 'Blue Star'
The new spring growth of Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ is a lovely powder blue

Chosen by Isabelle Palmer, The Balcony Gardener founder

Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ is a slow-growing, compact conifer that makes a perfect dwarf shrub for containers. The foliage has a silver-blue sheen and is perfect for a winter pot as a base of evergreen colour. Its form also adds wonderful shape to a container and can be grown in most aspects except full shade. It has a delicate scent that reminds me of this season and woodland walks.

Helleborus (Rodney Davey Marbled Group) ‘Anna’s Red’

Hellebore 'Anna's Red'
The crimson petals and dark red stems of ‘Anna’s Red’ give a striking contrast to its creamy stamens

Chosen by Emma Crawforth, horticultural editor

Hellebores are fantastic in winter pots as their foliage is bold and attractive, plus you get subtly beautiful flowers, which somehow tone in beautifully with other winter plants. Do go for a long-flowering one though, as a winter pot needs to provide interest over several months, when the garden is more bare than usual. I’ve chosen ‘Anna’s Red’, because not only does it produce masses of gorgeous crimson blooms over several months, it also has wonderfully marbled foliage, providing decoration even when there are no flowers. Our gardens tend to be more shady in winter than other months, and ‘Anna’s Red’ is perfectly happy not to see the sun.

Winter pansy

Winter pansy
Winter pansies will produce masses of cheerful blooms into early spring

Chosen by Jo Cloke, art editor

I always have winter pansies in my garden, they are my ‘smily faces’. I usually go for a purple and white combination and it’s great that they will last into spring, and sometimes into the summer, to grace the garden and make me feel happy!


Camellia sasanqua
The fragrant single blooms of Camellia sasanqua ‘Crimson King’ shine out against its dark leaves

Chosen by Catherine Mansley, digital editor

At a time of year when everything else feels drab and dull, camellias are an unexpected joy, with their big, bold flowers. I love varieties like Camellia sasanqua ‘Crimson King’, with bright magenta flowers in the depths of winter. They like ericaceous soil, so if, like me, your soil is too alkaline, grow them in a large pot of ericaceous compost.



Flower Seeds


Choosing the right fruit trees for your climate
How to harvest herbs: How and when to harvest homegrown herbs
what weed is it? putting names to pesky plants
Georgia’s Farming and Gardening Sector: Top 10 Easiest Veggies to Grow [Infographic]
15 Garden Trends To Avoid in 2024: Experts Warn Against These Outdated Designs
How To Overwinter Ollas For Years Of Use: Get More From Irrigation Pots
How To Grow An Indoor Lemon Tree
No-Till Cover Crops: How To Grow Healthier Soil Over Winter
Discover a garden fit for Royalty with your 2 for 1 Gardens card
How to plant and grow a sumac tree
How to care for a monkey mask plant (Monstera adansonii)
Win The Ultimate Decorating Bundle from Harris
I tried the Vertefarm Vertical Hydroponic Indoor Garden
Preparing Your Yard for Spring: Tips for Safe and Efficient Lawn Equipment Use
Quick Tip: Save Your Seeds
Quick Tip: Plant Where You Can Easily Water
Top 6 Struggles of Growing Herbs Indoors (w/ solutions)!!!??? // Garden Answer
Top 5 Beginner Tips For Apartment Gardeners Aja Dang Epic
How To Grow Tomatoes Indoors
How To Care For Indoor Plants + GREENIFY YOUR SPACE
How to Grow Vegetable Seedlings
Try it now | How to grow Bean Sprouts in the fastest and easiest
Try it now | How to grow Bean Sprouts in the fastest and easiest
Biggest & Thickest Buds on Cannabis using This Organic Hardener & Sugars
Biggest & Thickest Buds on Cannabis using This Organic Hardener & Sugars