Last Updated on 14/07/2023 by Barney
The following are my favourite, foolproof , hardy evergreen shrubs for pots in the UK.
All the plants discussed have an RHS rating of H5 or below. In plain English this means they are hardy down to temperatures of -10 to -15.
I have been gardening professionally for over 20 years. Of course, I have made mistakes along the way. Who hasn’t when selecting plants? From my experience the following evergreen shrubs will continue to thrive, whatever the great unpredictable UK weather throws at them.
Be it full sun to partial shade. Scented flowers or something for smaller gardens including balconies. I’ve got you covered with my collection of evergreen shrubs.
Keep reading for my top 10 Hardy Evergreen shrubs that look fab in pots…..
1. Choisya × dewitteana ‘White Dazzler’
For those looking for evergreen foliage and scented flowers the Choisya × dewitteana White Dazzler offers it all.
‘White Dazzler’ forms a rounded, compact mass of dainty textural evergreen foliage. If that doesn’t do it for you in mid to late Spring it is adorned with highly scented white flowers which pollinators absolutely adore.
Give this delightful shrub a trim after flowering and you should be rewarded with a second flush of scented loveliness in late Summer.
Being fairly drought tolerant you will be forgiven if you forget to do the odd watering. It will still love you.
Caring for Choisya in Pots
Where: Position in full sun, light or partial shade. Watering: Give Choiysa a good soak once a week in Summer or when the top 5cm of compost feels dry to the touch. Feeding: Apply Growmore or a similar slow release tree & shrub fertiliser in Spring. Pruning: Give Choisya a little hair cut in early Spring to keep its rounded shape.
2. Mahonia nitens ‘Caberet’
Mahonia Nitens Caberet is a gorgeous compact, multi-stemmed evergreen shrub that is sure to steal the spotlight on your patio.
What sets this Mahonia apart from the other Mahonias is size, flowers and winter interest. This makes them a fabulous patio plant that will continue to delight 52 weeks of the year .
Mahonia nitens Caberet is a compact shrub. Plant in a medium sized pot and it will never outgrow its space which makes it perfect for smaller gardens.
In late summer to late Autumn stunning racemes of red – orange flower buds open into gorgeous yellow flowers. These are also great for pollinating insects and offer a valuable source of late season food
Following the flowers dark berries appear lasting well into the Winter. The birds love these!
Glossy, holly shaped dark green foliage with a slight red edge to them.
Caring for Mahonia in Pots:
Watering : Do not let dry completely out. Mahonia nitens Caberet like a well drained but moist soil. Pruning : A great low maintenance shrub which requires minimal pruning. Simply take out any growth that is spoiling the appearance. Feeding : To keep this stunner looking great and healthy apply a slow release fertiliser in Spring.
3. Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica)
Fatsia japonica, also known as Japanese Aralia, is a remarkable hardy evergreen shrub that thrives in pots when positioned in a shaded spot.
What sets Fatsia japonica apart is its ability to bring a touch of exotic allure to any space while being exceptionally adaptable to most conditions.
The big palmate, glossy leaves create a lush, tropical ambiance that transforms a simple pot into a mini paradise. This evergreen marvel is also impressively resilient, tolerating a range of conditions, including shade and coastal areas.
In late Autumn and into Winter the unusual flower heads appear. These creamy white flowers are made up of many florets arranged in clusters. At dusk, these really pop out with their extravagance.
If that isn’t good enough Fatsia japonica is an extremely low maintenance large shrub and won’t take up much of your time.
Caring for Fatsia
Watering : Fatsia is an tough shrub and fairly drought tolerant. My advice in the Summer is to give a generous watering once a week (or when the top inch of compost is dry) Feeding : Apply Growmore or a similar slow release tree & shrub fertiliser in Spring and then again in mid-summer. Pruning : Fatsia’s really do not need pruning but perform in late Spring if you need to reduce the height or shape.
4. New Zealand Flax
Phormiums, commonly known as New Zealand Flax, are exceptional hardy shrubs that thrive splendidly in pots.
Their unique architectural form and interesting foliage make them a captivating choice for planting in a pot. Phormiums exhibit remarkable hardiness, tolerating a wide range of conditions, including coastal areas and urban environments.
Their strap-like leaves come in an array of striking colors, from rich greens to deep burgundies, adding a bold and dramatic touch.
Plant as either a specimen shrub or part of a container arrangement where the unique foliage will contrast with other plants.
With their low-maintenance nature and ability to withstand both sun and shade, Phormiums bring year round structure and interest to patio gardens, making them a popular and reliable choice when looking to add structure to the patio.
Caring for New Zealand Flax in a Pot
Watering : Phormiums do not like to dry out so regular watering is a must in hot spells. Ensure the compost in moist but be mindful not to overwater Feeding : Apply slow release tree & shrub fertiliser in Spring. Pruning : Keeping Phormiums looking fabulous is easy. Simply pull out or cut any dead leaves as & when they appear.
5. Lilly of the Valley Shrubs (Pieris sp.)
Pieris, also known as Lily of the Valley shrubs, are exceptional evergreen hardy shrubs that excel in pot cultivation. Their compact growth habit and stunning foliage make them an excellent choice for container gardening.
Pieris produce an abundance of glossy, leathery leaves that range in color from vibrant greens to deep burgundies, adding year-round interest to your patio or garden.
Additionally, they delight with exquisite clusters of bell-shaped flowers in shades of white, pink, or red, creating a striking display in spring. With their adaptability to different light conditions and resistance to cold temperatures, Pieris thrive in pots, offering a captivating and low-maintenance option for adding elegance and charm to your outdoor space.
The perfect evergreen shrub for a medium sized planter.
Potting : Pieris thrive in an acidic soil. When potting up use an ericaceous compost.
Caring for Pieris in Pots
Watering : Keep compost moist during dry spells but do not over water. Feeding : Being an acid loving shrub feed with a suitable slow release fertiliser. Miracle Grow & Westland offer these in a granular form. Pruning : None required
6. Skimmia varieties.
The classic evergreen shrub we have come to associate with winter. Skimmia is a fantastic choice when hardy evergreen shrubs in pots are needed. With their compact size, berries and attractive foliage, Skimmia adds year-round beauty to container gardens.
These versatile shrubs offers glossy green leaves that vary in colour, ranging from deep green to variegated forms with hints of cream or yellow. Skimmia also delights with fragrant, showy flower clusters in spring. These later develop into colourful berries that persist throughout the winter months.
Their ability to tolerate shade and their hardiness in colder climates make them ideal for pots. Skimmia brings enduring charm, easy maintenance, and a touch of elegance to any potted garden setting.
Caring for Skimmia
Watering : Skimmias are not forgiving when it comes to being left to dry out so always maintain a moist compost but avoid waterlogging. Feeding : Apply Growmore or a similar slow release tree & shrub fertiliser in Spring. Pruning : A fantastic low maintenance shrub that needs little pruning. Occasionally an errant shoot may ruin its appearance, just prune these back to maintain the shrubs rounded form.
7. Yew Topiary Balls (Taxus baccata)
For those wanting the elegance and permanent structure of evergreen topiary then Yew balls are your go to plant.
Their naturally compact and rounded growth habit lends itself well to being shaped into formal spheres or balls, making them visually striking focal points when planted in pots (round ones please)
Taxus baccata balls feature dense, dark green foliage that maintains its color throughout the year, providing a consistent and structural presence.
These evergreen shrubs are extremely hardy, tolerating a wide range of conditions and climates. They continue to look impressive whether placed in full sun to full shade, urban or coastal. A real tough cookie!
With their versatility, low maintenance requirements, and ability to withstand harsh conditions, Taxus baccata balls offer a timeless elegance and enduring beauty especially when placed by entrances or marking corners etc.
Caring for Yew in Pots
Watering : Yew hates being waterlogged or being allowed to dry out. Try to maintain a moist compost, especially in the summer months. When potting up pay attention to drainage to avoid waterlogging in Winter. Feeding : Apply Growmore or a similar slow release tree & shrub fertiliser in Spring. Pruning : When grown as topiary Yew will need trimming 2-3 times during the growing season with hedge shears.
8. Vibernum davidii
With its unusual leathery foliage, clusters of white flowers and metallic blue berries in winter Vibernum davidii makes for the perfect low maintenance, hassle free, compact evergreen shrub for pots & planters.
The evergreen leaves are dark green and leathery in texture which acts as the perfect foil for the flowers which are produced in abundance in late spring.
In autumn and into winter it is is adorned with metallic blue berries which adds much needed interest when all other plants & trees ar resting for the year.
Vibernum davidii is one of those rare shrubs that will tolerate all light levels. Be it full sun of shade it will continue to be focal point on the patio
Caring for Vibernum davidii in Pots
Watering : Vibernum davidii is fairly drought tolerant when grown in a pot but do aim to give the a watering once a week when the temperature rises Feeding : Apply a slow release tree & shrub fertiliser in Spring and then again in mid-summer. Pruning : No pruning required unless it is needed to keep its shape. If required this is best performed after flowering.
9. Hebe ‘Sapphire’
Hebe ‘Sapphire’ is a captivating evergreen shrub that brings a touch of elegance to any garden or container.
With its striking silvery-blue foliage, ‘Sapphire’ stands out as a standout feature. This compact Hebe variety forms a dense and rounded mound, reaching a height of around 1 to 2 feet (30 to 60 centimeters).
The foliage remains attractive throughout the year, providing year-round interest. In summer, ‘Sapphire’ produces spikes of small white flowers that contrast beautifully against the silver-blue foliage, creating a delicate and charming display.
Its compact size and striking appearance make Hebe ‘Sapphire’ a perfect choice for adding beauty and structure to your pot or garden space.
Caring for Hebe Sapphire in a Pot
Where : Thrives in full sun. Watering : Hebe’s are possibly the most drought tolerant of all the shrubs that have made my favourites list. The occasional watering during hot weather should be fine but watch out for any signs it is struggling Feeding : Hebes like poor soil. As such no specific feed is required. Pruning :
I never prune my Hebes when grown in pots as they tend to keep their shape very well. If you find this is necessary lightly prune with hedge shears.
10. Dwarf Mountain Pine (Pinus mugo ‘Mops’)
With its rich, evergreen foliage this dwarf mountain pine looks absolutely stunning when planted in a pot.
Pinus mugo ‘Mops’ is a slow growing, compact variety that forms a gorgeous rounded hillock of pine needle foliage. It is impossible to pass without wanting to run your fingers through the foliage.
The only draw back with Pinus mugo varieties is the cost. They are expensive but worth every penny in my experience.
Caring for Pinus mugo in Pots
Watering : The key to successfully growing Pinus mugo ‘Mops in pots is ensuring adequate drainage is allowed for a potting time. Keep this gorgeous beauty consistently moist but avoid waterlogging. Feeding : Pinus are not heavy feeders & will thrive with one application of slow release fertiliser in Spring. Pruning :Prune out any damaged branches or trim to shape in late winter – early Spring.
It’s a wrap from me
In conclusion, selecting hardy evergreen shrubs for pots in the UK opens up a world of possibilities for adding beauty, structure, and year-round interest to your outdoor space & container garden.
The 10 shrubs highlighted in this article, including Choisya ternata, Phormiums, and Pieris, offer a range of options to suit different preferences and growing conditions.
Whether you have a small balcony, patio, or garden, these shrubs can thrive in pots, providing lush foliage, colourful flowers, and some even produce berries.
By carefully considering their horticultural requirements and providing proper care, you can create a stunning container garden that will survive the harshest of winters.
Don’t stop there, consider a pot arrangement with evergreen grasses, evergreen ferns, trailing plants & herbaceous evergreen plants & perennials for a stunning display.
So, go ahead and explore the world of hardy evergreen shrubs for pots and elevate your gardening experience to new heights.