5 Shrubs with Great Winter Interest

Planning for winter interest is not a regular as it should be with landscape designers. Here in the Great Plains, we need to think more about 4 season interest, with our long winters (3 months). Gardeners especially begin to get cabin fever around mid-January, longing for the first greens of spring and the first flowers of March. By incorporating more winter interest, we can lessen the effects of cabin fever. Let us look at 5 shrubs that can help do that. 

Hydrangea ‘Limelight’ flower heads hold the snow up

Hydrangeas are a very common element in the garden, not only useful for cutting gardens and large, showy flowers, the flower heads are a bright addition to the winter landscape. When snow settles on the garden, the mop heads of Hydrangea paniculata and arborescens seem to hold the snow in midair until the next meltdown. In massing, hydrangeas hold their stems above the snow. 

Smooth sumac has bright red berries

Sumacs are not used very often in the garden, unless it is the popular ‘Tiger Eyes’ staghorn sumac as a focal point. They are well-suited for back of the border, or massing along a shrub row. Sumacs have bright red berries that are not often favored by birds, unless it is a heavy snowfall winter. The stems too take on a reddish cast in the snow. 

This weeping pussy willow sets its flower buds in autumn ad persists through winter

Pussy willows can be very graceful plants in the landscape, but they can use a lot of room too. These suckering shrubs put on their next year’s flower buds months before opening, and are very showy. They are as soft as they look, and become even more fetching when they begin to bloom in early spring. 

Red Twig Dogwood winter stems

Dogwoods are favored for their red and yellow winter stems. The silky dogwood (cultivar ‘Cayenne’), is well suited to back of the shrub border or near a wet spot in the yard. They begin to put on their winter colors in fall and are often the brightest of the red stemmed dogwoods. I use them for all my floral arrangements in December. 

Beautyberry has wonderfully purple berries in winter

Beautyberry has wonderful arching stems and bright purple berries that dry and persist into winter. Though often eaten by birds, they occasionally last through the months of January and February. On newer cultivars, berry production is heavy. Plant these in shady spots or full sun, in the middle of the bed.


Happy planting! 

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