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Winter Color with Annuals

You may be enjoying the last days of mild fall weather, but you can be sure that winter is on the way. Soon our deciduous plants will be bare, and many of the flowers that have filled our landscapes with color will be taken out with the first freeze of the season.


Wonderful cold-hardy plants

There are a number of wonderful cold-hardy plants that we can use to color our landscapes during the gray days of winter. Some of these are very dependable even in an unusually cold winter, while others may need a light protective cover during a brief period of bitter cold. Here are a few of the great cool-season flower options for southern gardens:

Sweet Alyssum

Alyssum needs well-drained soil to prevent root fungus problems, and it can freeze with extreme temperature drops. Alyssum is especially attractive cascading over the edge of a container or rock wall. (Full sun/part shade)


Ornamental Cabbage and Kale

This is a very dependable performer, even in bitter cold. Some types bolt readily to provide attractive, yellow bloom stalks in spring. (Full sun)


Pot Marigold (Calendula)

Some of the newer varieties will bloom all winter long, surpassing the older ones, which tend to wait for spring.

  • The blooms are edible.
  • Full sun


Dusty Miller

Grown for its silvery white foliage, which makes a nice complement to the green foliage of other plants.

  • Full sun to part shade



This bulbous plant has beautiful foliage and gorgeous, fragrant blooms that look like falling stars. It needs very good drainage and air circulation. Hardy to 25 degrees, blooms will freeze at 32 degrees. A bit more costly than other winter options, but among the most beautiful.

  • Shade


Pinks (Dianthus)

Many perennial types are available, but the annual bedding types make for fast, cool-season color.

  • After blooms fade, shear back by 1/3 and fertilize to encourage next bloom cycle.
  • Full sun


Pansy and Viola

These two "cousins" are the staple color plants for our cool-season flower beds. Violas perform better than pansies. Both have edible blooms.

  • Sun to part shade



The taller types make wonderful cut flowers. They can suffer damage from extreme temperature drops. This is remedied by pruning back and feeding.

  • Sun


Give some cool-season annuals a try this winter. They can really brighten things up when your landscape is looking rather dreary. Include some in containers for versatile color options. Here in the South, winter is no reason to go without color! 

Read more from national gardening association.