If you're looking for color in late winter (milder climates) and early spring (cold climates), hellebores, also known as Lenten roses or Christmas roses, are tough to beat.
Many of these shade-loving beauties shrug off frost and snow without suffering a bit of brown on their leathery, deep green leaves. (Leaves and roots are poisonous, though, so be careful with children and pets.)
Luckily for gardeners, hybridizers have been busy creating new varieties in a range of colors.
Try these favorites:
CHRISTMAS ROSE (Helleborus niger, Zones 4 to 8) 1 foot tall; white to pink-flushed flowers with greenish-yellow centers; blooms December to March, depending on the zone.
LENTEN ROSE (Helleborus orientalis, Zones 4 to 9) 12 to 18 inches tall; pink, rose, purple-red, or white flowers, sometimes with mottling; blooms late winter.
HYBRID HELLEBORE (Helleborus x hybridus, Zones 4 to 9) 18 inches tall; flowers are pink, burgundy, mauve, white, or yellow; blooms early spring.