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winter colour

8 Flowers for Winter Colour

If you wake up one morning and think, “I’m tired of browns and greys and leafless trees, I want colour!”, hold onto that thought.

There is so much colour that can be planted in July. Most of it will keep flowering through to November, and maybe even longer. Spring flowers like petunias and gazanias that are planted now start flowering in August, giving them a much longer flowering season. Even working in the garden is pleasant, once the sun takes the edge off the morning chill. Here is our pick of sun-lovers for winter colour that will cheer up you and your garden:

Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) exudes a delicious honey-scented fragrance, and can be tucked into beds, between paving stones, and as a filler with pansies or violas in windowboxes, hanging baskets and containers. Be careful of overwatering. Trim off dead flowers to encourage new blooms.

Lobelia (Lobelia erinus) produces dazzling blue or purple flowers, but these are sensitive to frost. Plants like fertile, moist soil but not wet feet. A light shearing after flowering will encourage new blooms. Use lobelias as a petite edging plant or as a filler in hanging baskets and containers.

Ornamental kale (Brassica oleracea) is very striking, especially the varieties with frilly outer leaves or pink-red centres. The colder it is, the more intense the leaf colour. Plant alongside succulents (that also develop intense colours in winter), with grasses, or as a focal point in the flower garden or winter veggie garden. Check for aphids and spray with an organic insecticide.

Nemesia fruticans is an indigenous spring flower that copes with sun or partial shade. The flowers are delicate, like small snapdragons, and some are fragrant. Hybrids are sturdy, mounded plants with larger blooms, showing off well in the garden as well as in containers.

Gazanias (G. rigens or G. splendens) are drought tolerant, needing full sun to flower well, and free-draining soil. Hybrids have large showy flowers, often with striped petals, and green or silver foliage. They combine well with succulents and are heat tolerant. Gazania roots bind the soil which helps to stabilise the soil on slopes and embankments.

Pansies and violas (Viola wittrockiana and Viola cornuta) are a quick fix for instant colour, especially in warm, sunny beds. If planted in beds that become lightly shaded in summer, they will last until December. Shear off dead flowers, and immediately feed with a liquid fertiliser to encourage new growth and a new flush. Look out for trailing varieties that quickly fill hanging baskets and containers.

Pansy ‘Cool Wave Mix’: maximising the flowers even in winter, flowering plants need feeding, especially bedding plants that flower continuously and need the nutrients to do so. For fertiliser to be immediately available, use a liquid fertiliser drench once a week for plants in containers and twice a month for those in beds.

Petunia hybrids in all their variety are guaranteed to usher in spring with a bang! They love the cool, dry spring weather of summer-rainfall areas and will be at their best until the main rainy season, from December onwards. They are drought tolerant, water wise and need very little attention. Groundcover varieties are self-cleaning.

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) are frost tolerant and will flower through to December. They can take partial shade as well and do best in humusrich soil. The dwarf bedding varieties (15 – 25cm high) with short flower spikes are very colourful and some varieties are lightly fragrant. For hanging baskets there is a trailing snapdragon, that forms a mound of flowers, virtually obscuring the leaves and giving you a profusion of winter colour.

Winter colour planting tips

  • Find the sunniest, warmest spot. Beds close to north- or east-facing walls tend to stay warmer for longer. Sheltered areas that don’t get frost are also suitable. Place containers where they are sheltered from cold draughts and receive full morning sun. Add compost to the soil before planting and break down clumps of soil. Water plants twice a week while the roots are settling in and then reduce watering. Plants should not be overwatered in winter as this makes them susceptible to fungal disease.

Good to know: Organic granular fertilisers that need to break down to release the nutrients to plants are not as effective in winter because the microbes that break down the fertilisers are not as active. That is why liquid feeds diluted with water are more effective. To promote flowers, rather than leaves, use a liquid feed that incorporates potassium so that you can maximise on winter colour.