Shrubs for containers

Growing shrubs in containers is an easy way to bring landscape plants to a deck, porch, patio or front door. This list of shrubs fits into most landscape designs and house architecture. When picking a shrub, consider its height and width growth potential to ensure it will fit in the desired location. After planting the shrub in the container, add a layer of organic mulch, such as pine chips or leaf mold, to help retain moisture. Imagine the evergreen shrubs with stringed twinkle lights for holiday events or to add light to an evening outdoors. The suggested bushy herbs are perennial plants that also provide fragrance and are edible. Shown in the seating area above is hibiscus (left) and pink hydrangea (right).

Evergreen shrubs

Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), also known as common boxwood, is a slow growing evergreen shrub cold hardy to USDA planting zone 5. Prune to maintain desired shape. Plant in full sun to part shade. Boxwood has a distinct odor that some may find unpleasant. So place potted plants at least 3 feet from any dining area.

Lavender cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus), also called santolina, is cold hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9. Lavender cotton grows 1 to 2 feet tall and twice as wide. Small yellow flowers appear in summer on this drought-tolerant plant for full sun.
Buds formed on this camellia shrub while snow was still on the ground.
Camellia (like Camellia japonica) is cold hardy as far north as USDA zone 6. This evergreen shrub has glossy leaves and produces pink, red or white blooms in late fall or early spring. Camellia has the potential to grow very tall; however, routine pruning keeps it in check. Camellia grows well in partial shade to full shade.

Other evergreen shrub options: Escallonia (Escallonia spp.) produces reddish blooms from summer into fall and can reach 15 feet in height. The dwarf variety of escallonia reaches 3 feet. Azaleas (Azalea spp.) are slow growing shrubs with white, different shades of pink, lavender, coral or yellow blooms in early spring. Azalea can be 2 to 10 feet tall. Gardenia (Gardenia angusta), which can grow up to 10 feet tall, produces scented blooms that are light yellow or white. Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), which can reach 5 feet in height, fits a traditional landscape setting. Boxleaf euonymus, which can grow up to 6 feet tall, is unique in that it can live in full sun to full shade.

Rose of Sharon
Deciduous shrubs

Deciduous shrubs lose their leaves in the fall. The dwarf variety of Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) reaches 3 feet in height and produces yellow blooms in the spring. Bottlebrush (Myrtaceae) produces red, cylindrical blooms in spring or summer. Mexican orange (Choisya) produces white star-shaped flowers in the spring. Bottlebrush and Mexican orange can reach heights over 12 feet. Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) grows over 10 feet tall and produces blooms in a variety of colors, including white and pink. Hydrangea has large white, pink or blue summer blooms and full, dense foliage. In a pot, it will need to be pruned annually to control its width.

Shrubby herbs

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) reaches a height and spread of about 24 inches. This highly scented plant will be your source of buds for potpourri. Lavender, which is cold hardy in USDA zones 5 through 7, prefers full sun but tolerates some shade. Oregano (Origanum vulgare) grows to about 24 inches tall and wide in full sun. Oregano produces white or pink blooms in summer. Use oregano leaves in cooking. Oregano is cold hardy as far north as USDA zone 4 and grows best in full sun. Sage (Salvia officinalis) is cold hardy to USDA zone 4. Sage grows to about 2 feet tall. Dry the leaves of sage for use in cooking. Grow sage in full sun.

Other considerations

Water potted shrubs regularly when they are not dormant, which is about every seven days if there is no rain. In particularly dry, sunny situations, the potted shrubs may need more frequent watering. The type of pot can also indicate a need for more frequent watering. Soil in clay pots will dry out faster than soil in plastic pots. Annual pruning of fast growing shrubs can ensure they don’t topple over.

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