Winter Hardy Plants for the West

Lynn Coulter
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Finding winter hardy plants can be a challenge in some parts of the country, but you’re in luck if you live in the low elevation West. The area’s mild, warm winters allow you to grow shrubs, vines, and other plants that can’t survive snow and freezing temperatures elsewhere. In the Pacific Northwest, Encore azaleas are cold hardy to USDA zone 6, blooming in fall and again in spring. Western gardeners can also grow cold-hardy hellebores and cyclamen for pops of color.

Our Muddy Boots associate Jane, from New Mexico, says barberry, evergreen holly, and crape myrtle also make terrific winter hardy plants.

“Barberry and holly are great accent shrubs with color. They can be kept under control, growth-wise, by pruning them to your desired height and width. I would suggest letting the crape myrtles grow. They can be used to add color to a barren wall or side of the house. Of course, cacti and yucca are favorites, too.”

You can find a holly for almost any garden spot; dwarf types grow 6″ high, while others soar to 70′. Give hollies well-drained, moderately fertile soil.

Gail, our Muddy Boots gardening guru in California, says, “Small annuals that can take winter cold include pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, snapdragons, and cyclamen.” Keep pansies and snapdragons deadheaded for repeat blooms. 

Gail also recommends camellias, which are hardy to USDA zones 6 though 9, for early winter blooms.

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Cynthia, our Muddy Boots expert in North Texas, suggests growing nandinas, crape myrtles, and yaupon hollies, versatile evergreens that grow in sun or shade and almost any kind of soil.

Other winter hardy plants for the West include:

  • Japanese maples – These trees take on brilliant fall colors, and their bark lends interest to the winter garden. Hardy to USDA zones 5 to 8. Dwarf varieties can be grown in containers or trained as bonsai.
  • Witch hazel – A deciduous shrub for zones 3 to 9, witch hazel bears fragrant, yellow flowers from late fall to early winter.
  • Firethorne (Pyracantha) – Studded with orange-red berries, this shrub can be espaliered. Hardy to zones 6 to 9; some varieties grow in zone 5.
  • Virginia creeper – Let this attractive vine naturalize in your landscape. Its blue-black berries attract birds, and the foliage turns scarlet in autumn. Hardy to zones 3b to 10.

Barberry image: Shutterstock/Tina Jeans

Camellia image: Shutterstock/MIMOHE

 

 

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