15 best winter hardy potted plants

15 best winter hardy potted plants

Frost, snow, or sub-zero temperatures? These 15 potted plants can stay outside whatever the weather because they are winter hardy.

Potted plants have always been popular with gardeners. Whether on the balcony, the terrace or directly by the house, potted plants create a great atmosphere and are captivating with their beauty. Only in winter many potted plants become a burden rather than a joy. Since they cannot survive the cold temperatures, many have to be put inside the house. This will not only put a strain on your back but will also be problematic for smaller households with little space.

These plants may be able to solve this problem: they are not only beautiful but also absolutely winter hardy. In the following, you can find out which winter plants for pots belong to our top 15.

1. Japanese maple

Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is a must for every Asia inspired garden. But this ornamental shrub can also be a gorgeous addition to your own garden: with its dark red leaves and intense autumn colours, Japanese maple will impress you anew every single day. At the same time, it is also wonderfully low-maintenance and hardy – it only requires frost protection as a young pant.

red japanese maple
The Japanese maple is adored by gardeners for its vibrant red foliage [Shutterstock.com/ Delpixel]

2. Cranesbill

Cranesbills (Geranium hybrid) have always been enchanting with their magnificent flowers. However, it is not only their pretty appearance, but also the enormous variety of different species and varieties that make cranesbills so popular. In addition, the plant is extremely winter hardy and is considered to be very easy to care for. Cranesbill is therefore often used as a low-maintenance groundcover, but it also looks great as a pot plant.

3. Boxwood

Even though the box tree moth has made it somewhat less popular in recent years, boxwood (Buxus) is still a true classic in the garden. The evergreen bush impresses with its extreme tolerance to pruning, which is why it is often used in topiaries. Even in winter, boxwood is stunning and it is considered to be a great winter hardy plant for pots.

4. Lavender

Lavender (Lavendula angustiflora) is the epitome of a summer in Provence for many people. With its wonderfully intense aroma and the bright purple flowers, the plant is a sight for sore eyes. At the same time, lavender also has a mosquito repellent effect, making it an ideal potted plant on your terrace or balcony. But it doesn’t only look great in summer: the plant can survive temperatures down to -15 °C without any problems and can therefore also spend the winter outside in temperate climate zones.

5. Dwarf mountain pine

Dwarf mountain pines (Pinus mugo var. pumilio) impressively prove that size does not matter. With a maximum height of 1.5 metres, the tree does not even come close to its large relatives. For the garden its small size is a real advantage, though. Mountain dwarf pines can also find a place in small gardens and can be very decorative. At the same time, mountain dwarf pine is extremely hardy, thanks to its alpine origin and can be kept as a winter outdoor potted plant.

6. Lemon balm

Anyone who loves the sweet and sour taste of lemons should definitely have lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) in their garden. Its leaves have a wonderful taste and can also be used as a medicinal herb. Since lemon balm also repels mosquitoes with its scent, it should not be absent of any balcony. Fortunately, this is not a problem: since lemon balm is extremely robust, it not only survives the winter season, but can be continuously harvested on frost-free winter days.

7. Holly

Most people are familiar with holly (Ilex) as a hedge, but probably not as a potted plant. In fact, it also works really well for this purpose – especially when cut into shape, for example as a ball, the plant is truly striking. With its red berries and interestingly patterned leaves, holly provides colour even in winter and is fortunately also very hardy.

8. Hydrangea

Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) is popular with gardeners mainly because of two characteristics: their abundance of flowers and the immense amount of hydrangea varieties. In fact, there is a huge range of different sizes, shapes and colours – but all plants are alike in their multitude of flowers. One of the key characteristics of hydrangeas that should not be forgotten is their robustness. For this reason, they can spend the winter outside without any issues. Their dried-up flowers can be used as decorative elements if cut back in spring.

9. Korean lilac

Not only your eyes but also your nose will be delighted when Korean lilac (Syringa meyeri) is in bloom. With its countless purple and pink flowers and delicious fragrance, the plant is a real glory in spring. Bees and bumblebees also love Korean lilacs and are magically attracted to them. With a maximum height of 1.5 metres and their winter hardiness, Korean lilacs are also very suitable as potted plants.

10. Japanese spindle

It doesn’t always have to be flowers: Japanese spindle (Euonymus japonicus) – also called evergreen spindle – is a real eye-catcher with its beautifully coloured foliage. Many varieties of the plant have yellow, white or green patterned leaves which they retain even in winter. But even if the evergreen shrub is mainly used as groundcover, the leafy ornamental plant also looks great as a potted plant because it is extremely frost-resistant.

11. American wintergreen

Although the fruits of the American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) are poisonous, they are also very decorative. Only in autumn do the fiery red berries grow and often stay on the plant until spring. This way American wintergreen looks spectacular even in winter. The dark green foliage of the shrub (which sometimes turns bronze-red in winter) is also very beautiful, so that it is often kept as a potted plant.

12. Winter heath

Winter heath (Erica carnea) truly lives up to its name: while most plants are in hibernation, it attracts curious glances with its white to pink-coloured flowers. Depending on the variety, winter heath blooms from December until April and, with its great hardiness, it is also extremely popular as a winter outdoor potted plant.

erica carnea
With its delicate pink blossoms, winter heath is guaranteed to brighten up your winter [Shutterstock.com/ Nick Pecker]

13. Ginkgo

Undemanding yet beautiful – ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) is an enrichment to every garden. But this extraordinary tree does not only thrive in large gardens; it can also be cultivated in a pot. Ginkgo is not only hardy, but also a real feast for the eyes, especially in autumn. With its intense yellow foliage it will attract everyone’s attention.

14. Red tip photinia

Red tip photinia (Photinia x fraseri) will guarantee a great range of colours in your garden or on your balcony. While the plant appears rather casual in its evergreen leaf dress during winter season, it changes its colour almost weekly in spring. First, light red shoots will sprout, which then will turn bronze and later to a dark green in summer. At the same time, the shrub bears decorative red fruits from summer onwards, making it one of the prettiest winter hardy plants for pots.

15. Chinese fringe flower

Are you looking for a plant that is not only hardy but also looks good all year round? In that case, you should definitely give the Chinese fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense) a home in your garden. Throughout the year, it has intensely coloured dark red foliage. Its true beauty, however, only flourishes in February and March: then, the hardy plant is embellished with bright pink flowers and it becomes a fiery red spectacle.



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