Shrubs might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to container gardening. Once you start using them, though, you'll find that they offer just as much color and interest as annuals or perennials while cutting down on the work required to maintain your containers.
Benefits of Container Gardening with Shrubs
- Four-season interest
- Less "changing out" required
- Perfect place to "nurse" along smaller shrubs before planting in the garden
- Unique texture
- Lower maintenance
Four Season Interest with Shrubs
There are two different ways you can use shrubs for four-season interest.
1) As the thriller or anchor in a single container planting. You can see in the picture to the right there's a gold and green variegated shrub in the container on the left side. Around the shrub million bells are planted. In the winter those annual flowers can be removed and replaced with pansies for cool weather, which can be switched out again for summer flowering annuals. Instead of needing to replant the entire container, you can just replant the flowering annuals. (The container in the foreground has an ornamental grass performing the same "thriller" function that the variegated shrub does in the back container.)
"Steal the look" with Wedding Ring Boxwood.
2) As color or texture in a multi-container grouping. I like to use the container filled with liriope (pictured, left. Again, not a shrub) as an example of how a plant with interesting form or texture can fill a container all by itself--without needing to be combined with additional plant types.
Group a few containers filled with one type of plant together (or, when you're using a shrub, you're usually filling the container with just one plant) and you have a true little garden of containers.
This grouping (pictured, right) was on display at the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. It includes two containers planted with shrubs or small trees and one container that incorporates a trailing juniper spilling over the edges of the container while colorful coleus plants provide vertical interest.
Nursing Smaller Shrubs
When you order from Shrub Source you can choose two different sizes of shrubs--a landscape-ready (Gallon) sized shrub or 1 qt size.
While you can plant the quart sizes directly into the landscape, a quart sized compact-growing shrub is also a great choice for container gardening. You can plant the shrub in the container and let it grow for a year or two, providing interesting height and color in your container plantings, and then you can move it out into the landscape once it's bigger. You get double for your money--a container plant for a few years and a larger, fuller shrub that plugs right into the landscape once you pop it out of the container and into the garden.
The elderberry pictured will be right at home in the container for a few years, but can be planted as a specimen shrub next to the front porch or in a landscape bed once it outgrows the container.
Creating a Unique Sense of Style with Container Shrubs
This picture shows shrub plantings at the Dallas Arboretum. You might be saying to yourself "Well, of course they can have lovely trimmed boxwood in giant urns. They have a huge staff."
Well, the great thing about Sprinter™ Boxwood from Shrub Source is that it is compact, slow growing, and has a fine leaf texture. You can steal this look and make it your own on a much smaller scale. The key to this look is repetition of the same shrub and the same container along the walkway. You don't need twelve of these shrubs, but you could plant four or six to create the same formal look.
Dare to Thrill
Planting a hibiscus in a container is a quick and easy way to add drama. You don't have to wait to get the big beautiful blooms.
In Naples, FL, their "5th Avenue" of shops is planted from end to end with gorgeous container gardens that change with the seasons. Hibiscus shrubs are a staple for the larger containers. They can be underplanted with "fillers" and "spillers."
We love Lil' Kim™ Hibiscus for thrilling container gardens.