Top 9 Evergreen Outdoor Plants for Pots and Container Gardens

One of the least exciting but most useful things you can do to improve the look of your garden is to grow evergreen plants in pots. It isn’t hard and colorful – more like bonsai without all the tedious snipping. But the work you put in pays off with lots of interesting textures, colors, and shapes that you can use all year long in your container gardens and other garden areas.

I like a style of container gardening that is almost never thriller-filler-spiller and almost always a one-plant-one-pot collection style. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know this. I find it more satisfying to be able to rearrange the plants whenever I want (and as needed). I can also pick out a pot, soil mix, and care instructions for each plant to make it look its best.

Outdoor pots and containers are a great way to add greenery and color to patios, porches, and other outdoor living spaces. While most container plantings rely on annuals that must be replaced each year, using evergreen plants provides permanent structure and foliage. With the right evergreen varieties, you can create stunning potted gardens that thrive year after year.

Evergreens are ideal for containers because their foliage persists through winter, offering color when most other plants have died back Their relatively slow growth also means they won’t outgrow pots as quickly as fast-growing plants Choosing compact, cold-hardy evergreens allows you to create beautiful potted gardens that withstand tough outdoor conditions.

Here are the top evergreen plants to use in pots and container gardens:

1. Boxwood

Boxwood (Buxus spp.) is a classic broadleaf evergreen shrub that has been cultivated for centuries. Its small, rounded leaves and dense growing habit make it ideal for pruned hedges and topiary. For containers, choose compact boxwood cultivars that grow in a mounded form, such as ‘Green Velvet’ or ‘Green Mountain’. Give boxwoods well-drained soil and protect from harsh winter winds. Established plants are quite drought tolerant.

2. Dwarf Mugo Pine

Dwarf Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo var. pumilio) is an extremely hardy, slow-growing conifer. Its bushy form and short needles add unique texture. Grow in full sun and avoid overwatering. Mugo pine makes a great thriller plant combined with lower growers. For containers, choose compact cultivars like ‘Mops’.

3. Dwarf Blue Spruce

Dwarf Blue Spruce (Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’) offers striking powdery blue foliage and a dense, conical form. It tolerates a wide range of conditions but prefers moist, well-draining soil and full sun. While larger blue spruce trees require ample space, compact varieties thrive in containers. Other great cultivars include ‘Baby Blue Eyes’ and ‘Blue Diamond’.

4. Emerald Green Arborvitae

‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’) is a narrow, upright evergreen shrub perfect for flanking entryways or other vertical applications. Its bright green foliage retains color through winter. Give arborvitae well-drained soil and protect from drying winds. Responds well to pruning Other compact cultivars like ‘Little Giant’ also work nicely in pots

5. Japanese Skimmia

Japanese skimmia (Skimmia japonica) offers showy, fragrant spring blooms and attractive berries that persist into winter. It thrives in part shade and moist, acidic soil. Skimmia works well as a low-growing focal point combined with ferns, heuchera, and other shade plants. Choose compact male cultivars like ‘Rubinetta’ since female plants produce abundant berries that can weigh down branches.

6. Japanese Pieris

Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica) is prized for its early spring blooms and orange-red new growth. Give pieris moist acidic soil and partial shade—too much sun causes leaf scorch. Combine with other acid-loving evergreens like rhododendrons azaleas and camellias. Compact varieties like ‘Katsura’ and ‘Little Heath’ are best for containers.

7. Rock Cotoneaster

Rock cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis) is a low-growing, spreading evergreen shrub. Small pinkish-white flowers in spring are followed by abundant red berries. Cotoneaster makes an excellent spiller plant for containers and rock gardens. Give full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. Popular compact varieties include ‘Coral Beauty’ and ‘Hessei Superba’. Avoid overwatering.

8. Juniper

Upright juniper (Juniperus) shrubs add fine, feathery foliage and interesting twisted shapes. Varieties like ‘Blue Point’ and ‘Spartan’ work well in pots, while low-growing creeping types are nice spillers. Junipers tolerate most soils but require good drainage. Protect from harsh winter winds. Popular compact cultivars include ‘Blue Star’, ‘Sea Green’, and ‘Blue Rug’.

9. Hinoki Cypress

Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) is prized for its lush, fern-like foliage and graceful shape. It prefers moist, well-drained soils and partial shade. Give plenty of water in summer but avoid soggy soil in winter. Hinoki cypress grows slowly, so it can thrive for years in a large container. Good compact cultivars include ‘Confucius’, ‘Nana Gracilis’, and ‘Nana Lutea’.

When selecting evergreens for containers, choose compact cultivars suited to your climate. Most varieties need full sun but some tolerate partial shade. Provide well-drained soil and appropriate moisture. Situate pots out of drying winds and mulch or insulate roots in very cold winters. With the right care, evergreens can give your container gardens permanent structure and year-round interest.

Plant sizes of container-grown plants will be smaller.

When you grow plants in pots, they can only access the nutrients available in the pot. They will only grow as big as their roots will let them because they can’t stretch and reach for what they need in the ground. Some plants adapt to contained roots, and others will decline as they become more root-bound. As the years pass, you may find that some plants will benefit from being given more space.

Sugar and Spice Thuja (Arborvitea)

  • Latin Name: Thuja occidentalis ‘Sugar and Spice’
  • Hardiness Zones: 3-7
  • Container Growing: Needs well-drained soil and full to partial sun. At least 18 inches should be enough space for the roots to grow in the pot. Because it doesn’t get damaged by cold and keeps its color well in the winter, it’s a great choice for holiday decorations.

Sugar and Spice Thuja is great because it only has one main stem. Other Thuja and arborvitae plants usually have more than one stem. This single-stem variety is particularly narrow, making it a great choice for growing in a container.

Most arbovitae trees are popular and easy to find. They are native to eastern and central Canada as well as much of the north-central and northeastern United States.

evergreen outdoor plants for pots

Low-Maintenance Evergreen Pots That Look Great All Year-Round


What is the best evergreen plant for pots?

With green and glossy leaves and the fact that it’s such an easy plant to shape through smart pruning, boxwood is one of the best evergreen plants for pots. Not only is boxwood lush and size-variable, but it’s also deer-resistant. So if you have regular visits from local wildlife, boxwood isn’t a plant they’ll feed on.

Can evergreens survive winter in pots?

Sure, looking out the window in winter at a drab, snow-covered garden can feel disheartening. Good news: Evergreens grow well in containers and are cold hardy in many environments. Place them in a few spots to ensure you have a little more color in your backyard view.

What are the best plants for pots all year round?

Best plants for pots all year-round Some plants work well in pots all year round. These include hardy evergreen foliage plants like yucca, English ivy variegated euonymus and heuchera, and flowering plants like Skimmia japonica and hebes.

What are the best plants for summer pots outside?

For a summertime bloom with big impact, go for a compact flowering shrub, like azalea. “These larger plants are stunning in large pots, adding gravitas with their stature and bringing curb appeal that can be seen from the street,” says Kip McConnell, business development director for Southern Living Plant Collection.

Are evergreen plants good for container gardening?

Commonly thought of as a privacy fence or tree line, evergreens also make excellent plants for container gardening. Not only are container plants easy to grow, but they bring winter color closer to your home and provide a stunning focal point to the yard.

What are the best evergreen plants for pots?

What you want are hardy evergreen plants for pots that don’t require a lot of fuss. Here are some evergreens to consider, that fit your great-looking and low-maintenance demands: Boxwoods – These make great container plants that are easy to grow and hardy in zones 4 to 9.

Can evergreens grow in pots?

Unlike deciduous plants, evergreens keep their foliage year after year. Growing them in pots keeps their size in check and provides you a way to decorate a patio or porch during the winter months. Plant them in simple terra cotta pots or brighten the area with large, colorful containers. Finally, an email that Transforms Your Home.

What is the best plant to plant in a pot?

While smaller plant varieties are the best choice for container planting, it doesn’t limit your options. Planting an evergreen with a sizable mature height is possible since the pot size determines the plant size. Some of the best plant choices for pots are the variegated red-twig dogwood, boxwood, conifer plant, and viburnum.

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