Plant pots and containers for winter interest and spring colour

Jacqueline Franklin, President Tysoe WI has been writing for the Women’s Institute MyWI website.  Her first article is posted below.

Looking for colour that will take you through winter and into spring? Jacqueline from Tysoe WI shares her advice…

The days may be getting shorter and the nights a little chillier but that doesn’t mean that your garden has to look bare. After you have cut back all the summer flowers and taken out the annuals, why not cheer up your garden with some colourful planters and containers?

To survive the autumn frosts and the winter chills, planters and containers must be able to tolerate the extreme temperatures that nature throws at us. Plants must be frost-hardy and look good from autumn through to spring.

Autumn gardens contain lots of natural golds, reds and russets, so a different palette of colours will add impact and brighten up dull days.


You need to find a container that is frost-proof – there will be plenty available at your local garden centre. These come in various types, from terracotta or plastic to very on-trend concrete, zinc and copper. You can also get fake rattan bowls and baskets and galvanized wire baskets. You could also use an old container such as a bucket or a milk churn as long as it is frost-hardy and will stand extreme temperatures.

You need to make sure your pot has good drainage – you can add broken terracotta or stones to the base to help.

Fill your planter with compost (make sure it is good quality). I would suggest you fill to about 2/3.

While still in their pots, arrange your plants on top of the compost. Move them around until you are happy with how they look but also think about what sort of height and width they will get to. Check the label – this will give you a good indication of what spread they will reach.

Carefully take the plants out of the pots and plant up, adding more compost. Firmly press around the plants and top up with compost and water well.


One plant that works very well and is incredibly versatile is Heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’. Commonly known as ‘coral bells’, this is a dark purple leaved plant splashed with a strong pink.

This shade of pink goes well with bright pink plants, so which one do you choose? Something which would work well is a patio cyclamen. These are the smaller cyclamen plants that are tolerant to the winter weather and ideal for containers.

For a lilac or purple shade, a good stable plant that will flower through winter is viola – ideal for this type of planting.

Another good plant that is ideal for containers and adds winter interest is an ornamental grass Festuca glauca ‘intense blue’. It is compact and dense with blue-grey leaves.

To complement these plants a Calocephalus brownii provides contrast and form. It forms a small mound of ghostly silvery-white twisted foliage.

A good winter staple is Calluna (flowering heather). They come in a variety of colours and shades of pink and white.

Along with these there are dyed heathers, which come in yellow, purple and orange. They are dyed with a vegetable dye – after the first year flowers return to their natural white colour. Heathers add colour to the dullest months. They are covered in little spikes with tiny bell-shaped flowers and are perfect for planters and containers.

The joy of container planting is that they require very little maintenance. Occasional watering and deadheading will be enough to see you through winter and into spring.


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