Check out these dramatic shrubs

May 19, 2019 GMT

Thriller, filler, spiller. When choosing plants for a large container, that’s long been the gardener’s mantra. It’s true you can’t go wrong with an exciting plant in the middle of the pot, surrounded by some coordinated but less dramatic fillers, with cascading plants to spill over the container’s edges.

Nevertheless, there’s a new trend taking hold: Plunk a single showy shrub in the center of your container and be done.

The ever-increasing array of small but dramatic shrubs now available is fueling the trend. Nobody gets left out, even those who live in condos or apartments with no ground for a garden.


Why shrubs? A strategically placed container with a shrub can hide an eyesore, like a garbage can. A collection of shrubs in containers could provide a privacy screen. Or use the shrub as a background to smaller containers filled with flowers.

Move your containers around to make the most of the sunlight you have available. In winter, super-hardy shrubs such as a potentilla or red-twig dogwood can stay outside if it’s in a weather-proof container. A pot with a less-hardy shrub, such as a hydrangea or butterfly bush, can be simply rolled into the garage for winter protection.

So what are some of these exciting shrubs? Wholesale Bailey Nurseries spokesman Ryan McEnaney adores the new Endless Summer Crush hydrangea. The huge blossoms are a deep raspberry-red, and they hold their rich color even when dry. The plants are super-compact, 30 inches tall or less, perfect for pots.

In the Bailey Nurseries display garden (USDA zone 4), the flower buds of this new hydrangea have proved to be very hardy. Dependable rebloom follows the initial flowering.

The compact Neon Burst dogwood offers something in all seasons. Bright chartreuse foliage emerges in spring and holds its color until turning a gorgeous mix of purple, red, yellow, and orange in fall. The scarlet-red stems add welcome color to the winter garden. Hardy to USDA zone 2, this 4-feet-tall shrub can stay outside in its winter-worthy container without worry.

Lo & Behold series of butterfly bushes grows only 18 to 36 inches tall, depending on the variety, and blooms in your choice of blue, lilac, pink, purple, or white. Plant one in a container on your deck and enjoy a summer parade of butterflies and hummingbirds up close and personal. If your garden soil is poorly drained, planting a butterfly bush in well-drained potting soil in a container will give you a chance for success.

Little Henry sweetspire offers fragrant white flowers in early summer, and gorgeous red foliage color in autumn. At 2 or 3 feet, it’s perfect for a container.

Shopping for plants for your containers? Don’t overlook the shrub aisle at your garden center.