Many gardeners enjoy growing plants in containers, but they often forget that shrubs are also an option for this form of gardening.   If you have limited growing space such as on a patio or balcony, they can be a particularly good choice too. Since shrubs are not frequently grown in containers they can make a dramatic and eye-catching display. There are thousands of varieties of shrubs to choose from which means that regardless of your location there is one to fit your requirements.

These are 5 shrubs we can recommend to you:


Hydrangea - Admittedly, your typical Hydrangea won’t work well in a container, but a variety called Annabelle is an exception. This is a very low-demanding plant that can easily be pruned to keep it container friendly. In late spring to early summer it produces large white flowers in abundance and if pruned after the first flowering finishes you can get a second burst of blooms for the late summer and fall. For more information about how to care for Hydrangeas please click here.

Azalea - This shrub works well in sun or shade. Once it finishes flowering in the spring it can be pruned to keep it tidy and within the confines of the container. Most varieties keep their leaves in the winter which is also a plus. Learn more about Azaleas in this article

Boxwood - Perhaps the most well-known shrub that is used in containers it can be trimmed to any shape. It is a popular choice for the hobby of topiary and virtually any variety is suitable for a pot. With proper pruning, it will look as good in January as it does in July.

Shrub Rose - Ok, so they may not officially be a shrub, but if your focus is on flowers for your containers than shrub roses or miniatures are a great choice. They require full sun, monthly fertilizing and routine watering during a dry summer. A variety known as Easy Elegance are ideal for containers.

Nandina - This is a very adaptable shrub which makes it a perfect container plant. It grows in sun or shade. It tolerates a wide array of soil types including dry conditions and its fall foliage display can’t be beaten. Nadine is an evergreen or semi-evergreen broadleaf shrub, which grows 5 to 7 feet high and spreads 3 to 5 feet. The foliage resembles a bamboo tree. Flowers appear in May to June and are pinkish white. It is considered deer resistant. 

Other Tips about Container Gardening with Shrubs


  • Choose a Frost Proof Container - If your container is going to be left outside in the winter it should be able to withstand cold temperatures. While terra cotta looks terrific, fiberglass pots are probably a better choice.
  • Don’t Feed in the Fall - Fertilizing in the fall will promote growth which is likely not to survive the winter as it won’t have enough time to get accustomed to cold temperatures. This is also known as winter kill and it can put a lot of stress on the shrub.
  • Water in the Winter - We all know that containers dry out in the summer, but winter winds can dry the soil in containers too. You should check your pots periodically and provide some water if snow or rain are not in the forecast.
  • Repot Every 3 Years - The roots of shrubs need room to grow and if the plant has been in the container for a while, a new pot may be needed to provide this. It is recommended that shrubs be replanted every 3 years.

Rose Shrub photo courtesy of Easy Elegance

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