Q • I have plants in my yard that provide great color from spring through fall, but it looks rather bleak in the winter. What plants can help add winter interest to my yard?
A • So much of what we plant in our yards revolves around attributes that are visible while plants are actively growing from spring through fall. However, it’s also worthwhile to consider how things will look in the winter months.
Evergreens seem an obvious choice for providing winter interest, but some struggle with the hot, humid summers here in St. Louis. A few that fare better in our area include boxwoods (Buxus sp.) and the Missouri natives eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) and American holly (Ilex opaca). Female hollies, when grown with appropriate male hollies, also provide winter interest via their colorful fruit, which can be left in the garden for visual interest and to attract birds and wildlife, or be trimmed and used in indoor arrangements.
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Other plants with colorful fruit lasting into winter include crabapples (Malus sp.), winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata), chokeberry (Aronia spp.), and the Missouri native coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus).
Native ornamental grasses like switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), and northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) can add soothing sound and texture to the winter landscape, and often provide food and shelter for wildlife.
Another class of plants to consider are those with uniquely colored or textured bark. Paperbark maple (Acer griseum), river birch (Betula nigra), bloodtwig dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) and seven-son flower (Heptacodium miconioides) can introduce distinctive color and texture to the yard.
Finally, consider witch hazel (Hamamelis spp.), a plant that provides its floral display during the winter months. When making new additions to your landscape, make sure you select the “right plant for the right place” to ensure your plants have the best chance to survive. For more plant ideas and information, try using the Kemper Center for Home Gardening’s Plant Finder tool on the Missouri Botanical Garden’s website: missouribotanicalgarden.org/plantfinder/plantfindersearch.aspx
Write to the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Center for Home Gardening at [email protected] or the Horticulture Answer Service, 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63110.