Plants for a Winter Container Garden

Written by denise schoonhoven
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Plants for a Winter Container Garden
Grow hardy plants for an attractive winter container garden. (Frosted Holly image by Nobby from

Keep the beauty of your container garden going even when winter weather sets in. Hardy plants that thrive in the cold make a pretty scene on the patio, even if you only look at them through a window. Use rich, jewel-toned pots to create your winter container garden. The visual appeal lifts your spirits through inclement weather and grey, cold days.

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Ornamental Kale

A member of the cabbage family of plants, ornamental kale doesn't form a tight head. Instead, its full leaves remain loose in a cluster, creating an attractive mound shape. Known by the scientific name Brassica oleracea, the plant is also called flowering kale and ornamental cabbage, and grows in all USDA hardiness zones. Get your plants from the nursery in the autumn to place in containers filled with potting soil. As outdoor temperatures drop below 15.6 degrees C, the red, yellow and blue-grey tones of the leaves are enhanced. Choose from varieties with rounded, feather-shaped and fringe-edged leaves to create visual impact. Ornamental kale leaves may be cut off and used as garnish for your autumn and winter meals.

Lenten Rose

Lenten rose, the common name for Helleborus orientalis, blooms in the winter, adding a surprising element of soft colour to your container garden. Some varieties have glossy, elongated leaves with serrated edges that rise up from the soil, while others have bare stems with leaves near the top of the plant. Place your Lenten rose plants in deep containers to accommodate their root system. Use potting soil mixed with peat moss and compost, water routinely and add a layer of mulch around the base of the plant when cold weather sets in. All parts of Lenten rose are poisonous if ingested, so ensure this part of your winter container garden is not accessible to children.


Shiny clusters of red berries on branches covered with shiny green leaves make Ilex aquifolium, or English holly, a bright addition to winter container gardens. Ilex meserveae, or blue holly, has blue-grey tones that fit into a winter patio garden with a more formal design. Both types of holly are cold-tolerant, holding up in snowy conditions, although the foliage of blue holly may need to be trimmed if it gets leaf burn. Set your holly in large containers at the back of your container garden so that the prickly leaves don't scratch passersby. Add a touch of whimsy to your winter gardenscape by pruning holly into pyramid, globe or box shapes. Holly berries often attract wild birds, an added bonus to chase away wintertime blues.

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