Small shrubs and trees add height, fragrance and beauty to the landscape when grown in large containers. They can be clustered with pots of annuals or other plants to create spectacular vignettes that can be placed exactly where you need a jolt of beauty in the landscape.
Here are some tips:
The larger the container, the better. If you live in a cold climate, select a container made of a material that will withstand freezing and thawing. Since you plan on leaving the container outdoors during winter, terra cotta, glazed ceramic, metal or thin plastic pots are not recommended for these climates. Consider pots made of fiberglass, resin mixtures, heavy-duty plastic or stone.
Gardeners in warmer climates may use terra cotta, ceramic or plastic, but metal still would not be recommended because it can get too hot and cook a plant’s roots.
The container should be at least 10 to 12 inches in diameter and 10 to 12 inches deep. The container should have drainage holes.
Place the container where you want it before planting. Once planted and watered, it may be too heavy to move. The location should provide the right environment for the plant, such as full sun or part shade. Make sure you have access to water so that the containers can be watered with a hose or a watering can, if needed.
Use a high quality potting mix, which is lighter in weight and specially formulated for good drainage. It likely will be a soilless mix of peat, finely shredded bark, compost, vermiculite and perlite.
Woody plants, such as trees and shrubs, do not usually require a lot of fertilizer. In fact, too much fertilizer will contribute to weak growth, which subjects plants to damage from insects, diseases or drought. Fertilize woody plants in late winter or early spring. Always read and follow the label directions of the products you use.
Tough shrubs to choose from
Here are three shrubs that do well in containers or mixed in with perennials in the landscape:
Photo courtesy Proven Winners/Color Choice
This miniature butterfly bush (Buddleja) has fragrant blue flowers all summer. ‘Blue Chip’ grows to about 20 inches tall and wide. It does best in well-drained soil and full sun, where it gets at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. This lovely plant does not have to have its spent flowers removed, called deadheading. ‘Blue Chip’ is quite heat tolerant. Butterflies and hummingbirds visit this plant, but deer seem to leave it alone.
Lil' Kim Rose of Sharon
Lil’ Kim is the first dwarf Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syricus) and in late summer, this shrub has small white flowers with bright red eyes. This plant’s flowers last three days instead of the usual one day on other hibiscus.
It will get three to four feet tall and three feet wide. Lil’ Kim does best in full to part-sun. Although it prefers well-drained soil, it is quite tolerant of average soil and, once established, is drought-tolerant. Hummingbirds visit hibiscus, and this plant is deer resistant.
'Tom Thumb' cranberry cotoneaster
This dwarf cotoneaster can be used to drape over the side of a large container or as a specimen plant in the landscape. It also would do well in a rock garden.
'Tom Thumb' (Cotoneaster apiculatus) is a moderate to slow-growing plant that will get one to two feet tall with a spread of about five feet. It has small pink flowers followed by red beads of fruit. In fall, the foliage turns burgundy. This plant holds onto its foliage well into winter. It does best in full sun and is drought-tolerant once established. Water when the top three inches of soil feels dry.