Houzz Contributor. Landscape designer, a former garden editor for Sunset Magazine and in-house designer for Sunset's Editorial Test Garden. Her garden designs have been featured in the Sunset Western Garden Book of Landscaping, Sunset Western Garden Book of Easy-Care Plantings (cover), Inhabitat, and POPSUGAR.
From fragrant conifer branches and glossy evergreens to jewel-like winter berries and decorative baubles, winter container arrangements can be lovely additions to bare winter landscapes. With the holidays around the corner, you may have only enough time to hang a few baubles on a potted plant in your entry or tuck some pine cones around the base. To get you started, here are nine inspiring winter container designs ranging from easy, no-soil-required arrangements to more intricate potted compositions.
Add a bit of shine with Christmas ornaments tucked in among fat clusters of red winterberries (Ilex verticillata) and fragrant conifer clippings. To get a diversity of conifers — fir, pine and spruce — as shown in this planter by Burke Brothers Landscape Design/Build, ask for clippings at the Christmas tree lot when you’re picking up your tree. Often they’ll let you take home a bundle for free or for a couple of dollars.
Bare willow branches in aged terra-cotta pots add interesting texture to the crisp white walls of this traditional home. To get the look, pick up about three bundles of curly willow (available from florists) per container and set them into sand, gravel or floral foam placed at the bottom of the pot. Top with pine cones to hide the base, as Sweet Dirt Designs did here, then string the branches with white lights for an inviting evening glow.
Just a few seasonal accents around the base of an already potted dwarf white spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’, USDA zones 2 to 8; find your zone) transform this container by Adorn from plain to festive. Pine cones will last for ages, while bright red pomegranates and clipped conifer branches will stay looking fresh for a few weeks.
Glossy magnolia leaves paired with a few pale birch branches create a sophisticated composition in this container by Second nature landscape design. Using bronze, green and white, instead of the typical Christmas colors, makes the container composition carry on past New Year’s.
Gussy up existing outdoor containers without repotting by adding holiday-themed accents, such as ornaments, glittering orbs or a plump faux cardinal, like Le jardinet did here. Reserve any fragile accent pieces for decorating indoors, or bring potted containers under the eaves, away from rain and snowfall.
All-green compositions, like these by Sweet Dirt Designs, look refined and can be much less effort to maintain year-round than containers with seasonal berries or blooms. Focus on a subtle contrast of textures and shades of green by selecting evergreens with different foliage types, such as cypress, spruce, boxwood and weeping juniper.
Evoke the welcoming feeling of candles in the window — without the fire risk — by placing trios of birch branches cut 5 to 12 inches long along your window box against a dark backdrop of magnolia leaves. The designers at Haute Botanics also placed thin twigs of golden bamboo in this window box design, adding to the “candle” effect.
Highlights of white brighten winter container compositions like a dusting of fresh snow. Choose plants with pale-streaked foliage, such as ‘Silverdust’ English ivy (Hedera helix ‘Silverdust’, zones 5 to 11) or variegated winter daphne (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’, zones 7 to 9). Or tuck in decorative branches painted white or silver, like Burke Brothers Landscape Design/Build did here.
Boxwoods (Buxus spp., zones 5 to 9) are about the easiest container plant around, providing four seasons of medium green foliage. Clipped into cones, boxwoods could be decorated with lights and ornaments as miniature Christmas trees or just left naturally for a welcome hit of green on each side of the front door.