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12 Beautiful Shrubs To Grow In Pots

If you only have a small garden, growing in pots or containers can be a good way to go. Just because you don’t have a large backyard, that does not mean you have to compromise on aesthetics. 

A container garden can be just as beautiful and effective an environment as a regular ground-growing garden. You just have to choose the right plants, and put in a little more effort to keep plants happy. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most beautiful shrubs that can be grown in pots.

Of course, these are just a tiny fraction of the many, many options you could consider. But these interesting and attractive options are a good place to start when choosing the right shrubs for your container garden:

1. Roses

In my opinion, roses top the list when it comes to shrubs to grow in a container garden.

There are plenty of hardy and resilient rose varieties that will grow well in pots, in a wide range of different gardens and different settings.

No matter where you live, you are sure to be able to find a compact rose variety to suit you and your setting.

As long as you choose a large enough container, almost any type of rose can be pot grown. Miniature and patio roses, however, can be ideal for smaller spaces. They come in a huge range of shapes, colors and forms. 

2. Hydrangea

Hydrangea is another plant choice that definitely makes sense for a container garden.

Big, blousy and beautiful, there are a range of different hydrangea that will grow well in pots.

Like roses, they are relatively resilient and hassle free, and there are options that can work well in containers in a wide range of different gardens.

Growing hydrangea in containers also makes it much easier for you to control the color of the blooms by managing the pH of the growing medium. 

3. Daphnes

Daphnes are another group of plants that offer plenty of options for a container garden.

One great Daphne to grow in pots, for example, is Daphne x transatlantica, Eternal Fragrance ‘Blafra’.

This is a neat, evergreen shrub with impressive fragrance and white flowers with pink tubes.

It not only produces flowers from shoot tips but also from the leaf joints on new growth, and the season extends from spring right through into fall. 

4. Hebes

There are also a number of Hebe varietals that work very well in pots or containers.

One interesting option to consider, for example, is Hebe ‘Pink Elephant’. It is neat, evergreen and very hardy. There are creamy yellow edges to the dark green leaves, and the whole plant becomes tinted pink and then purple in cooler weather. There are also flower spikes of small white flowers during the summer months.

If you can place your container in a full sun spot, this should do very well in your container garden. 

5. Acer Palmatum 

Many of the smaller Japanese maples will stay small shrubs rather than growing into larger trees. And some will work very well in a container as long as they get enough water during hot summer weather.

One great example to consider is ‘Crimson Queen’, which keeps its compact form in a container.

The lovely lacy leaves of this variety keep their deep red color from spring right through to fall, when they develop bright crimson tones.

This option will do best in an area with light, dappled or partial shade. 

6. Viburnum tinus

There are plenty of Viburnum that will do well in pots, and Viburnum tinus is one of the best value options for many growers.

Though it can grow into a large evergreen shrub, it can also be kept more compact in pots.

It has dark green, glossy leaves and small, creamy white flowers. Often, these have a pink tinge while in bud. These flowers are followed by blue-black berries.

One of the good things about this option is that while it can grow well in full sun or partial shade, it can also be grown in a full shade container garden. 

7. Pieris Japonica

Pieris Japonica will do well when planted in a container with ericaceous compost.

This is a great choice for a container garden in light or partial shade.

‘Prelude’ is one good cultivar of this species. It is naturally more compact than many other options. And it has beautiful pendulous sprays of pure white flowers.

New foliage comes in bright pink, and darkens to a deep green that shows off the flowers to great effect. 

8. Kalmia Latifolia

Kalmias are another acid-loving plant that will grow well in an ericaceous compost.

‘Little Linda’ is a great kalmia to grow in containers. It is a dwarf form, but unlike many other dwarf forms, has smaller leaves so everything is in proportion.

It produces abundant clusters of bright red flower buds which open into strong pink flowers as they mature.

Container gardens will surely be enlivened by the dramatic burst of blooms each June.

Place your container in full sun or partial shade. 

9. Spirea Japonica ‘Nana’

Spirea comes in a range of shapes and forms. It can be an incredibly attractive flowering shrub.

The small and more compact form ‘Nana’ can be a great choice for container gardens. This dwarf variety has a low-growing, spreading habit and it can be ideal as a specimen shrub in a pot.

The pink flowers (June to August) look fantastic against the green foliage, and there is added interest due to the fabulous fall foliage shades that emerge as the season progresses.

It will grow well in sun or partial shade. 

10. Crape Myrtle

Crape myrtle provides year round interest, with showy summer blooms, colorful foliage in fall, and attractive winter bark.

This large shrub adds pops of vibrant pink, purple or white to the garden in summer/ early fall, producing large conical panicles that can be up to 20cm long.

Some varietals have bark that peels off attractively in the winter months.

This plant can do well in larger containers, as long as they are placed in full sun, in a sheltered spot. 

11. Itea Virginica

Also known as Virginia sweet spire, this North American native can work well in a container garden.

The plant produces long flower tassels in June and July, around 3-6 inches in length. These have small white, cream or pale green flowers.

‘Henry’s Garnet’ is a deciduous shrub which, in addition to the flowers, also has very attractive deep red and purple fall color.

It will do best in a relatively sheltered spot in partial shade. 

12. Physocarpus opulifolius

Ninebark is another North American native that can be a great choice when you are looking for beautiful shrubs to grow in pots.

‘Diabolo’ is one beautiful option. It is grown for its rich, purple foliage, and for its pinkish flowers borne on arching branches in early summer, followed by glossy red seed heads in fall.

When it reaches maturity, the bark peels away attractively in layers.

The growing medium must be moist yet well-drained, and it will do best in full sun or partial shade. 

As mentioned above, these are just a few of the many options that you could consider when choosing a beautiful shrub to grow in containers.

Be sure to think about the conditions where you live, and the climate you are in, when choosing your plants.

When you make the right choices, you should be able to enjoy your container shrubs for years to come. And they’ll not only look great but also attract a range of beneficial wildlife to your garden. 

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Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington is a writer, permaculture designer and green living consultant. She is a practical, hands-on gardener, with a background in philosophy: (an MA in English-Philosophy from St Andrews University). She has long had an interest in ecology, gardening and sustainability and is fascinated by how thought can generate action, and ideas can generate positive change.

In 2014, she and her husband moved to their forever home in the country. She graduated from allotment gardening to organically managing 1/3 of an acre of land, including a mature fruit orchard,which she has turned into a productive forest garden. The yield from the garden is increasing year on year – rapidly approaching an annual weight in produce of almost 1 ton.

She has filled the rest of the garden with a polytunnel, a vegetable patch, a herb garden, a wildlife pond, woodland areas and more. Since moving to the property she has also rescued many chickens from factory farms, keeping them for their eggs, and moved much closer to self-sufficiency. She has made many strides in attracting local wildlife and increasing biodiversity on the site.

When she is not gardening, Elizabeth spends a lot of time working remotely on permaculture garden projects around the world. Amongst other things, she has designed private gardens in regions as diverse as Canada, Minnesota, Texas, the Arizona/California desert, and the Dominican Republic, commercial aquaponics schemes, food forests and community gardens in a wide range of global locations.

In addition to designing gardens, Elizabeth also works in a consultancy capacity, offering ongoing support and training for gardeners and growers around the globe. She has created booklets and aided in the design of Food Kits to help gardeners to cool and warm climates to grow their own food, for example. She is undertaking ongoing work for NGO Somalia Dryland Solutions and a number of other non governmental organisations, and works as an environmental consultant for several sustainable companies.

Visit her website here and follow along on her Facebook page here.