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Weekly Gardening Tips for Your Area


Winter Hardy Plants for the South

Lynn Coulter
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Once the autumn leaves fall and the last flowers fade, the winter landscape looks drab and dreary. But if you live and garden in the South, you’re in luck. There are winter-hardy plants you can use for pops of color throughout the season. Better still, some cold-tolerant plants have a sweet fragrance.

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel is a deciduous shrub that can also be grown as a small tree. Watch for the fringe-like yellow flowers to appear from late fall to early winter. These shrubs, recommended for USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9, need moist, rich soil and partial shade. If you plant them while the weather is still warm, keep them well watered and mulched to help conserve moisture.


Cold-hardy camellias have been bred to grow as far north as USDA hardiness zone 6b. Check the label on your plant before you buy to determine when it blooms. An unexpected frost can kill flower buds in late winter or early spring, so be prepared to cover your plants with cloth or plastic.


Evergreen Holly

“English holly (Ilex aquifolium) and American holly (Ilex opaca) are favored for their winter berry production and glossy green foliage,” says Travis, our Southeastern Muddy Boots associate. You can find a holly for almost any spot; dwarf types grow 6″ high, while others soar to 70′. Many varieties are available at most Home Depot Garden Centers.

More winter-hardy plants for your Southern garden:

  • Winter daphne – Hardy to 0 degrees F, this evergreen shrub bears rosy-pink buds that open to fragrant, star-shaped flowers in winter to early spring. It prefers part shade and makes a nice foundation plant.
  • Crape myrtle – Crape myrtles add beauty to your landscape year-round. In summer, these deciduous trees and shrubs bear white, pink, purple, red, or lavender flowers. By fall, their leaves turn brilliant colors. In the winter, their showy bark adds texture and interest to the garden.
  • Pansies – Travis says, “The ever-popular pansy is my number 1 choice for winter color in this region.” For a showy display, use only one or two colors per bed. 
  •  Nandina – Travis recommends ‘FirePower’ Nandina (Nandina domestica ‘Firepower’). “It’s a great shrub with evergreen properties and a red color change in the cold months. The shrub’s green color in the warm months keep things interesting, too.” ‘Obsession’ is a nandina with a compact growth habit that’s good for tight garden spaces. 

Don’t see the plant you’re looking for in your local store? Availability varies, but a Home Depot Garden Center Associate will be glad to suggest an alternate.

Witch hazel image: Shutterstock/Irina Korshunova

Camellia image: Shutterstock/MIMOHE


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