When the rest of garden is sleeping its way through winter, dogwood (Cornus), viburnum and redvein enkianthus still put on a good show, particularly with a coating of frost or snow. These winter flowering shrubs will bring some life and colour to your outside space.

Although these sleeping beauties may appear to be resting for the rest of the year, they add value during all four seasons, blooming early or producing colourful stems which bring the garden to life. All three are decorative, easy to care for, and strong ornamental shrubs year-round with a rich choice of sizes and colours available.


The best winter flowering shrubs for you…

So, how do winter flowering shrubs grow and how can we keep them looking their best? Thejoyofplants.co.uk, a consumer initiative of the Flower Council of Holland, offers the following tips:

1. Viburnum

Winter flowering shrubs
Viburnum davidii berries (Thinkstock/PA)

Viburnums come in all shapes and sizes, both deciduous and evergreen. Most are easy to grow and thrive in sun or semi-shade year-round.

Among the smaller types is the Viburnum davidii, an evergreen which grows up to 1.5m in height and spread, producing dull white flowers in May followed by metallic-looking blue-black berries which can last the winter on the coral-red stalks of female plants, against a backdrop of glossy green ribbed oval foliage.

Use it to provide ground cover and winter interest at the front of a border, in sun or partial shade.

Winter flowering shrubs
Viburnum tinus (Thinkstock/PA)

Other varieties include Viburnum tinus, the popular evergreen ‘snowball’ that flowers with white umbels (flower cluster) and later produces steel-blue berries, while Viburnum x burkwoodii and V. bodnantense are ‘naked flowering’, producing flowers late in winter and only making leaves then.

Viburnums are not fussy, growing in reasonably well-drained soil (they won’t tolerate very dry or very wet soil) with plenty of added organic matter. Pruning is not necessary. Just cut back old or damaged branches in late spring.

2. Redvein enkianthus

Winter flowering shrubs
Enkianthus campanulatus blossom(Thinkstock/PA)

This ornamental deciduous shrub, from the eastern Himalayas to Indochina, China and Japan, is part of the heather family, which also includes erica, calluna and rhododendron.

E. campanulatus, which grows up to 3m high, has bell-like flowers in white, pink and red, or a mixture of the three. The attractive layered growth of the red-coloured straight main branches is a feast for the eye. It’s renowned for its autumn colour and in early summer produces pendulous clusters of dainty, bell-shaped cream to pink flowers, while in autumn, the leaves turn sizzling shades of orange and red.

It thrives in shady, woodland spots and needs acid soil, so makes a great plant partner for rhododendrons and camellias.

3. Dogwood (Cornus)

Winter flowering shrubs
Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’ stems (Thinkstock/PA)

There’s little that fires up the winter garden more than a line of brightly coloured stems of dogwoods in shades varying from black and blood red, to acid yellow.

Cornus alba and C. sanguinea are particularly known for their winter look, with their bare coloured branches in red, yellow, orange or black. These types need to be hard-pruned each spring to produce new coloured stems the following winter – and choose C. alba ‘Sibirica’ for the brightest stems.

In the flowering group, Cornus mas produces masses of small yellow flowers in March, followed by red berries and colourful autumn foliage.

… and 5 tips on how to look after winter flowering shrubs

Winter flowering shrubs
Viburnums like sunshine (Thinkstock/PA)

1. Dogwood, viburnum and redvein enkianthus all prefer a spot in full sun, although they can also tolerate partial shade. Make sure they don’t get crowded out by other plants if they are competing for light.

2. Plant them deep so they can root well, and choose a spot where they have room to grow. They will appreciate lots of space around their roots and surrounding their leaves so they have plenty of space to grow year-roud.

3. Viburnum and redvein enkianthus prefer humus-rich, acidic soil that is not too dry, while dogwood is not picky about where it puts its roots.  

Tip: you can create your own humus-rich soil for your winter shrubs by adding compost to regular soil. It is full of nutrients and will help your plants grow and stay healthy.

4. All three appreciate some organic fertiliser once a year.

5. Viburnum and redvein enkianthus do not need pruning, while dogwood can be cut back in March.

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