How to Use Shrubs and Trees in Pots

Combine a shrub or tree with perennials and annuals for a one-of-a-kind container!
Lantana Flowers

As more and more people are creating gardens in the small space of their patio or in urban locations like rooftops or courtyards, container gardens are even more relevant than ever. Now small-space gardeners are getting jealous of the height and structure that trees and shrubs provide in the garden, and creating larger mixed containers to finally feature larger plants properly!

While most containers are designed to include thrillers, fillers, and spillers, containers designed around shrubs or trees follow their own set of rules. Here is how to design a container blending shrubs/trees, perennials, and annuals together to great effect:
  1. Since the tree or shrub will grow to be the largest plant by far, this is the cornerstone of the design. Lovely compact choices for mixed containers are: Acer, Camellia, Buddleia, Hydrangea, or Crapemyrtle.
  2. The container is the next most important thing to determine. Larger, broader containers are often required. Halved wine barrels or large cement planters are good choices for a permanent fixture, as their weight ensures that they won't get blown over easily. The material, shape, and color of the container will become an integral part of the design, so be sure to pick one that complements the focal plant.
  3. Draw out your plans. This will help you visualize how the tree or shrub will fill the space when fully grown.
  4. Use annuals front and center to add bold color to the display. Great selections include: Begonia, Calibrachoa, Impatiens, Lantana, or pre-mixed combinations.
  5. Use perennials in between to fill out the space and add their own lovely color and texture. Some of the best perennials for this role are: Blanket Flower, Coral Bells, Ferns, or Shasta Daisy.
  6. Be sure that you use plants that require the same conditions. It should go without saying that putting a plant that wants dry, acidic soil in full sun and a plant that wants damp, basic soil in full shade will NOT work out too well. Do your research up front and create a combination that will all be able to thrive in the same soil and light conditions.
  7. Use a mixture of early-, mid-, and late-season plants to ensure a constant display of color.
  8. Keep in mind that trees and shrubs have much larger root systems than most container plants, and thus will require more watering to stay healthy.
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Happy gardening!