Many evergreen shrubs can work just as well in pots or containers as they do in the ground.
But which evergreen shrubs should you choose? You may wonder where to begin when choosing shrubs for a container garden.
To help you narrow down your choices, we’ve developed this list of 12 evergreen shrubs that work very well in containers, and which we believe are amongst the best for pots for you to consider:
1. Aucuba japonica
The first evergreen shrub to consider is Japanese laurel – Aucuba japonica.
This is a relatively compact, medium-sized shrub that has attractive evergreen leaves – which can be variegated – and little purple flowers which are followed by large glossy red berries.
It is H5 hardy, and will work well in a full shade or partially shaded position.
There are many, many small Azaleas (and Rhododendron) that work very well in a container filled with ericaceous compost or potting mix.
Growing these in containers means you can ensure that they have the acidic conditions they need, even when the soil is not acidic in your area.
There are options that work well in full sun, or in partially shaded positions, and most are H6 hardy in the UK.
Camellias are another great choice for growing in an ericaceous potting mix.
There are several bijou options that are wonderful for containers, and these too will thrive in a lightly shaded position.
For environmental reasons, be sure to choose a peat-free ericaceous compost for your pots. These shrubs have beautiful blooms early in the year and most are hardy to some degree.
One of the great things about Ceanothus is that this is a nitrogen-fixing shrub.
Another is that they have truly stunning blue flowers that really can make a huge impact in your garden.
Be sure to choose the right variety of Ceanothus, as some grow much larger than others.
Ceanothus griseus spread into a low bushy form, and Ceanothus repels also has a low, spreading habit, or can be grown in a container to spread up against a wall or fence.
Ceanothus can flower in spring, or in late summer/ autumn depending on the variety. It thrives in full sun.
Choisya (Mexican orange blossom) is another beautiful flowering evergreen shrub to consider.
Growing to create dense mounds of evergreen foliage, these will come alive in spring with their white, scented flowers.
‘Aztec pearl’ is one great small option to consider growing in a container.
It is H4 hardy, and will do best in full sun.
Cotoneaster is another great option for growing in pots.
This glossy evergreen has pretty white flowers followed by red berries loved by birds.
Cotoneaster can take a range of different forms. It can be formed into more upright shrubs or tree-like forms, neatly pruned. Or can sprawl out horizontally or up a wall or fence – depending on which type of cotoneaster you choose.
Cotoneaster can thrive in full sun or in partial shade and is a very easy plant to grow.
Daphnes are popular blooming shrubs – and with good reason.
Their attractive and showy blooms flower often in late winter, when there are few other flowers around.
Dwarf alpine species such as D. arbuscula, D. genkwa and D. cneorum are particularly good for growing in pots.
Though there are many Daphnes that will work wonderfully in containers, mostly in moist but free-draining conditions in full sun.
Some Daphnes, however, like D. laureola, will even thrive in deep shade.
Many heathers and heaths in the Calluna and Erica genus will work very well in pots.
Bear in mind that heathers and heaths generally require an ericaceous compost, and like acidic conditions. Other than this, they are relatively unfussy and will be good, relatively low-maintenance plants.
Choose the right heathers for your container garden and you can enjoy blooms over along the whole of the year.
Some heathers have not only beautiful blooms but also interesting coloured foliage which alters over the course of the seasons. So if you are looking for year-round interest, heathers are often an excellent choice.
There are many Hebes to choose from for evergreen appeal in your container garden.
One delightful option, for example, is ‘Pink Elephant’. This is a hardy plant with attractive green leaves tinged creamy-yellow at the edges, and the whole plant blushes pink, then purplish in cooler conditions.
Small white flowers also add additional interest during the summer months.
Photinia ‘Red Robin’ is a popular plant, both in gardens and municipal planting. And some may feel that it is overused.
Nonetheless, it is popular for good reason, and we believe it is still a good choice to consider if you want to break up the green in your garden with some lovely reddish hues.
‘Little Red Robin’ is the dwarf cultivar – a good choice for containers.
P. glabra ‘Rubens’ is another dense and rounded shrub that you might also consider growing in a pot in a container garden.
Skimmias are also evergreen shrubs for year-round interest which can work extremely well in containers.
Most will thrive in an area with light or partial shade – though there are cultivars for almost any situation.
Skimmia japonica female plants will produce berries if grown near a male plant, which adds extra interest after the attractive flowers.
S. japonica subsp. Reevesiana is a hermaphrodite which will produce attractive berries over the winter months.
Evergreen viburnums are also often top picks for evergreen container gardens.
Viburnum tinus, for example, is a great value shrub which can work well in containers in many different positions, including full sun, partial and even deeper shade.
It has dark, glossy green leaves, small white flowers, and these flowers are followed by dark bluish-black berries. So this is another great option to consider when growing evergreen shrubs in pots.
In this list, we have focused on evergreen shrubs to maximise ornamental appeal. Though of course, many culinary herbs are also evergreen shrubs (or sub-shrubs), and these can also be wonderful to grow in pots.
There are plenty of other beautiful evergreen shrubs to consider – so use this only as a starting point when choosing evergreen shrubs to grow in pots in your garden.
A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel. See her personal website here.