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Gardening tips for winter

Volunteer pruning an espaliered fruit tree in the Walled Garden during a working holiday at Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
Volunteer pruning an espaliered fruit tree in the Walled Garden during a working holiday at Clumber Park | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Gardens and growing spaces are still places of creativity, nature and new growth during the winter months. There are plenty of jobs to get stuck into, including looking after wildlife, planting for winter colour, planting and pruning rose bushes or planning ahead for warmer days.

Things to do in the garden during winter

Prune your roses

Most types of roses should be pruned in January or February before the leaves start to emerge. Modern roses can be cut back hard while the older types should be pruned more gently. Always remove any dead, damaged or diseased stems.

Planting and pruning fruit trees and bushes

Bare-root trees and bushes can be planted between November and March if the soil is not frozen. You can also prune apple and pear trees, gooseberries and currant bushes. Remove dead or rubbing branches, shorten new growth a little and try to keep an open centre to the tree or bush.

Herbaceous perennials

Don’t be tempted to be too tidy. Leaving some growth on your perennials will provide a winter habitat for the wildlife that uses in your garden. Some dry stems to hide in will make the winter months easier for many insects.

Bug hotel in the orchard at Polesden Lacey, Surrey showingstacked  flower pots, sticks and pine cones to attract insects.
Bug hotel in the orchard at Polesden Lacey, Surrey | © National Trust Images/Mark Wigmore

Look after wildlife

Leave out bird feeders and water baths or gently melt the ice on your ponds. This will allow garden birds to get a drink. A healthy garden ecosystem also needs insects so why not make a simple bug hotel with wood and sticks? Fill the gaps with hollow plant stems and pine cones to make a welcoming place for bugs to hide.

Protect outside taps

Drain outside taps and isolate them if you can. This will prevent burst pipes and a damaged tap in frosty weather. If you can’t isolate your garden tap then insulate exposed pipes and fit a tap cover to protect it from the cold weather.

Protect tender plants

Move tender plants in pots to a sheltered place or cover them with fleece, hessian or straw. Keeping the roots dry will greatly increase the plant's chances of survival through winter.

Winter Aconites flowering in the garden at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire.
Winter Aconites flowering in the garden at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire. | © National Trust Images/Serena Wyman

Winter plants for your garden

There are many different types of plants that can bring colour and texture to your garden during the winter months. Here are just some of our gardeners' favourites.


Perhaps the best known of the winter flowers, snowdrops are thought to have been introduced to British gardens in the late 15th century from mainland Europe. They flower between January and March.


Despite being native to the Mediterranean region, cyclamen thrive in the British Isles as garden plants. Growers have selectively bred the wild species to produce a range of colourful and shapely varieties.


Crocuses are a popular sight during winter and can be planted in containers or in small groups in garden borders. For the full wild effect, they are best planted in drifts under trees.

Winter aconites

The brilliant yellow, buttercup-like flowers of Eranthis hyemalis sit within a perfect rosette of green sepals. Like many winter-flowering plants, the leaves appear later.

Glory of the snow

The clue is in the name. This small group of plants is related to asparagus and their flowers have a wonderful blue tone, especially when set against a snowy background.


Despite the common name of winter rose, hellebores are members of the buttercup family. They flower all the way through winter from late November onwards and their colours range from pure white to dark purple.

Spring daffodils in bloom at Prior Park, Bath
Spring daffodils in bloom at Prior Park | © National Trust Images/Dawn Biggs

Preparing for spring

If the weather is bad outside, you could head indoors and start preparing your garden for spring. Some key things to consider include layout and plant choices, spaces for composting, water collection, storage and wildlife, and starting a diary so you can order and sow plants in good time. Late winter is also a good time to propagating perennials if you didn’t get a chance to do so during the autumn.

A gardener tending to the borders at Kingston Lacy, Dorset

Get gardening

Our gardeners are on hand with ideas for your garden, plot or window box. From planting veg to tackling weeds, they’ve got all the important topics covered.

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