The Best Shrubs For Winter Containers

Dress up your porch or patio with gorgeous evergreen shrubs perfect for winter containers. The key to fabulous winter containers is evergreen foliage, but evergreen doesn’t have to mean just green. Look for variegated varieties of your favorite shrubs for added interest or choose plants with golden or purple foliage. Winter blooms are a bonus. Here are shrubs that will make your winter containers dazzle. Be sure to check out the winter container tips below to guide your selection.

Winter Container Tips

When selecting shrubs for winter containers it is important to consider cold hardiness. Because the roots are not insulated beneath the soil, plants in containers cannot withstand the same cold temperatures they could if planted in the ground. To account for this difference, select plants that are hardy to temperatures two hardiness zones colder than local conditions. For example, if you live in USDA hardiness zone 8, you will want to use plants that are hardy to zone 6 in your containers. The ratings listed above are adjusted accordingly. Experienced gardeners often identify warmer niches in the garden where container plants can be grown beyond this range.

Most of the plants listed here are evergreen and will require occasional watering throughout the winter. Watering plants before an expected freeze will help moderate temperatures in the container. Be sure to use frost-proof containers such as those made of metal, stone, or fiberglass. Glazed pottery will stand up to winter temperatures much better than terracotta pots, which are prone to cracking.

The USDA hardiness zones listed in this article are adjusted for overwintering plants in outdoor containers.


Burning Love™ Leucothoe

Southern Living Plant Collection

Leucothoe keiskei ‘Opstal 50’

This compact leucothoe, growing just 2½ feet tall and wide, is perfect for containers. It thrives in shade, making it an excellent selection for covered porches and patios. The colder months are when this native beauty shines. Green summer foliage takes on red and purple hues in fall that carry through until spring. Best suited for containers in USDA hardiness zones 7 – 10*.



Highlights™ Arborvitae

Southern Living Plant Collection

Thuja occidentalis ‘Janet Gold’

A standout selection of arborvitae with yellow-gold foliage all year long, Highlights™ arborvitae brings vibrant color to winter containers. As a bonus, plants thrive in the southern summer heat without burning. Give this beauty plenty of sunshine and water regularly. Grow in winter containers in USDA hardiness zones 7 – 8.



Blush Pink™ Nandina

Southern Living Plant Collection

Nandina domestica ‘AKA’

If you are looking for a nandina with phenomenal winter color, look no further than Blush Pink™ nandina. Summer foliage is light green tinged with blush pink hues, but autumn really brings out the color. Plants turn completely red in fall and the color only intensifies through winter. This compact nandina grows just 2 feet tall by 1½ to 2 feet wide, perfect for winter containers in USDA zones 8 – 10.



Jazz Hands® Dwarf Pink Fringe Flower

The Home Depot

Loropetalum chinense ‘Kurenai’

Boasting rich purple foliage all year, this compact loropetalum adds plenty of pizzazz to winter containers. The foliage contrasts beautifully with golden hues when planted in mixed containers. Spring brings hot pink flowers and cranberry-hued new growth. This selection is only suited to winter containers in warmer areas of the South, zones 9 and above, but is well worth mentioning for its fabulous foliage.



Night Light® Hinoki Cypress

Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Conschlecht’

Pot up a ball of sunshine to ignite the winter landscape with Night Light® hinoki cypress. This shrub is for the more exposed containers in the garden. Plants tolerate full sun and winter winds. Branch tips take on bronze hues as temperatures dip, leaving interior foliage a charteuse green. The dense mounding habit creates adorable containers in zones 7 – 8.



‘Little Heath’ Pieris

Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’

A graceful variety of pieris, ‘Little Heath’ boasts luxuriant deep green foliage edged in white. Pieris plants form flower buds in summer and the pearl-like buds hang in clusters all winter long until opening in spring. Container-grown pieris need a sheltered location in winter away from drying wind, such as against the house, under a covered patio, or in an enclosed courtyard. Provide dappled shade and pay attention to water needs in winter. Pieris can grow in winter containers in zones 7 – 9.



Autumn Princess® Encore Azalea

Lowe’s

Rhododendron hybrid ‘Roblea’

All Encore® Azaleas are evergreen, but some varieties go beyond just green, with colorful winter foliage in shades of purple, bronze, and red. Autumn Princess® turns a lovely ruby ​​shade, providing winter color to rival its ruffled pink blooms. A dwarf variety perfect for container life, Autumn Princess® azalea matures to 3½ feet tall by 3 feet wide. Best suited for containers in zones 7 – 9.



Golden Dream Boxwood

Lots of Plants

Buxus microphylla ‘Peergold’

Boxwoods are a staple in the winter garden, providing structure and color all year. This variegated variety brings warm golden hues to brighten winter days. Plants grow slowly to a mature size of 2 feet tall and wide, forming a dense mound of green and gold foliage. Boxwoods tolerate a range of sun exposures, making them easy to use in containers. Golden Dream boxwood thrives in winter containers in USDA hardiness zones 8 – 9.