Choosing plants for winter container gardening

Let the beauty of outdoor container gardening continue through winter by choosing landscaping plants suitable for cold climates. Choose weather-sturdy plant containers like those made of plastic, polymers or stone. Catch the eye of visitors by using bright colored containers for your landscape design projects. Fill the containers with evergreen shrubs, ground cover or flowers. Surround the plants in the container with 1 to 2 inches of mulch, such as pine chips or leaf mold, to help retain moisture and smother weed growth from seeds that may float in the air and find their way into the pot. Choose a single plant for each container or choose a combination of plants like a shrub surrounded by ground cover.

Evergreen shrubs

Landscaping evergreen shrubs in containers require little care. Choose dwarf or slow growing evergreen varieties, which may need little to no pruning to retain a suitable height. Shrubs need a large, heavy planter to accommodate root growth and to resist tipping in heavy winds. Shrub options may include leaf or needle evergreen that grow in full sun to part shade. Dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca 'Conica') grows 5 to 8 feet tall and is cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7. Dwarf Burford holly (Ilex cornuta rotunda burfordii) grows up to 3 feet tall in USDA zones 7 to 9. Japanese boxwood (Buxus japonica) grows to about 5 feet tall and is hardy in USDA zones 3 to 10.

Ground cover

Adding ground cover around the base of plants in a container garden replaces the need for mulch. Green to green-yellow, creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia) offers year-round appeal. Grow in USDA plantings zones 4 through 8. Equally bright is goldmoss sedum (Sedum acre) that grows 2 to 4 inches tall in USDA planting zones 5 to 10, and creeping thyme (Thymus praecox) that grows 1 to 4 inches tall in USDA zones 4 to 9. Plant these ground covers in containers located in full sun to partial shade.

Flowers

Many landscaping flowers thrive in containers. For a touch of color, pick winter pansy (viola), literally! Snip blooms from pansy to create a tiny floral arrangement for each table setting. Choose from violet, yellow or white blooms that reach less than 12 inches tall. Winter pansy is cold hardy in USDA planting zones 6 to 9 and prefers full sun to part shade. Looking for a winter blooming flower with some more height? Try hellebore (Helleborus x hybridus), which grows to about 18 inches in partial shade. Hellebore is a perennial that is cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9 and produces blooms in shades of cream, purple or rose.