Colourful Foliage Plants For Winter Gardens

November is the first winter month when the light levels are lower and there’s a general sad feeling that the bright colours of summer in the garden have come to an end for another year. Gardens though need not be gloomy. Brightly coloured winter evergreens will light up our borders and tubs and there is a vast array to choose from. Here are a few proven old favourites and some interesting new introductions.


Let’s start with some suggestions to grow in a mixed border or as feature and focal plants.


Abelia Gold Jewel is an attractive compact semi evergreen shrub with pure golden foliage that fades to a deep copper colour as the plant ages and goes through the winter months. The trumpet flowers are pink and white and scented from June until late autumn. Plant in moist well drained soil in sun or partial shade.


Escallonia Gold Brian is a bushy, compact, evergreen shrub with bright yellow scented new foliage that turns burnished gold and holds this colour throughout winter. The bell shaped rosy red flowers appear during the summer months.


One of the brightest yellow variegated evergreen shrubs in winter is good old “Golden Privet” a much undervalued plant possibly due to the “suburban clipped front garden hedge” of the 1930’s. The foliage positively shouts out I am here on a dull November day.  Euonymus Silver Queen which holds the Royal Horticultural Society's prestigious Award of Garden Merit. It is a versatile evergreen shrub with dark green leaves and pretty pink white margins. Inconspicuous pale green flowers appear in summer, sometimes followed by pale pink fruits.


Skimmia Japonica Perosa is a compact, rounded evergreen shrub which produces grey green leaves with creamy yellow margins. The dense clusters of red to pink buds are held all winter above the leaves giving a good splash of colour before opening to small star shaped white flowers in spring. This is a male variety of Skimmia which will pollinate varieties like Skimmia Reevesiana or Skimmia Nymans to produce bright red berries that hold on the plant for at least six months. It grows well in shady places.


Euphorbia Ascot Moonbeam is an upright, bushy, evergreen perennial with shoots bearing dense whorls of light grey green leaves with creamy white margins and from spring into summer. The small pale yellow flowers are surrounded by large, pale yellow bracts. It associates well near the front of the border with red Heucheras and silver Brunnera requiring no maintenance.


Fatsia Japonica Spiders Web is a new Fatsia grown for its handsome foliage which looks as though it has been dusted with icing sugar.  It makes a wonderful specimen particularly when planted near white flowering plants like Hydrangea Annabelle that complement the leaf variegations. It is also good in a patio container. It can be used to help add light and colour to areas of lightly dappled shade and in winter adds another feature to the garden. It grows well in moist well drained soil and benefits from some winter protection.


Senecio Angel Wings is a striking perennial plant that has been achieved lots of awards. Its large, silvery white leaves have a soft, downy texture making it ideal for a sensory garden. It is an eye catching feature for a border or pot where it will thrive in a hot sunny spot. It quickly forms a good sized clump and will become tolerant of drought once established. Move to a dry sheltered spot if temperatures dip below minus 8 degrees.


Lomandra Whitesands looks like a grass but has recently been reclassified as a member of the asparagus family so is actually a variegated perennial. Its grass like foliage is attractively striated with cream lines against dark green. In the spring flower spikes emerge from the plant bearing small scented yellow blooms.  It is hardy and will tolerate frost and drought and grows well in containers. Plant in semi-shade amongst the broad spotty leaves of Pulmonaria or Symphytum where the spiky upright leaves provide a visual foil.


Many of these suggestions for the border can also be planted in tubs like Euonymus, Fatsia, Senecio, and Skimmia using John Innes or a good fibre based compost. 


A group of plants that can always be relied upon to give brilliant colour and a sculptured shape for winter Patio Tubs are the dwarf conifers. The picture shows the variety of shapes and colours available in these colourful evergreens. To name a few for yellow foliage Cupressus Wilma, Chamaecyparis Pearly Swirls, Karamachiba, and White Beauty and Thuja Goldy. Chamaecyparis Curly Tops has bright silver blue leaves while Juniperus Lime Glow,Cryptomeria Mushroom, Thuya Anniek,and Fire Chief and Chamaecyparis Rubicon all turn a bronze red colour as the weather gets colder and the light levels reduce.


With some of these additions to your planting scheme The Garden is never dull in winter.