Low-Maintenance Wintertime Plants

Winter heath

By Vicki Spencer, Master Gardener

By the time December rolls around, I really miss the cheerful colors I enjoyed during early morning summer walks past my neighbors’ gardens. My yearning for color is one reason why I’m drawn to plants that flower during the winter. Over time, I’ve learned that, with proper care, some outdoor plants can brighten the house with winter blossoms and are surprisingly great low-maintenance wintertime plants.

Since pansies are heartier than they appear, often surviving winter cold, I tried growing some indoors. They surprised me with fragrant winter blooms after I planted them in containers with good potting soil, placed them in a sunny location, and fertilized occasionally. I found violas will also bloom throughout the winter with similar care. By keeping them in the kitchen, I’m reminded that they make edible garnishes on serving plates or add a festive flair to cake decorations. Deadheading pansy and viola winter blossoms encourages more blossoms to appear.

During the holidays, I enjoy potted evergreen shrubs, which I decorate to match different themes. The dark green, red-tinted leaves and bright red berries of wintergreen plant (Gaultheria procumbens) practically shout “Merry Christmas!” As a bonus, its edible fruits have a mildly sweet wintergreen taste. Plant wintergreen in acidic, well-drained soil and keep out of direct sunlight. It doesn’t need to be watered often.

Winter heath (Erica carnea) is another flowering evergreen shrub. Its deep rose-pink flowers open in late winter and billow over dark green foliage that develop pink tips in spring. It’s a low-maintenance plant and produces more vibrant colors with at least 6 hours of sunlight.

Only recently have I tried growing winter-tolerant hellebores indoors. Their long-lasting, fragrant flowers bloom in a wide range of colors, and their serrated leaves provide an interesting contrast to heart-shaped philodendron leaves. Hellebores do best in filtered sun or darker areas resembling the light in shady gardens. Plant in well-drained, organic soil but keep moist.

Clivias (Clivia gardenii) are often considered the perfect houseplant because they are low maintenance and resilient. Although Clivias typically bloom outdoors from April to June, you can get them to bloom indoors after providing a cold period of 25–30 days. Then, place them in a windowsill and keep them on the dry side to promote flowering. Its slender, tubular flowers will appear as orange clusters with green tips. Remove spent flowers by cutting near the base of flower stems to promote more blossoms.

Sedum, which is typically grown as a ground cover, is known for its colorful foliage. It makes a lovely indoor plant that often produces delicate sprays of flowers in the winter. Jade plant is another succulent with thick, oval-shaped leaves that produces delicate white flowers in late winter. It is precious in Chinese culture, symbolizing good fortune and prosperity. Both succulent plants should be placed in pots with drainage holes and should not be watered too often.

If you grow any of these low-maintenance wintertime plants indoors, their beautiful blossoms will raise your spirits during bleak winter months when flowers are scarce.

Gardener Vicki Spencer has an eclectic background in conservation, water, natural resources and more.