Top 10 Shrubs for Containers and Small Spaces
Gardening isn’t just for folks who have large yards. Some of the most creative and beautiful gardens are made in small spaces, where choices are deliberate and plants offer more than just one thing. Others are made with only containers, able to be moved around and regrouped to make the display more dynamic depending on the season. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 10 shrubs that are beautiful or native or tough or have three season interest, and they’re all perfectly sized for containers or small gardens!
There is a common misconception that native plants are ugly, but Low Scape Mound® aronia is living proof that they can be absolutely beautiful and truly garden worthy. It offers three-season appeal with masses of white spring flowers, handsome black summer fruit, and fabulous red fall color. On top of that is its petite habit! Under half the size of the native species, it grows to a maximum of 2’ tall by 2’ wide, which is perfectly suited for modestly sized gardens. It adapts to a range of soils and moisture conditions, so it easily remains handsome in containers and landscapes throughout the season.
A lovely example of what good breeding can do. Developed by Dr. Tom Ranney, Sunjoy Mini Maroon® is non-invasive barberry with the darkest leaves we’ve ever seen! So you can gladly invite this barberry into your yard and containers without worry - you won’t be plucking pesky seedlings out of your garden! Its rich color and versatile habit, 2-3’ tall and wide, make it a desirable choice for planting in mixed borders, garden edging, or as the thriller in a container display. Once planted it stays attractive due to drought tolerance, deer resistance, and a naturally mounded habit.
Nothing beats forsythia for spring appeal! You won’t find a more vibrant spring thriller or pop of color for your small space than Show Off® Sugar Baby®! It’s a compact variety, growing to a maximum of 2.5’ tall and 3’ wide, with stems that are absolutely stuffed with beautiful bright yellow blooms. After flowers are spent its healthy green foliage provides a handsome backdrop to other plants for the rest of the season. Compact habit, adaptability to a wide range of soils, and shade tolerance give this forsythia an edge when it comes to usefulness in the landscape.
Classic beauty with modern upgrades. Pollypetite® has the same lovely flowers you expect from a hibiscus, but on a much smaller frame. Growing just 3-4’ tall and wide with a naturally rounded habit, it is ideal for planting in container groupings and gardens where space is at a premium! Its light lavender flowers are totally charming and so is the fact that they have a very low seed set. That means less weeding and more enjoying its months-long show of cottagey blooms!
Love the look of Annabelle hydrangeas, but don’t quite have the space or patience to plant them in your garden? Invincibelle Wee White® is your answer! It has a sturdy, compact frame that grows to a maximum of 2.5’ tall by 2.5’ wide and supports masses of classic mophead flowers without flopping. You’ll get to enjoy plenty of its pure white blooms in summer and throughout fall due to its ability to rebloom! And, if it gives you any peace of mind, Hydrangea arborescens like this one are native to the United States and would be a fantastic addition to your pollinator garden.
A pint-sized panicle hydrangea with true pizazz! As soon as you lay eyes on Bobo® you’ll be just as smitten as we are. The number of large flowers that can fit on this petite package is almost unbelievable! Its lacy blooms emerge white, mature beautifully to dusty pink or red, and provide interest throughout fall and winter if left on the stems. Siting this showy 3’ x 3’ pollinator attractor in your garden is a bit easier than other hydrangeas, as it is more sun tolerant and adapts to most soils. It also makes a great cut or dried flower, for those times when you want to bring a little of the outdoors into your home.
A dwarf evergreen for year round enjoyment! Tater Tot® arborvitae is the perfect fit for walkways, grouping in borders, or containers framing entryways or windows. Its foliage has a lovely scent when rubbed and even works as table décor or filler for a wintry arrangement. It naturally grows in a dense little ball, ultimately reaching 2-3’ tall and 3-4’ wide, with no need for pruning. If you would like to shape it, you can do so in the springtime after new growth has started to push out.
Full to part sun. Zone 3-9.
One of the best color shows you can find! Double Play® Candy Corn® brings spectacular appeal to the garden from spring to fall. Spring new growth emerges deep red, contrasting with candy apple green foliage. In summer and fall, the foliage matures to pretty pineapple yellow and new growth is orange. However, its dark purple spring blooms are the biggest contribution to the color display, and they make great cut flowers! It grows 1.5-2.5’ tall and wide and fits easily into flower beds, mass plantings, and colorful potted arrangements.
See the Ultimate Guide to Growing Spirea.
One of the littlest viburnums you can find! This puffball is called Lil’ Ditty® and you can easily tell why in spring. You’ll want to sing for joy when you see its gorgeous, creamy flowers elegantly arranged on such a small frame! This space-saving, fragrant native draws in pollinators with ease, but will not entice deer or rabbits in the least. Its mature size is a maximum of 2’ tall by 2’ wide, which gives it great versatility when it comes to garden placement. A fantastic choice for those who enjoy planting for wildlife or would like to bring a more natural, woodland feeling to their garden.
Keep it short and sweet with Pugster Pinker® butterfly bush! Growing just 2.5’ tall and wide, it’s so easy to tuck this prolific bloomer into your garden. From summer through fall, they’re loaded with candy pink flowers that attract humans as well as happy pollinators. You’ll want to plant this little beauty near a window or pathway, so you can enjoy the fragrant flowers. This plant is one of the most drought tolerant shrubs you’ll find, so at the very least it will need to be planted in a spot that gets extremely good drainage. Prune it down in the spring and it’ll be ready to wow all summer long.
Full sun. Zone 5-9.