Trees and shrubs with attractive bark

In the depths of winter, the quiet charms of plants with strikingly coloured bark come into their own. Textures and stem colours attract the eye, as bright whites, yellows, pinks warm red-browns light the gloom.

Cornus can be coppiced annually.
Cornus can be coppiced annually.


Winter interest provided by bark on trees and shrubs is an important aspect of planting up a garden, and is sometimes overlooked in favour of more flamboyant flower interest. Many of the suggestions listed here provide strong upright forms as well as striking colours. For maximum impact, plant the shrubs in groups and the trees where their bark can be seen and appreciated.

Practical considerations

Points to note:

  • Cornus (dogwood), Rubus and Salix (willow) are shrubs which need pruning each year, almost to ground level in March, to ensure that a fresh crop of the brightest-coloured stems are produced for the next winter. This is known as coppicing or stooling
  • Pollarding is suitable for Salix (willow), Eucalyptus and other species grown as small trees, and is another way of ensuring the brightest stem colour on new growth
  • While pruning these plants for winter stem interest, you can take hardwood cuttings to increase your plant stocks
  • Acers are not very obliging when it comes to pruning, so try to avoid it. An exception is Acer ‘Winter Lightning’ which can be coppiced annually
  • Grow all of these plants in full sun in deep, moist, loamy soil, avoiding shallow, chalky soils. Prepare the ground with the addition of organic matter over the planting area

Suitable plants


Shrubs or trees (depending on pruning technique)



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