Add color to the cold winter months by planting up empty window boxes, planters and pots with colorful, showy flowers and evergreens.

Many gardeners often see winter as a gardening off-season, when there is hardly anything useful to do, just waiting for the eventful spring to arrive again. However, this does not have to be the case: for example, you can plant up empty balcony boxes with colorful plants to brighten up the exterior of your home in this often gloomy and gray time of year.

Some of the most popular winter blooming plants include crocuses, Christmas roses and snowdrops; everyone likes these charming little plants. If hard frosts are not uncommon where you live, choose hardy, cold-tolerant plants.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to maintain a winter greenhouse, you can add a number of other plants to the range of plants that are also attractive in winter, and which will keep you busy until spring.

Below are five of our favorite winter plants that create a charming focal point when grown in window boxes or flower pots:

1. American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

The low-growing American wintergreen (also known as eastern teaberry, checkerberry or boxberry) is an evergreen dwarf shrub native to northeastern North America that exudes a real festive atmosphere in winter with its large, red berries and reddish-toned, fragrant leaves.

2. Garden pansy (Viola × wittrockiana)

Garden pansies with yellow, brownish-red, white or purple flowers tolerate cold winter weather well, only extreme frost can kill them. With the arrival of spring, they start to grow early and at a fast pace. If you pinch off the spent flowers and dead parts, you can make them bloom again.

3. Cyclamen

Cyclamen plants are extremely decorative with their pink, red, white or purple flowers. In some shops, it is sold as a houseplant, but it can also be kept outdoors in a sheltered place if the temperature is mild. When kept indoors, it prefers a cool room or a windowsill.

4. Japanese skimmia (Skimmia japonica)

Japanese skimmia is a hardy, winter-tolerant, reliable evergreen plant with its deep red flower buds appearing in clusters as early as autumn. Among other plants, common heather (Calluna vulgaris) is a great companion plant for Japanese skimmia.

5. Blue bugle (Ajuga reptans)

Blue bugle is a widespread, cold-tolerant, evergreen perennial. It is also known as common bugle, bugleherb, bugleweed, carpetweed and carpet bugleweed. It is usually planted as a low ground cover plant and can be an excellent alternative to English ivy (Hedera helix).