What Are Good Dwarf Shrubs for Planter Boxes?

Ask a Garden Expert "What are Good Dwarf Shrubs for Planter Boxes?" Featured Image

“Hi, I am desperately trying to find mini shrubs to fill in a long planter box in my backyard. I have two boxes in full sun and looking for an arrangement that looks great all year around. So, I think I need small shrubs (max 2 feet tall) mixed in with flowers, but I have no idea where to start, what looks good together. I did see Purple Pixie Weeping Loropetalum on a Home Depot website, but it seems like it would die. Any suggestions, articles, places I can look at arrangements would be greatly appreciated.” Question from Andrea of Brooklyn, New York

Fafard Ultra Outdoor Planting Mix pack

Answer: There are lots of dwarf shrubs suitable for container culture that are hardy to your USDA Hardiness Zone 6 location. You are correct about the Loropetalum. It is hardy to Zone 7, so it will not tolerate the cold where you live. Here are some very compact, evergreen options that would look pretty in your containers year-round and survive in your planter boxes. All will grow best with well-drained containers filled with a top-quality mix, like Fafard® Ultra Outdoor Planting Mix.

Compact, Hardy Shrubs for Containers

  1. Tater Tot® Arborvitae reaches 12-24 inches and has the cutest, tidiest mound of evergreen foliage.
  2. Jelly Bean® Blueberry stays small, looks like a tiny boxwood, and has the benefit of edible berries and colorful fall leaves.
  3. Lil’ Ditty® Witherod Viburnum is tiny and has clusters of white flowers in spring, attractive foliage, and fall/winter berries.
  4. Invincibelle Wee White® Smooth hydrangea reaches 12-30 inches and has big clusters of white flowers in summer.

Compact Evergreen Perennials for Containers

There are many evergreen perennials that you should consider. These include the herbal Berggarten sage, fragrant Sweet Romance Lavender, tidy, pink-flowered Germander, the golden, trailing Angelina sedum, and tough, evergreen Christmas Fern.

I hope that some of these suggestions are useful.

Happy Gardening,

Jessie Keith, Fafard Horticulturist

What is the Best Potting Soil for Potted Evergreens?

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Question: I have been a Fafard fan for years. I am planting my first container boxwoods along with a few containers of evergreen cedars for a westward facing terrace. What is the best potting soil mix for these, and do I need to add organic matter to either container? Question from Angela of Memphis, Tennessee

Answer: Boxwoods have different fertilizer requirements when compared to cedars, false cypress, or coniferous evergreens but will grow well in similar potting mix. Our mixes are rich in organic matter, so you don’t need to add more.

Boxwoods (Buxus spp. and hybrids) grow best in soils that drain very well but also hold water and have a neutral to slightly alkaline pH of 6.8 and 7.5. I would add half Fafard® Professional Potting Mix, which has the right porosity and water-holding ability for box, and half Fafard® Premium Topsoil, which is formulated for trees and shrubs, is a bit denser and breaks down more slowly. Be sure to follow up by feeding them with a good tree and shrub fertilizer (there are several on the market), and follow the manufacturer’s application instructions.

For evergreens, such as cedars (Juniperus virginiana), I would choose the same potting mix blend but opt for a fertilizer formulated for evergreens and hollies because these shrubs often like soil that is a bit more acidic (5-7 pH), though some are quite soil adaptable.

I hope that this information helps!

Happy Gardening,

Jessie Keith

Fafard Horticulturist