What evergreen plants are good for pots?

Evergreen plants are often called the backbone of the garden. They provide structure, height, diverse foliage and year-round colour interest to borders, boundaries and container gardens. Some evergreen plants even produce beautiful flowers and brightly coloured fruits for added appeal.

Evergreens are usually planted to form a ‘base’ garden with annuals and perennials placed around them for seasonal colour and texture. Planting evergreens ensures your garden’s appeal isn’t limited to just the summer months.

What Type of Plant is an Evergreen?

Simply put, an evergreen plant keeps its foliage all year – hence it is ‘ever green’. Evergreen plants can be trees, shrubs or smaller plants suitable for flower beds.

It’s important to note that not all evergreens are actually green. Some have dramatic red, purple, brown or even silvery foliage. Others change colour as the seasons progress, but the important thing is that the leaves remain in place throughout the year.

Local Wildlife

Aside from being an attractive addition to the garden, evergreen plants are essential for supporting local wildlife. Year-round foliage provides shelter for birds and small mammals. Berries are a valuable food source, and flowers are a magnet for bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

If you’d like to encourage wildlife into the garden, the best thing you can do is add a few evergreen plants and trees.

Container Gardening with Evergreens

When we think of evergreens, we often picture massive trees with pine needles taking up lots of space. However, there are plenty of smaller options perfect for growing in pots and containers. From ornamental grasses through culinary herbs to compact shrubs and small trees, there is an evergreen plant suitable for every garden style.

Because evergreens are generally low-maintenance plants, there’s no need to resort to artificial greenery to brighten the garden. Whether you’re putting together a collection of container-grown plants or want to spruce up a patio or balcony area, evergreen plants are often easy to care for but can have a huge impact on a garden’s design.

Evergreen Trees in Pots

Trees are some of the best evergreen plants to grow outdoors in a container garden. A wide range is available, with different types of foliage, berries and flowers.

Bay Tree (Laurus nobilis)

Also known as bay laurel, bay trees are hugely popular evergreen plants for year-round interest. They can be left to grow into their natural shape or clipped to create a more formal appearance – two bay trees trained into lollipop standards are an attractive way to brighten a patio area or flank a front door. As the evergreen foliage is highly aromatic, your visitors will get a waft as they walk past. Bay leaves are edible and add flavour to curries, soups and stews.

Position bay trees in a sheltered spot in full sun and ensure the soil is kept moist but not over-watered. These are slow-growing specimens, so they work well in container gardens as they only need to be re-potted every 2-3 years.

Dwarf Mountain Pine (Pinus mugo)

Pinus mugo is one of the smaller cultivars of dwarf conifers and is ideal for growing in pots. It is a slow-growing tree boasting dark green needles, tall brown cones and golden yellow flowers in spring.

Dwarf mountain pine is fully hardy in the UK and prefers a spot in direct sun. It grows well in most soil types providing the pot has excellent drainage. These small trees are often grown as evergreen shrubs and can grow wider than they are tall due to their spreading habit.

Korean Fir (Abies koreana)

This slow-growing conifer boasts a pyramid shape that makes an eye-catching focal point on the patio or driveway. Its dense green needles have a silvery-blue sheen that shimmers in the breeze, and young trees produce blue-purple cones that sit upright on the branches.

Position Korean fir trees in a sunny spot in slightly acidic, moist, well-draining soil. As with all potted plants, water frequently during periods of hot, dry weather.

Blue Spruce (Picea pungens)

Blue spruce is the perfect tree for adding year-round interest to a garden or patio. As you’d imagine given its name, this conifer features glossy leaves that are needle-like with an icy-blue tinge. Cylindrical cones have pointed ends and appear green from late summer, turning brown as they ripen through autumn.

Also known as Colorado spruce, this slow-growing tree prefers a sunny spot in moist, well-drained soil with a neutral to slightly acidic pH.

Evergreen Shrubs in Pots

Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica)

This compact shrub produces small white flowers from early spring, attracting bees and other pollinators to the garden. The foliage is an unusual shade of bronze, turning dark green as the leaves mature.

Pieris japonica is easy to care for and is suitable for beginner gardeners as well as those with a green thumb. It thrives in light or partial shade in moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil. Ideally, use ericaceous compost for growing this evergreen shrub in pots.

What Evergreen Plants Are Good For Pots? Japanese skimmia (Skimmia japonica)

Ideal for growing in shaded areas, Japanese skimmia is a compact rounded shrub that is covered in fragrant white flowers in spring. If pollinated, these blooms are followed by bright red berries, which remain in place throughout the rest of the year.

Skimmia japonica flourishes in partial shade or full shade with moist, well-draining soil. Position the pot in a sheltered area of the garden out of strong winds.

Holly (Ilex)

Holly can be grown as evergreen trees, but in container gardening, it’s best to grow them as shrubs. Like Skimmia Japonica, holly is renowned for its bright red berries, which provide winter interest and are a valuable food source for birds and small mammals. The foliage is instantly recognisable with its shiny sheen and spiny edges.

Plant holly in full sun or part shade and keep the soil moist but free-draining. This is a slow-growing shrub, so it needs minimal pruning to keep it neat.

Bamboo (Bambusa)

Bamboo has a bit of a reputation for becoming invasive, which means it is a great option for growing in pots where it can be effectively contained. The tall canes and rich green foliage provide year-round structure to outdoor spaces and are excellent for screening off parts of the garden.

Bamboo is a relatively easy plant to care for. It is fast-growing but easy to prune to maintain a suitable height. Plant bamboo in fertile, moist but well-draining soil and water pots regularly during the warmer months.

Evergreen Herbs in Pots

English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Irresistible to bees, butterflies and other pollinators, lavender features tall stems of fragrant purple flowers rising from the silvery-green foliage underneath.

Lavender is the ideal choice of evergreen plants for gardens with sandy or chalky soils. It dislikes heavy soils that retain too much moisture. Lavender plants are drought tolerant and prefer a bright position where they can soak up the sun. Prune annually to maintain the plant for its pot size and prevent it from turning into a large shrub.

Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)

Native to the Mediterranean, rosemary is a shrubby herb with dense, linear, dark green leaves that are highly aromatic. Light purple, blue or pink flowers tinged with white bloom from spring through summer. Rosemary is a type of sage often used for culinary dishes, adding flavour to stews, soups and casseroles.

Rosemary are low-maintenance evergreen shrubs. They like a spot in full sun and grow happily in most soil types as long as they are moist but well-drained.

What Evergreen Plants Are Good For Pots? Thyme (Thymus)

Thyme has a compact growing habit with small, aromatic, glossy green leaves. Clusters of tiny, nectar-rich white, purple or pink flowers cover the plant in early summer and are a magnet for bees and butterflies. These flowers are edible and, as the plant is evergreen foliage sprigs can be harvested all year round (although young sprigs harvested during the growing season have the best flavour.)

Once established, thyme is drought-tolerant, so it only needs to be watered during dry spells. Grow thyme in well-drained soil in a sunny part of the garden and prune after flowering.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)

Lemongrass is much easier to grow in a pot than in the ground. It forms clumps of long, narrow, slender foliage and the lower stalks are often used in Asian cuisine. It has a citrussy lemon aroma and a mild flavour that complements beef, poultry and seafood.

As a tropical plant, lemongrass flourishes in full sun and may need to be moved indoors to survive the winter months in the UK. Use sandy, free-draining soil and place the pot in full sun.

How to Look After Evergreen Pots

It’s a well-known fact that potted plants need to be watered more frequently than plants growing in the ground. This is partly because the soil in pots dries out faster and partly because the roots are limited to the pot and can’t stretch further to seek moisture. During much of the year, nature will take its course and water your pots with rainwater, but during warm dry spells outdoor plants need to be given a helping hand. Check how moist the soil is every 2-3 days and water accordingly to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged.

Feed pot-grown evergreen plants annually in spring, just as the growing season begins. Choose a slow-release all-purpose fertiliser that provides a steady supply of nutrients for months.

Evergreen plants are mostly hardy, but when planted in pots, some may need a little extra insulation to help them survive the winter. Bear in mind that the roots of pot-grown plants are more exposed to frosty temperatures than those grown in the ground. Wrap the pot with hessian wrap, insulating fleece or bubble wrap to help keep the soil warm. Use plant pot feet to ensure the pot sits off the cold ground and add mulch to the top of the soil in preparation for the cold season.

When Is The Best Time To Plant An Evergreen Shrub?

The best time to plant an evergreen shrub is in spring. At this time of year, the ground is soft and moist, and the risk of frost damage has passed. Planting evergreen plants in spring gives them plenty of time to establish themselves before the often harsh winter weather arrives.

If you can’t plant your evergreens in spring, then autumn is the next best time. Aim for earlier in the season when there is a lower risk of frost damaging the plants.

Cover photo by vadim kaipov on Unsplash