While spring is considered prime time for most gardens, some flower varieties prefer cooler temperatures and can even survive harsh frosts. We’ve rounded up five flowers that bloom in winter.
Depending on your hardiness zone, you may have dozens of options to choose from. Those living with the mild winters of zones 8 or 9 (parts of California, Texas, and Florida) will do well with most of the below varieties, but even those battling the more extreme weather of zone 3 (including Maine and Montana) will have a couple solid options to play with.
You can look up your hardiness zone using the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.
The snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) is a bulbous perennial that grows in mild to cold temperatures, but withers in heat (not ideal for zones 9 and up). It boasts grass-like leaves and small, white, six-petaled flowers, which hang gracefully from its stems. Don’t be deceived by its apparent delicacy—this is a hardy plant that lives up to its name. Due to antifreeze proteins that protect the cells of the flower, it has been known to survive inches of snow.
Because snowdrops sprout in late winter to early spring (before you’re out in your garden, perhaps), it’s best to plant them somewhere visible, like near your front walk or driveway. They prefer a rich, slightly alkaline and well-draining soil. Snowdrops need some sun to bloom, but will wilt in high heat. They do well under the dappled shade of a tree or shrub. Snowdrops are dormant by late spring, but will sprout back up next season, so be sure you don’t accidentally dig them up during summer planting.
Keep in mind that snowdrops don’t often multiply from seed, but by offsets (when new bulbs grow attached to the mother bulb). Snowdrops easily hybridize, so be open to surprises.
The hellebore (Helleborus) plant is a winter-blooming garden staple that grows best in woodland environments. Its unique cup-shaped flowers range from white to black, though often feature a rose or burgundy color, and the plant varies in height from two inches to two feet. The Helleborus orientalis (or Lenten rose) is one of the earliest-blooming flowers and offers the widest range of colors.
The hellebore requires a moist, 60-day chilling period, so it’s best plant in early fall. It will take three to four years for the plant to bloom from seed, but once it does, it will return year after year with proper care. This includes incorporating dappled sunlight (too much will overwhelm the plant), trimming damaged leaves, and dividing any overgrown clumps in spring or autumn.
All parts of the hellebore plant are poisonous, so keep them away from children or pets.
Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) is a tuberous perennial that feature silvery, heart-shaped foliage and rose-pink flowers that resemble butterflies. While hardy cyclamen mimic the appearance of florist cyclamen, they can grow in areas with substantial winters (those in zone 5 may require an extra layer of mulch to keep them warm).
Hardy cyclamen flourishes in loose, well-drained soil. While it’s difficult to propagate from seed, you can plant bulbs in late summer or early autumn. Plant the tubers with the top just two inches beneath the soil surface. Once planted, hardy cyclamen care is actually quite simple—water regularly during spring and summer (avoid overwatering) and be sure to clear away excess leaves and debris that can pack the soil.
Winter pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are traditionally perennials, but can be planted as hardy annuals in moderate climates for winter blooms. These fast-growing, five-petaled flowers come in a kaleidoscope of colors, from gold to blue to violet, and are often marked with dark splotches.
Though winter pansies are fairly rugged, they rarely withstand temperatures below freezing and grow best between 45°F and 65°F. Try to time your planting several weeks before soil temperatures hit 45°F. Once the flowers are growing, they will adapt to temperature drops quite well.
Well-drained soil is key to healthy pansy growth, as roots will rot in water-logged soil. Adding several inches of mulch to the soil can help to moderate its eventual cooldown as winter sets in. In colder climates, we recommend planting in large containers on a porch so you can provide additional warmth with blankets during the coldest temperatures. Using the right fertilizer can be a game-changer when growing pansies—avoid slow-release nitrogen fertilizers and use a liquid option instead.
The pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) is a sister plant to the chrysanthemum and daisy, all members of the Asteraceae family. These cheery, bright flowers resemble Gerbera daisies and most often come in orange or gold, though subtler varieties of pink, cream, and white can be found. Not only are they great for displaying in vases, but their edible petals can be used in the kitchen as well as in tinctures, lotions, and skin salves.
One of the best flowers that bloom in winter, pot marigolds grow best in mild winter climates that don’t experience frost, like Florida or Southern California. They prefer full sun or light shade and can tolerate many soil types provided they have good drainage. They require moderate watering, particularly when grown in warmer dry climates. If it gets too humid, they can die off.
The blooming season for pot marigolds is just two months long, so plant in autumn for a winter bloom. The flowers will continue to propagate throughout the year if regularly deadheaded.
See our guide on how to grow marigolds.