Pink heathers growing in containers

Winter heathers add splashes of colour to containers over winter
Image: Shutterstock

What better way to brighten up the dark and gloomy months of winter than by planting a balcony full of colourful winter-flowering shrubs and bedding plants? 

Here are seven of our favourites, all of which are suitable for planting in patio pots and containers. Winter may be upon us but, with this little collection, your balcony will be a beacon of loveliness to brighten even the gloomiest of grey days.

1. Hollies

Holly growing with red berries

Holly ‘Argentea Marginata’ has variegated leaves and clusters of scarlet red winter berries
Image: Holly ‘Argentea Marginata’ from T&M

With its shiny, dark prickly green leaves and bright red berries, holly is a must for your winter balcony and also provides plenty of materials for your Christmas wreaths and garlands. Make your balcony the hot topic of the neighbourhood this winter season by planting a thick evergreen of your own. Hollies survive punishing cold and their berries often persist well into late winter, or until hungry birds finish them off.

2. Winter heathers

Pink heather with dark red tips

Heather ‘Darley Dale’ produces pretty, pale pink blooms in late winter
Image: Erica x darleyensis ‘Darley Dale’ from T&M

Evergreen, small, easy to grow, and long-flowering, winter heathers are the perfect plants to perk up your balcony when it’s cold and dark. Heathers are fully hardy and will be completely smothered in blooms regardless of the wind and rain. Plant them in a container or trough on your balcony and watch them return each year in wonderful shades of white, purple and pink.

3. Skimmia japonica

Red and green flower of Skimmia Rub

Ideal for growing in containers, Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ provides all year interest
Copyright: Visions BV, Netherlands

Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ is glossy-leaved and covered in clusters of long-lasting dark red flower buds that last through the winter until they open to white-pink flowers in spring. This tough, trouble-free shrub is ideal for beginners. If your balcony isn’t especially sunny, this is a good option for a shady spot.

4. Hellebores

Purple and cream hellebores on wooden table

Hellebores are a stunning addition to shady borders and winter containers
Image: Hellebore x hybridus ‘Mixed’ from T&M

Not too many plants actually bloom at the peak of winter. Nevertheless, Britain’s freezing January snows are no match for Hellebores. One of our favourite hardy evergreen perennials, they thrive at the coldest time of year and, with their elegant flowers and dark green foliage, they’re undoubtedly one of the best plants for brightening up your balcony this winter.

5. Heuchera

Orange, red and green heuchera leaves

Perfect for containers, Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ has stunning foliage all year round
Image: Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ from T&M

If it’s winter foliage plants you’re looking for, heuchera is a must. With lots of interesting variegation in their leaves, this evergreen copes well with dark conditions and provides colour even in the depths of winter. One of our favourites is Heuchera ‘Marmalade’. Its ruffled bronze, peach and pink foliage makes it the perfect choice for brightening your winter balcony. During the summer it also produces sprays of white blooms which are lovely to look at and a hit with pollinators.

6. Winter pansies

Winter pansies in silver basket

Pansy ‘Frizzle Sizzle’ from T&M includes a rainbow of colours that come to life in late winter
Copyright: Visions BV, Netherlands

We breed winter pansies specifically to survive frosty temperatures, and although they may droop a little during extreme conditions, they should soon bounce back when temperatures rise. With their colourful petals and cheeky ‘faces’, pansies make a great winter bedding choice for your balcony. If properly planted and well cared for, they’ll come right back next winter too.

7. Indoor trees

Potted lemon tree indoors

Patio fruit trees like lemons beautifully frame patio doors
Image: Citrus – Lemon from T&M

Indoor trees are an ideal choice for providing a lovely link through from inside to outside spaces. Position your indoor trees either side of the patio doors in such a way that they draw your eye to the outside planting. Small indoor trees take up little space but they have a positive impact on the indoor environment and do your mood the power of good. Lemon trees can be moved outside through the summer months.

For more ideas on bringing a splash of colour into your home and garden, browse the information and advice over at our winter flowers hub page.

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