The Best Plants For Your Winter Landscape

Winter’s cold bite and frosty mornings seem to discourage landscaping activities. And you may struggle to imagine plants taking root or flourishing in such conditions. Nevertheless, certain varieties can make it through bitter days while still adding life to your yard – and not just evergreen conifers.

If you want to see some life in your yard and garden through the winter, reach out to Northern Virginia Landscaping. We are a full-service landscaping company that serves residential and commercial clients in Oakton and throughout Northern Virginia. Whether you’re interested in professional home landscaping, hardscape design, drainage, or yard regrading, we have you covered. Our team possesses the background and technical expertise to make your outdoors a paradise at any time of the year.

Below, we share what constitutes a “winter plant” and then offer some options for you to consider:

Winter Plant Characteristics

Let’s begin by listing out the features shared by winter plants. First, note the distinction between plants that can be supported through winter (with mulch as insulation, for instance) and true winter plants. The latter do more than survive during the winter months; they prosper.

Their identifying features include:

  • Evergreen (or golden) foliage
  • Lush berries that entice birds
  • Light, colorful bark
  • Branches capable of holding snow
  • A height that rises above the region’s average snowfall


We know that trees rise above Virginia’s snowfall levels, so they fit the final criterion on the above list. However, you need not limit yourself to them. Several shrubs also work well in a winter landscape:

  • Evergreen holly, including China holly (Ilex meserveae) and compact inkberry holly (Ilex glabra compacta), which grows bright berries and provides holiday decorations
  • Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata), a deciduous bush that also grows berries
  • Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica), a shrub that grows aromatic leaves and withstands winters as well as droughts
  • Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Allemans’) blooms bright blossoms in May but withstands winter’s cold
  • Plume grass (Erianthus ravennae), a perennial, ornamental grass that can grow up to eleven feet


Even if many tree species grow above snowfall levels, some varieties suit winter landscapes better than the rest. We recommend that you consider which tree is “right” for your landscape:

  • Birch tree, including Young’s weeping birch (betula pendula ‘Youngii’), paper birch (betula papyrifera), and yellow birch (betula alleghaniensis)
  • Yew trees, the great variety of which are all conifers with pine needles
  • Eastern hemlock tree (Tsuga canadensis), which can grow to 60 feet in the wild but are cultivated to shrub level by landscapers

Plants to Avoid

Finally, as you consider your options above, we recommend that you avoid planting these two invasive species:

  • Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), which produces berries and colorful leaves
  • Winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus), dubbed “burning bush” for its red foliage in the autumn

Make Your Home Landscaping in Oakton, VA, Personal & Sustainable!

Put your home’s gardens and yards to use throughout the year: reach out to Northern Virginia Landscaping for winter plants. Our team’s expertise and experience can guide you to the shrubs and trees that suit your taste. We offer professional home landscaping, hardscaping, drainage, and regrading services for Oakton and Northern Virginia residents. Call us today at (703) 982-0100 or fill out our online form.

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