4 Excellent Shrubs for Outdoor Containers

While shrubs are often reserved for landscaping beds and borders, shrubs can also make beautiful container plants. Shrubs are attractive on their own or paired with annuals that can be rotated to match the season. Many shrubs are cold hardy and will last in containers year round. Others will need to overwinter indoors. Shrubs can last several years in the same pot and even longer if you transplant them as you go.

Japanese Pieris

Japanese Pieris

Japanese Pieris boasts pretty bell shaped flowers in early spring.

Japanese pieris is a pretty evergreen plant that provides ornamental interest year round. The shrub produces attractive buds in late winter. The plant flowers in early spring producing pendulous bundles of petite white flowers that resemble upside down urns. After flowering, the plant sets on new growth that is brilliant red and later matures to deep green. This plant offers visual interest when many other plants are dormant. Japanese pieris can grow up to 10 feet tall, but will be much smaller when confined to a pot. There are two care needs to keep in mind when planting this shrub:

  1. It cannot tolerate full sun, partial to full shade works best.
  2. Japanese pieris requires acidic soil. If acidic soil is not maintained, the plant will die back in about two years.

Bay Laurel

Bay laurel is technically a tree and can grow to heights of 40 feet in its native mediterranean environment. In a pot it will rarely reach more than 6 feet. However, it can grow very dense and has an attractive shape. Bay laurel has evergreen leaves that are often used in stews and soups for added flavor. These leaves are at their best when freshly dried. The Herb Gardener suggests planting starts in a 12 inch pot with a depth of 8 inches. Bay laurel does not tolerate frost so you will need to bring it indoors each winter. Bay laurel likes full sun and moist soil. Bay laurel prefers a moist environment so use a rich potting soil that includes water retaining vermiculite.

Variegated Red Twig Dogwood

While bright red dogwood twigs are often used as accents in winter arrangements, the fast growing shrub can be used as a feature in containers as well. During the summer it boasts light green leaves with attractive white margins. The clumps of white flowers mature to bluish white berries. New growth branches are brightest red in the winter, so generously trim back the bush in the spring. Exposure to full sun will encourage the brightest colors in a red twig dogwood.

Green Mountain Boxwood

Boxwood is a hardy plant that thrives in containers. It can survive throughout the year through frost and snow. Green mountain boxwood holds its green color throughout the winter season, while other boxwoods may tinge a bit more orange or copper. The plant produces a thick mound of small, round, deep green leaves. This shrub can be easily shaped into eye catching topiaries. Boxwood trimmed into a pyramidal shape is especially attractive as a focal piece of a container arrangement. Boxwood enjoys full to part sun and is not very picky about moisture levels.

Year Round Interest

Shrubs can be attractive all year. Make sure you plant them in a container that can withstand both hot and cold temperatures. Plan to enjoy these plants year after year while you change out their accent plants to match the season. What are your favorite shrubs for container arrangements?


“Pieris japonica – Japanese Pieris” OSU Plant Facts. <http://plantfacts.osu.edu/descriptions/0247-858.html>

Growing Bay Leaf (Bay Laurel)  The Herb Gardener. <http://theherbgardener.blogspot.com/2008/06/bay-laurel.html>

“Redtwig dogwood Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ Fine Gardening, <http://www.finegardening.com/redtwig-dogwood-cornus-alba-elegantissima>

“Pruning the Boxwood.” Dirt Simple. <http://www.deborahsilver.com/blog/tag/boxwood-green-velvet/>

Image: Bells by Mike Ball




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