It’s December! With it getting darker earlier in the day, that’s exactly why it’s a great idea to choose plants that will brighten your garden on the dullest of days. So, here’s my top ten plants for December that should do just that!

1. Cornus sanguinea (dogwood) ‘Anny’s Winter Orange’

There are many coloured stem dogwoods available to buy. This vivid, orange stemmed cultivar is one of the best for bringing bright colour into your garden on a cold winter’s day. Not only that but it’s easy to grow too. There are also many seasons of interest, with clusters of pretty white flowers in early summer and leaves that turn a gorgeous orange-yellow colour in autumn. The leaves fall to reveal those bright stems.

  • Flowers in summer
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows up to 2.5m tall
  • Moist well-drained, poorly drained, or well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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2. Galanthus plicatus (snowdrop) ‘Three Ships’

There is nothing more beautiful than the sight of a group of snowdrops on a cold winter’s morning. They mostly appear in abundance from February, but there are some cultivars that flower early. ‘Three Ships’ (named after the Christmas carol of the same name) is one that is often in full flower around Christmas time. Utterly joyful, but a rare one, be prepared to wait to buy them.

  • Flowers in winter
  • Hardy
  • Grows up to 50cm tall
  • Moist, but well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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3. Acer griseum (paperbark maple)

This slow growing tree has the most attractive chestnut brown colour peeling bark. It becomes a real stand-out feature in the garden after leaf fall in the autumn. Growing happily in full sun or part shade and a sheltered spot, it’s a wonderful addition.

  • Attractive foliage and bark year round
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 8m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Sheltered
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4. Helleborus (Christmas rose) ‘Wintergold’

Another much loved winter flowering plant is the hellebore. Like snowdrops, most cultivars don’t start to flower until the New Year. However, this pretty white flowering, low-growing variety flowers from November. Also, they make excellent cut flowers with their outward facing blooms.

  • Flowers in winter
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 30cm tall and 30cm wide
  • Moist well-drained soil
  • Part shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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5. Symphoricarpos (snowberry) ‘Magical Candy’

If you’re looking for a low growing, easy to look after plant with winter interest, this could be the perfect choice. Pretty clusters of pink berries are produced from autumn into winter, as well as masses of small pink flowers in the summer months.

  • Flowers in summer and berries in autumn
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows to 80cm tall
  • Moist, but well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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6. Photinia x fraseri (Christmas berry) ‘Red Robin’

Next is another shrub that’s easy to look after. With shiny, bright red, young leaves, it’s perfect for this time of the year. It’s a very adaptable, medium size, evergreen shrub which can be grown in several ways; as a specimen, as hedging or even trained into a standard.

  • Attractive foliage year-round and flowers in spring
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 4m tall
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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7. Ilex aquifolium (silver-margined holly) ‘Argentea Marginata’

There’s something rather wonderful about being able to go into your garden on Christmas Day and pick berried stems of holly for the Christmas table. Although, you’d probably have to put a bag over the berries at the beginning of the month to stop the birds getting them before you! This variegated holly is a female, so will produce red berries as long as there’s a male holly growing nearby. Also, it’s very tolerant of pollution and salt deposits, making it the ideal choice for urban or coastal gardens.

  • Evergreen foliage and berries in autumn
  • Fully hardy
  • Can grow taller than 12m
  • Moist but well-drained or well-drained soil
  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Exposed or sheltered
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8. Picea abies (Norway spruce)

A pot-grown Christmas tree in the garden is an incredibly festive addition. Not only does it look great through the year, but you can bring it into the house annually to be decorated for Christmas. Grown in the UK since Victorian times, it’s the tree people most associate with Christmas. They are easy to grow in a container, as long as you water it often so it doesn’t dry out. Keep it outside as close to Christmas as possible and, once inside, place it away from fireplaces or radiators.

  • Evergreen foliage
  • Fully hardy
  • Can grow up to 12m tall (when grown in the ground)
  • Moist, well-drained soil
  • Full sun
  • Exposed or sheltered
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9. Sarcococca confusa (Christmas box)

This is one of the best evergreen hardy shrubs for producing glorious scent on a cold December morning. Relatively slow growing, this easy to maintain shrub is best grown near a pathway or front door to appreciate its sweet aroma fully best.

  • Flowers in winter
  • Hardy
  • Grows to 1.5m tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil
  • Full shade or partial shade
  • Sheltered
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10. Skimmia japonica [female] ‘Temptation’

Last is a stunning, shrubby evergreen that thrives in a neutral or acidic soil. Creamy white flowers join the dark foliage in spring, then in autumn clusters of red berries are the star of the show. A good contender for containers, this is a festive addition to a winter garden.

  • Evergreen foliage and berries in winter
  • Fully hardy
  • Grows up to 1.5m tall
  • Moist but well-drained soil (neutral/acidic)
  • Full shade or partial shade
  • Sheltered or exposed
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Though December is a darker and colder month, you can brighten up your garden with these top ten plants that are sure to bring some Christmas cheer. Let me know your favourite flowering or fruiting plant of this month in the comments or on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

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