While winter may bring some chilly overcast days, we’re lucky here in Houston that our soils never freeze. That means we get to keep gardening all year-long, even in winter! While many plants will drop their leaves or die back to the ground in order to conserve energy through winter, many evergreen plants still grace the landscape with lush foliage and endless color. When designing a successful landscape, you always want to make sure to balance the foliage. Be sure to incorporate enough evergreens so that your landscape still has color and interest during the winter season.
Rosemary is both a beloved culinary herb and a workhorse landscape plant. This evergreen just never quits! Plants sport their fragrant evergreen foliage year-round and will sporadically produce tiny blue flowers through the seasons, even in winter. These flowers can be an important food source for honeybees when many plants are dormant. Keep in mind, rosemary is not a small plant. You’ll need to make sure you provide ample room for rosemary to spread, as it’s a quick grower. Upright varieties can grow to 5-tall and wide. Trailing varieties will stay shorter in height, but will spread to 5- to 6-feet. A full sun location and well draining soil is all this beauty will need to thrive. Once established, rosemary has low water needs.
Yaupon Holly is considered a small tree or large multi-trunked shrub. Not only do they sport small shiny leaves all winter long, but also bright red berries. These berries add a burst of beautiful color to the winter landscape and also a food source for local birds. Plants perform best in a sunny location. Take note: If you shear your Yaupon hollies regularly, you’ll lose out on all those beautiful berries. Tip-prune plant to keep to the desired size and you’ll not only have a more beautiful specimen, but you'll also get to keep those winter berries. Cut a few branches to add to holiday containers or indoor arrangements!
Texas Mountain Laurel is one of our favorite evergreen water-wise shrubs. This slow-growing, yet tough Texas native, has beautiful deep green, glossy round leaves that provide an impressive backdrop to other plants in your garden. In spring, they drip with cascades of purple flowers. The flowers have a distinctive fragrance; many describe it as grape kool-aid! Once you’ve smelled it, you’ll never forget it. Texas mountain laurel performs best in a full sun location, but can tolerate some afternoon shade. It does need well-draining soil to stay healthy and once established, plants need little supplemental water.
Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ is the perfect evergreen foundation shrub for your shady spots. While related to the classic Oregon grape mahonia, ‘Soft Caress’ has a very different appearance. ‘Soft Caress’ sports delicate, feathery foliage that is deep green in color. In late-fall and early-winter, plants put out bright yellow blooms, followed by dark berries. This is a dwarf shrub, growing to only about 4- to 5-feet tall and about 3-feet wide. It’s perfect for smaller urban landscapes or for placing towards the front of shady beds. For the best impact, plant in clusters alongside ferns, lenten rose and coral bells.
Junipers, plants in the genus Juniperus, are some of the most naturally adapted of the conifers to our Texas climate. Junipers are available in both upright and prostrate forms and usually have a blue-green to gray-green color. Juniper ‘Blue Point’ has some of the prettiest blue-green foliage and is perfect for growing as a large accent shrub, landscape topiary or container specimen. Plants grow naturally in a pyramidal shape and require little pruning to maintain their form. Growing to about 12-feet tall and 8-feet wide, you’ll want to provide adequate space for plants to mature; or you can tip prune or lightly shear plants to any desired shape or size. ‘Blue Point’ is often used to create topiary spirals, pom poms and other unique shapes. These Junipers also produce fragrant silvery blue berries, which are a lovely complement to the plant. Junipers are best situated in a full sun exposure with well-draining soil.
TIP: Don’t forget that many evergreen shrubs and perennials also make wonderful container specimens, so don’t be afraid to use them on your patio and porch as well.
Evergreen trees, shrubs and perennials are the backbone of your landscape. Be sure to plant enough of them, mixed with your deciduous plants and annuals, so that your winter garden is just as beautiful as your summer garden!