Containers are probably not the first place you might think of when it comes to growing a shrub but with proper care, there are some that will succeed in a pot just as they would in the garden. Rather than filling everything with flowers this year, why not try something a little different? If you have a smaller garden, growing shrubs in containers can help you make the most of the space you have available to you. They might need a little more TLC than if they are growing in the ground, but it's well worth the effort when you see the end result. Keep reading for some of our absolute favorite shrubs to grow in pots or containers.
Winter Protection for Container Plantings
While growing shrubs in containers is a creative idea, these winter protection tips are important to consider before you start planting. First, there is really no guarantee that any shrub or perennial will survive a harsh winter if kept in a container. When planted in the ground, roots are protected from some of the chilly extremes; an above-ground container planting lacks that safeguard from the elements. As we see it, you have two main options to help your container shrub survive our PA winters:
Move your container planting into a protected area such as a garage, or try to protect it as much as possible with a thick layer of mulch and burlap covering before the frost hits. Then, hope for a mild winter!
In the fall, remove the shrub from its container and transplant it into your garden. It may require some root stimulator to encourage roots to quickly take hold before frost, but there’s a good chance of survival.
Also, watering and fertilizing is paramount when it comes to summer care, as containers dry out and leach nutrients much quicker. Now that we’ve stated those necessary precautions, let’s get gardening! Here are our top shrub picks that would be stunning in container plantings.
1. St. John's Wort
This herbaceous shrub has more benefits than we can count! It is a staple in any herbalist's garden, thanks to its immense medicinal properties. St John's wort is often used as a mood booster, offering relief for some forms of depression and anxiety as well as seasonal affective disorder, menopause-related symptoms, and more. Medicinal properties aside though, it is absolutely beautiful when it's in bloom, it's extremely hardy, and it is a fan favorite among pollinators. It can survive in a pretty wide range of climates, and it's just generally easy to grow.
2. Rose of Sharon
Despite its moniker, this exquisite shrub isn't actually a rose at all. Also known as Hibiscus syriacus, these woody plants are distantly related to the tropical hibiscus. Rose of Sharon blooms in late summer to early fall when many others have long since finished blooming. And, like other hibiscus plants, they have a striking stamen and come in variations of white, lavender, red, pink, and even some blue tones. They're quite easy to grow in both the ground and container.
3. Barberry 'Admiration'
This beautiful shrub is sure to be the star of the show in your yard this year. Its show-stopping foliage is bright red with gold-edged leaf margins that hold onto their vibrant color all season long. Throughout the season, the bright red of their foliage turns to a sort of purple-red hue, which contrasts equally as beautiful with their golden edges. Their compact stature makes them an ideal choice to grow in containers, reaching only about two feet by two feet when left untrimmed. Placing this Barberry ‘Admiration' in full sun will help to bring out its true vibrancy.
4. Boxwood ‘Dwarf English'
As its name would suggest, the Boxwood ‘Dwarf English' is a natural choice for growing in containers due to its small stature. As an evergreen shrub, it offers year-round color, and when pruned appropriately, can bring a sort of loving-sculpture vibe to your yard or patio.
A small, rounded evergreen shrub that forms tufts of growth that look like a little green cloud if left unpruned. This slow-growing, dwarf form is ideal for edging and borders along pathways or around flower beds. Well-suited for topiary, these understated, slow-growing shrubs work great as accent pieces. They tend to prefer partial shade on those really hot summer days, but will also grow in full sun. Perks of growing them in a container include being able to easily move them around if you feel like they are not reaching their full potential where they are!
5. Euonymus 'Moonshadow'
Commonly used as a groundcover, Euonymus ‘Moonshadow' will reach about three feet at maturity, cascading over the side of your pot in the process. Grown for its striking, variegated foliage, this fast-growing shrub enjoys full to partial sun and moderate watering (although it will need a little more water in extreme heat, and just growing in a container in general). This is a relatively low-maintenance groundcover that will not need a whole lot of pruning or other TLC.
6. Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush has a bit of a whimsical quality to it. It is a gorgeous, relatively fast-growing shrub that produces masses of blossoms that bloom from summer until the first frost. They can grow in containers, but keep in mind that the size they reach at maturity varies based on the variety you select. Butterfly Bush ‘Lo and Behold,' for example, is a dwarf variety that will remain relatively compact at maturity. Their showy, fragrant, blooms attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, and they are overall a relatively low-maintenance deciduous shrub.
These are just a few of the many beautiful shrubs you can grow in containers. Whether you are looking for a shrub that is deer-resistant, pollinator-friendly, or just downright show-stopping to plant this year, we've got you covered. Stop by the nursery to check out more of the beautiful plants in stock!