Winter Landscaping Tips for the Colder Months

Winter landscaping offers a wealth of benefits. By giving your yard some love during the winter months, you give your plants the best chance to thrive come spring.

It takes a truly motivated homeowner to take on landscaping projects during the cold winter months. But winter landscaping has a great return on investment for those willing to put in the extra effort. Keep in mind there are real opportunities to maintain an attractive outdoor space through even the most dismal months of the season.

Check out some of the helpful hints we’ve put together to turn your yard into a winter wonderland. They will certainly keep you busy until the springtime thaw!

Use Winter Landscape Plants

Use winter landscape plants to provide a spot of color in an otherwise drab and cold winter wasteland.

Winter landscape plants help convert your outdoor space into a cold weather refuse. These hardy four-season plants provide wildlife with an important lifeline, offering shelter and a source of food during the lean, cold winter months.

Of course, winter landscaping has its own particular set of risks. For example, it is important to be mindful of the type of de-icing salt you use near plants during winter storms. Although slightly more expensive, experts recommend calcium chloride salt over common road salt because it doesn’t harm plants.

Check out our list of winter landscaping ideas to take advantage of this important time of year and consider incorporating some of the plants listed below into your next landscaping project.

Evergreens

Evergreens are a natural contender for any list of winter landscape plants for obvious reasons. The foliage of evergreens last throughout the winter, giving you a pop of green — or yellow, or blue — in a landscape that features dull monotonous grays and browns, or under a blanket of freshly fallen white snow.

There are many types of evergreens you can utilize to ‘spruce’ up your yard. While some of the largest trees on Earth are considered evergreens — including the mighty redwood and sequoia — there are many species that offer dwarf varieties for gardeners utilizing smaller urban spaces.

Pine: Pine trees are what comes to mind when most people think of coniferous evergreen trees. Their needle-like leaves stay green throughout their year, and their cones offer wintertime decorative inspiration. 

Consider: White Pine, Eastern White Pine, Weeping White Pine, Japanese White Pine, Contorted White Pine, Scotch Pine, Bristlecone Pine, Vanderwolf Pine, Japanese Umbrella Pine, Mugo Pine.

Cedar and Juniper: In addition to looking great, cedar wood also has a distinctly pleasant aroma. Cedar and juniper trees and shrubs come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. In addition to year-round foliage, many species offer edible berries for wildlife.

Consider: Deodara, Eastern Red Cedar, Atlantic White Cedar, California Incense Cedar, Blue Atlas, Weeping Blue Atlas, Blue Star Juniper.

Fir: Fir trees, along with pine and spruce, are known for their conical ‘Christmas tree’ shape. Few things can beat the look of natural fir trees under a blanket of fresh snow. Use them to add timeless wintertime beauty to your landscape.

Consider: Balsam Fir, Silver Korean Fir, Golden Korean Fir, Canaan Fir, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Grand Fir, Noble Fir, Nordmann Fir.

Cyprus: Because of their rapid growth rate, hardiness and thick branches, cypress trees are a favorite for landscapers. The dense, trimmable branches of some taller species offer privacy, making them ideal for planting along property lines or roadways.

Consider: Leyland Cypress, Hinoki Cypress, Bald Cypress, Arizona Cypress, Monterey Cypress, Gowen Cypress, King’s Gold Cypress, Gold Mop Cypress, Boulevard Cypress.

Spruce: Another ‘Christmas tree’ favorite, spruce trees also hold their needle-like leaves all winter. While most can grow to be very tall, there are many dwarf varieties that fit a wide range of landscaping needs.

Consider: Blue Spruce, Serbian Spruce, Norway Spruce, Dwarf Blue Spruce, Dwarf Alberta Spruce, Meyer Spruce, Oriental Spruce.

Perennials

Perennials can add all-year merriment to any outdoor space.

By definition, perennials return year after year, which allows you to see the plants move from phase to phase along with the seasons. Perennials are vibrant and thrive in the cold, with many species offering winter berries that attract songbirds and other wildlife.

Plus, once you’ve made it through the winter, these plants will reblossom in the springtime.

Consider: Dogwoods, Hellebores, Pansies, Dianthus, Vibranium, Ornamental Grasses, e.g. Plume Grass.

Bushes and Shrubs

Hardy bushes and shrubs are perfect winter landscaping plants.

Many keep their foliage throughout all four seasons. So trim them in the fall and take advantage of their low-maintenance beauty throughout the winter.

Many bushes and shrubs offer bright, colorful winter berries and their dense growth is perfect cover for winter wildlife. Shrubs often have stunning wintertime bark in a variety of shades that offer texture and color to your winter space. 

Evergreen bushes, shrubs and hollies also offer beautiful ornamentation for the holiday season. Use their branches, cones and fruit to enhance your indoor spaces with traditional holiday decor and beautiful wintertime floral arrangements. 

Consider: Bayberry, Boxwood, Baltic Ivy, Red Twig Dogwood, Winter Heather, Corkscrew Hazel, Yew Shrubs, Boxleaf Euonymus, Cranberrybush Viburnum, Winterberry Hollies, Viking Black Chokeberry. 

Prune and Thin Your Trees in the Fall

As the weather turns at the end of fall and beginning of winter, it’s the perfect time to show your trees some love so they can thrive come springtime. Well-manicured trees and shrubs give pleasant lines to your outdoor space and will help your yard sparkle under a blanket of white snow.

Once leaves fall, take the opportunity to trim and prune dead and dying branches, as well as clumps of branches that are growing too close. Winter is a perilous time when it comes to the dangers of falling branches. Ice-encompassed branches can become brittle, and when they get covered with piles of dense snow, they are liable to snap. Ensure the branches your trees take into the winter period are strong and healthy to prevent damage during the cold season.

Enhance and Emphasize Your Hardscape

Hardscaping is a term that describes the non-organic pieces of your outdoor space and can include items like a brick or stone patio, wooden gazebo, retaining walls or outdoor deck that enhance your yard. Use the wintertime to reinforce, enhance and construct hardscape elements so you’re ready to enjoy them in the warm-weather months.

When branches are bare and perennials dormant, it is a great time to take stock of your space and consider any improvements that can be made before the ground freezes. Use this opportunity to power wash, patch or repair equipment during any breaks in the weather. 

Use Holiday Decorations

It’s amazing what a little ribbon can do.

For plant enthusiasts, the winter can be a difficult time of year. Planter pots and beds can look sad and empty. Sometimes it seems like a year’s worth of hard work and bounty disappears with the first frost.  

So take advantage of holiday decor to turn some unused accessories into show pieces. Wrap bows around your pots, run tinsel up your feeding posts and add lights and ornaments to outdoor bushes, evergreen trees and fences. You can even turn conical firs, cypress, spruce and pine trees into outdoor Christmas trees by adding bulbs and ribbon — just be sure to use materials that are wildlife safe and to collect decorations in the new year.

The holiday season is a great time to inject a little pizzazz into an otherwise bleak landscape. Extend your interior decorations into your front and back yard in order to take your holiday theme to the next level.

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