The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Shrubs to Add to the Landscape for Winter Interest

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

Wouldn't it be nice to see some color in the landscape right now– something besides the color of muddy snow. Many landscape plants have attractive fruit or colorful twigs that can be beautifully accentuated by evergreens or a drift of snow. Consider adding some of these beauties to your landscape for their beautiful winter show.

Red chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia 'Brilliantissima' is a 6-10 feet tall widely adaptable shrub with brilliant red fruit along with its red fall color. The fruit persists into winter.

Winterberry, Ilex verticillata, is a deciduous shrub reaching six to ten feet tall. The fruit is usually red to orange-red. The fruit retains its color throughout the winter. Winterberry is the hardiest of the hollies. It does well in wet sites, even standing water. The cut twigs will last for months indoors even without water. As with most hollies, female and male plants are necessary for pollination and therefore good fruit set.

A winterberry selection 'Maryland Beauty' has lustrous dark green leaves and tight clusters of shiny red fruit. 'Shaver' grows to five feet tall and has orange-red fruit. Its one half inch fruit is among the largest of the winterberry cultivars. The fruit is clustered profusely along the stem and holds color for two months. 'Red Sprite' is one of the smallest cultivars since it grows slowly to three and one half feet wide to four feet tall. It has an excellent fruit display for small spaces.

Who can resist a rose with great hips? Try these roses for their beautiful flowers and winter hip show:

  • Shrub roses: 'Bonica,' 'Carefree Beauty' and 'Golden Wings'
  • Rugosa roses: 'Fru Dagmar Hastrup,' 'Jens Munk,' 'Rubra' and Rosa glauca.

Many of the viburnums have a good fruit display although sometimes the show doesn't last into winter. Viburnum dilatatum 'Erie' is six feet tall and nine feet wide with creamy white flowers in May. Its late show includes yellow, orange and red fall color and persistent red fruit starting in August and turning a coral pink after the first frost. 'Iroquois' is similar to 'Erie' but larger reaching seven feet tall and ten feet wide. V. dilatatum 'Michael Dodge' is covered with yellow fruit.

Viburnum nudum 'Winterthur' has glossy green leaves in summer with a vibrant red purple fall color. Fruits are an interesting white to pink to blue by fall.

Other viburnums for a good fruit display include 'Mohican,' 'Shasta,' 'Shoshon,' 'Summer Snowflake,' 'Alleghany' and 'Onondaga.' Twig color can also add interest to a winter garden.

Many people are familiar with redtwig dogwoods. They are quite beautiful in mass in front of evergreens. They are tough shrubs and withstand wind, wet conditions, drought and just about anything else. Shrub dogwoods do require regular pruning to keep the plants healthy and to keep the stems colored. Old stems should be removed each year. Actually shrub dogwoods are great plants to try out your pruning techniques since they are very forgiving and can even be cut to the ground each spring.

Some good redtwig selections are 'Cardinal' or 'Isanti.' 'Silver and Gold' has creamy white variegated leaves with yellow stems. 'Flaviramea' also has yellow twigs.

Japanese Kerria, Kerria japonica, has very attractive yellow-green, fine textured twigs. It is another tough plant and in highly fertile soils can become somewhat weedy as it suckers from the roots. It does well even in full shade. It has attractive yellow flowers starting in May for two to three weeks and sporadically over the summer. It should be pruned after flowering to keep it dense.

'Picta' has green leaves with white margins. 'Pleniflora' has golden yellow double flowers that last longer and are larger than the species. Winter lasts too long to be forgotten when planning your landscape.

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