9 Best Evergreen Shrubs to Plant in Containers for Winter

I always love having something in all my containers – even in winter.

Even though your choices are limited in winter, you are left with some GREAT ones!

Evergreen shrubs are an ideal option to plant in your containers for winter.

They add color, structure, and beauty through the gloomy winter blues and ask for little in return.

In other words, caring for evergreen shrubs in your winter containers is EASY.

For more of my ideas on how to make your garden look good in winter, check out my blog HERE.

Keep in mind, you can plant pretty much anything in a container as long as the container is larger than the root ball.

If the shrub is a fast grower or if your container isn’t large enough (twice as big as the root ball is ideal), then it may not last in the container very long.

I want to show you the best evergreen shrubs to plant in containers for winter – the ones I have tried in winter and the ones I want to try.

Boxwood – The Best Evergreen Shrub to Plant in Containers for Winter

Best Evergreen Shrubs to Plant in Containers for Winter 1. Boxwood

I love this ‘Wintergreen’ boxwood I just planted in a winter container on my front porch! I will change out the pumpkins for winter decor and lights soon!

Boxwoods are the #1 best evergreen shrub for containers, or the landscape for that matter.

Its persistent deep green through the winter is hard to beat.

A boxwood can be pruned any way you want so the versatility is endless.

It grows tight and dense and looks so good even if you don’t prune it.

Boxwoods will generally tolerate full sun but do better in part sun.

They are a bit sensitive to windy areas.

(I have mine planted in a windy area, which is not ideal. I will most likely have to prune back some affected branches in the spring. I will keep you posted.)

I planted ‘Wintergreen’ boxwood in my winter containers this fall.

It is a slow grower which means it can stay in the container for several years before transplanting.

Boxwoods can lend sophistication to your space or a more relaxed charm, depending on your container and its environment.

I have a more relaxed area so I added pumpkins to the base of my boxwood for the fall.

At Christmas, I will exchange the pumpkins for colorful balls and lights.

Best Evergreen Shrubs to Plant in Containers for Winter - Boxwood at Christmas

Decorating a boxwood for Christmas is easy. There are so many options. I added lights to my shrub and red ornaments at the base.

 

In the spring, I can add pansies or violas around the base then replace them with annuals in the summer.

If you want a smaller version, try ‘Wintergem’ boxwood.

I don’t think there is a bad boxwood to try but the smaller ones are going to be better in containers.

I turn my boxwood container every few weeks to be sure it is getting the same amount of sun on each side and to diminish the effects of the wind on just one side of the shrub.

Nandina

Best Evergreen Shrubs to Plant in Containers for Winter 2. Nandina

This sweet evergreen nandina is planted in my landscaping but would be AMAZING in a winter container!

 

I planted 3 ‘Obsession’ nandinas in my landscape (Zone 7) because I liked the look of them.

I just wanted to give them a try. That was 2 years ago. I’M IN LOVE!

They are so pretty in the spring with their mix of pinks and corals. And they keep their leaves all year. ALL YEAR!

‘Obsession’ nandina only grows to about 3-4′ tall and wide.

It will show off its colors in full sun but will grow in part sun as well.

This little jewel would look darling in a container.

It could easily be the best evergreen shrub to plant in your winter container.

In winter, it will be mostly green with a tinge of pink/red.

It is soft and kind of flouncy! Very feminine but not high-maintenance.

Leave it in your container in full sun in the spring to watch it transform into pinks and corals with the new growth.

It will stay colorful all summer but will start to fade to more green in winter.

The color is great ALL YEAR ROUND!

For a smaller and equally impressive evergreen, try ‘Blush Pink’ nandina.

Pieris Japonica

I grew Pieris Japonica in my landscape at one of my homes where I had a lot of shade.

It was so fun in that darker area because it offered pink leaves in the spring, white elegantly drooping flowers in the summer, and never lost its leaves.

It remained green all winter.

This would be a great option to plant in your winter container as an evergreen shrub if you don’t have much sun.

There are varying heights and sizes but they are all evergreen and would be a lovely unique winter container planting.

Cotoneaster

I planted cotoneaster at one of my homes on a hillside.

It was so impressive because it was a deep evergreen, spread out its arms like crazy, and even produced white flowers in spring and red berries in summer.

The berries would last into the winter, making it one of the best evergreen shrubs to plant in containers for winter.

If you plant cotoneaster in a container, expect those arching branches to reach up a couple of feet and then drape over your container.

I like the sound of the ‘Cranberry’ cotoneaster. Its blooms are light pink in spring and then it produces red berries in summer.

The red berries will last into winter. (Music in my ears. Christmas music.)

Its dark green leaves change to purple and red in the winter which sounds magnificent!

There are a lot of different varieties of cotoneaster with a range of behaviors.

Make sure you take time to learn how yours grows before purchasing it for your winter container.

If it were me, in Zone 7, I would love to try the ‘Cranberry’ cotoneaster.

It likes full sun to partial shade and is a slow-grower, making it ideal for a container.

Here are two links to check out what they look like and all the info.

https://www.naturehills.com/cotoneaster-cranberry

https://www.thetreecenter.com/coral-beauty-cotoneaster/

Holly

Holly is a solid choice as an evergreen shrub to plant in a winter container.

‘Carissa’ holly is evergreen and dense and reliable. It is classy in any container for winter.

Most hollies produce red berries in winter (but some don’t so be careful what you are buying.)

They are gorgeous in winter.

Try ‘China Girl’ or ‘Blue Princess’ holly.

The catch is, to get the berries, you need a pollinator.

‘China Girl’ needs ‘China Boy’. ‘Blue Princess’ needs ‘Blue Prince.’

One male can pollinate about 3 shrubs.

So if you plant 2 ‘China Girls’ in a container, either make sure ‘China Boy’ is somewhere near (within 4 feet) or that she is pollinated before you plant her.

I think if you choose to go this route, the best option would be to put these containers in groupings and form a container garden.

In winter, you could move the red-berried ladies to the front door to flank the entrance.

Afterward, move it back to the container garden for some more pollinating.

I love grouping my containers and I think the red berries would be amazing.

If you want height, try ‘Sky Rocket’ Holly.

They are architecturally striking and would look beautiful with a red ribbon and some lights at Christmas.

The rest of the winter they would offer so much interest and color.

Find more hollies than you can imagine, pictures, and all the info here:

https://www.naturehills.com/bushes-and-shrubs/bushes-and-shrubs-varieties/holly-shrubs

Juniper

If you want tall and slender and evergreen in your winter containers, try the ‘Spartan’ juniper.

I am partial because I am FROM SPARTA! (Sparta, TN)

I wear t-shirts that say ‘THIS IS SPARTA” because I’m that girl.

I love my little hometown and would plant this little baby just because of the name.

But honestly, the ‘Spartan’ juniper grows so nice and tight. It has great architectural interest and is an evergreen.

At Christmas, you can cover it with all the decor and lights.

Tuck in some grasses or heuchera in the summer. Or flowers. Or ‘Creeping Jenny’. The possibilities are endless.

You can see why it made the list. It is easily one of the best evergreen shrubs to plant in containers for winter.

Technically, I have slipped a tree onto our list but I thought it was worthy, given the name.

It will ultimately grow to 10-15′ so expect to transplant it to your landscape in a couple of years or so.

Or give it as a gift.

Try ‘Blue Star’ juniper for a low-growing, evergreen option.

It is blue! It will creep over the edges of your container and give you unique color and interest all winter.

If you’re tired of green, how about a crazy gold color?

‘Saybrook Gold’ juniper is gorgeous and would look great with a dark background such as a dark colored home or in front of dark evergreen shrubs,

The gold juniper would contrast beautifully.

Seemingly all the juniper shrubs in the world can be found at this link:

https://www.naturehills.com/bushes-and-shrubs/bushes-and-shrubs-varieties/juniper-shrubs

Cypress

I’ve never done this but cypress looks so interesting and unique, I would love to try it in a container.

I like the look of the ‘Dwarf Hinoki’ cypress and the ‘Wells Special’ cypress.

They sound easy to care for in my Zone 7 and would lend a quirky look to a container.

They prefer full sun but will still grow well in partial shade. (See? So laid-back.)

Hardy in USDA zone 5-10, they seem able to tolerate just about anything.

Cypress is evergreen, a little funky, and filled with color.

It gives me a Dr. Seuss vibe, which is all good and filled with imagination.

How can this be a bad pick?

More cypress than you know what to do with are at this link:

https://www.naturehills.com/search/?q=cypress

Yew

If you need an evergreen shrub that will perform well in the shade, try ‘Densiformis’ yew.

I love these before they are pruned with all those wild branches sticking up here and there.

If you want a more behaved plant, you can trim this one up however you want.

It’s versatile and easy. It can take just about anything.

Trim it, prune it, or topiary it. (Haha.) This yew is a classic.

If you prefer tall and narrow, try ‘Hicks’ yew.

I would love to give this one a shot.

It gets as tall as 12′ but only 2-3′ wide.

It is a slow grower (most all yews are) so will last in your container for years before you have to transplant it.

This evergreen shrub is one of the best to plant in your containers for winter and beyond.

Yew guys should check out all your options here (that’s not funny, but hey…)

https://www.naturehills.com/bushes-and-shrubs/bushes-and-shrubs-varieties/yew-bushes

Arborvitae

Best Evergreen Shrubs to Plant in Containers for Winter 9. Arborvitae

I planted these two ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitaes in my containers so that I would have color all winter long on my back deck.

 

I love arborvitae but the only experience I have with them is with trees.

I have ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae growing in two containers right now.

I love how easy they are, the color, shape, and texture.

Best Evergreen Shrubs to Plant in Containers for Winter - Arborvitae at Christmas

I added some lights and gold balls to my arborvitae at Christmas this year. Arborvitae is one of the best shrubs to plant in containers for winter but they look good year-round.

When they outgrow my containers, I already have a spot picked out for them in my yard.

For more info on how I planted these evergreen trees in my winter containers, see my blog HERE.

I also love ‘Green Giant’ arborvitae but they grow much bigger.

‘Green Giants’ are great in the landscape as a privacy screen.

They are pretty for containers and would work, but I prefer the look of ‘Emerald Green’ in containers.

If you want to try a smaller shrub, try ‘Little Giant’ arborvitae.

It is only 4’x5′ at maturity and has a great compact look to it.

It would be a lovely evergreen winter container shrub.

Wrapping It Up

There are other evergreens that I would like to try in my winter containers!

As I try them, I will add them to this list.

Because life is too short to get caught in a rut!

Tracy Crosland, owner of Hey Honeysuckle

Written by Tracy Crosland

I was born and raised in small town, Tennessee. As an adult, I found myself thrown into the construction business, building new homes in our little town. My son has now taken over the business, which means I do what I want - a lot of playing in my cottage flower garden (zone 7). I hope you feel the love in my garden and in my blogs and that we can be friends.

For more about me, click HERE.

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Cottage gardens make me happy!
I want you to be happy too…so this one’s on me.

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