Flowers are usually synonymous with spring, with winter conjuring thoughts of dead leaves, bare branches and sparse lawns. But thanks to Australia’s mostly mild winters and some hardy flower species, your garden can remain in full bloom all year round. Admittedly, winter flowers are less showy than spring and summer blooms, but their subtle scents and muted colours are still a sight to behold. Here are 15 flowers for the Australian winter for you to consider.
Snowdrops and snowflakes
Snowdrops (Galanthus Nivalis, meaning milk-white flowers) and close relative snowflakes (Leucojum) are resilient flowers that flourish in the coldest climates. The lower the temperature, the longer they bloom, and they tend to show their stark white heads toward the end of the season. They are a whimsical winter flower, reminiscent of little white lampshades, and would look right at home in a fairy garden. Plant along paths to create a floral guard of honour or under a wide leafy tree. Snowdrops and snowflakes also thrive in pots, so they make excellent flowers for the Australian winter.
This quintessential Australian flower blooms the whole year round, even through frigid winters. There is a plethora of banksia species to choose from, with colours ranging from vibrant pinks, rusty oranges and sunburnt yellows. They also come in a variety of sizes and can be found in squat bushes and sprawling trees. Banksias like to live in part sun, part shade and require very little care once established.
You can’t have a country-style garden without lavender. Not only does it attract little bee friends and smell spectacular, but it’s also tough enough to survive winter. In fact, lavender runs rampant during the colder months. Thanks to its Mediterranean heritage, lavender needs very little watering and is a great choice for a water-wise garden. Lavender also enjoys a good prune two to three times a year after flowering.
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Camellia is another native plant which flower right up to winter and beyond (depending on the species). There are over three hundred species to choose from, which flower often, generously, and with very little care. Most types of camellia are finishing their flowering periods in early winter, but the camellia japonica really hits its stride in the cooler months, producing luscious buds in an array of pinks and reds. They can be grown into a towering hedge or kept small as a pretty feature bush.
The deceptively named winter rose (Helleborus) isn’t a rose at all. This ground covering bush produces papery flowers with striking spots and markings. The attractive flowers are perfect for picking as they last a long time when cut. There are over 17 types of winter rose to choose from. Winter roses come in deep purples, rich pinks, sunny yellows and crisp whites, some in solid colours and some with unique markings. They enjoy the sun in winter and shade in summer, meaning they will grow well in partially shaded areas of the garden. Another species well suited to the Australian winter they are dry tolerant once established.
Another quintessential Aussie plant, grevilleas are a tough, resilient plant perfect for winter due to their tolerance to frost. They can be found in a wide range of colours but are most well known for their vibrant red hue. Like all native plants, grevilleas are easy to care for and need little watering. They will also attract native birds to your garden, making your garden a hive of activity year-round.
Fairy primrose or Primula Malacoides are surprising winter flowers resembling funny little daisies. These happy flowers only grow to 30 cm high and come in white, pink, purple and magenta. They are fickle flowers which unfortunately only last one season – from winter to spring. Fairy primrose can be planted in both pots and garden beds, depending on your style of garden. Take caution if you have small children or pets, as they can cause an allergic reaction when touched and can be toxic if eaten.
Daphne is a popular winter flower thanks to its long life (potentially ten years) and interesting blooms. It produces small star-like flowers winter long and can regularly be seen sprouting wild in Japan and China. They thrive in protected areas of your garden, away from heat and winds, and enjoy some morning sun.
A striking, iconic flower, many types of protea flower the entire winter. Each variety of protea produces vastly different flowers, with the most easily recognised being a large bulb surrounded by a spikey crown of pink petals. Although they are native to South Africa, proteas are closely related to Australian natives: grevillea, waratah and banksia. A protea shrub will grow between 1-3 m tall depending on the variety, with all varieties enjoying full sun.
A Woodland cyclamen is the definition of a winter flower, lying dormant in summer and flowering in winter. They begin to flower in autumn, blooming in white, pink, mauve or red. They can flower for months in more temperate climates – from February right through to the end of winter. Woodland cyclamen do well in pots or hanging baskets, as they need to be moved around to get the sun in winter and shade in summer.
This vibrant purple flowering shrub adds a pop of colour to any garden. The native climber produces small pea shape flowers, which need the coldest conditions to truly come alive. Harbenbergia thrives in partially shaded areas with good drainage and will grow rampant if not managed. Perfect for adorning archways, walls or even the side of the house.
Lily of the valley shrub
Otherwise known as the pieris japonica, the lily of the valley shrub produces clusters of tiny bell-like pink flowers. They come in several types, all in varying shades and combinations of pink, red and white. This Japanese shrub will reach between 1-2 m tall and should be planted in a shady spot in the garden. They require moist roots to keep them happy and healthy.
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Plop a bergenia in a shady spot in your garden and enjoy its bright flowers in the cooler months. You may have heard bergenia referred to as pigsqueak due to the sound the leaves make when rubbed together. These low-lying species will grow to 30-40 cm tall and can be found in pink, purple or white varieties. Bergenia are extremely forgiving and easy to care for, as long as they aren’t planted too closely together.
The luculia’s large blooms are both striking and fragrant. The clusters of tiny pink flowers, which are native to the Himalayans, give off a powerful fragrance that will fill a room. A luculia is a temperamental plant, which doesn’t play well in our often-parched Australian soil. However, at the same time of needing moist soil, it demands good drainage. If you can manage to keep her happy, she’ll reward you with beautiful winter flowers.
These bi-coloured flowers are a welcomed addition to any Australian winter garden. Polyanthus come in yellow, red, pink, purple and orange. With a bit of care, your polyanthus will flower months. They thrive in plenty of sunshine and enjoy a good soaking with seaweed solution from time to time.
Words by Nell Matzen
- 11 beautiful flowers for Australian winter gardens
- 12 best winter flowers
- Flowers that bloom in winter
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