12 Shrubs For Small Gardens & Containers

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Low-maintenance shrubs like these are perfect for small gardens and containers.

When you imagine gorgeous shrubs in the landscape, one of the first things that come to mind might be large shrubs used as specimens or privacy hedges. But shrubs come in all shapes and sizes, and many shrub varieties can thrive in small gardens, urban areas, or even when planted in pots! Gardeners with limited space don’t have to sacrifice shrubs they love when these space-savers are available.

Here, we’ll list some of our favorite shrubs for growing in small garden borders, hedges, and patio containers.

Weigela in a silver pot near a red chair on a patio

Rose (Rosa)

If you live in a small space or only have a patio, you may feel limited in your flowering shrub options. Good news: roses can thrive when grown in containers. Along with growing in a pot, you can trail roses vertically along a trellis or use low-growing roses horizontally as a ground cover option.

When you plant roses in containers, you check all the boxes: space-saving, highly fragrant, low-maintenance, and loved by pollinators. So consider adding roses to your small garden, and stop to smell the roses, for real this time!

Boxwood (Buxus)

The versatility of boxwood in small gardens is truly unmatched. Grow in a container on your patio, place along the sidewalk in front of your home to line a pathway, or circle larger shrubs. It comes in a narrow or circular habit, making it a real space-saver in the landscape. Boxwood also thrives in nearly every growing zone and deters deer and rabbits.

Did we mention this shrub is also evergreen, keeping its deep green color without browning all winter? We can’t recommend this shrub enough!

Aronia

Aronia is a versatile, low-growing shrub smothered with highly scented spring flowers. It’s compact and tidy, making it easy to tuck into difficult or dull areas. But the show doesn’t stop in spring; come fall, spectacular autumnal colors take center stage, and dark blue fall berries begin to emerge.

This native shrub also suppresses weeds and attracts pollinators, meaning you can create a pollinator sanctuary along small pathways or hedges!

Cascade Hydrangea

Bring the flower power of hydrangeas to your front porch with cascade hydrangea! Cascade hydrangeas are ideal for small gardens, containers, and hanging baskets. Their graceful horizontal stems spill flowers freely all around the shrub, adding a whimsical vibe to wherever it’s placed. A unique hybrid, the cascade hydrangea achieves its distinctiveness through different varieties, enhancing flower power and bud set.

Along with cascade hydrangea, any dwarf hydrangea variety will bring vibrant flower power, all in a compact habit!

Weigela plant in a silver pot
Pictured: My Monet® Weigela

Weigela

Weigela is an undemanding deciduous shrub that is easy to grow, making it perfect for beginners and experts alike. Smaller varieties like My Monet® weigela and Midnight Wine Shine™ weigela only grow up to 1.5ft tall and 2.5ft wide, making them easy to tuck into pots and containers or in a small perennial garden. 

If you’re looking to add a lot of flower power in a small garden, consider planting a larger weigela variety; the widest many will reach is only up to 5ft tall.

Firecracker bush is a floriferous shrub that continues to bloom throughout the season without any need to deadhead. Try planting it as a specimen for a vibrant display, or brighten up your patio by planting it in your favorite container. This shrub reaches up to 2ft wide, so it will only take up a little space in the landscape.

As if the gorgeous tubular flowers didn’t attract the hummingbirds already, the flowers come in an array of bright pink, orange, yellow and red hues that are a total magnet to these pollinators.

Holly (Ilex)

It doesn’t matter if you’re growing in containers or looking to invite birds to your small garden with a lovely specimen plant; there is a holly fit for your landscape! This native evergreen shrub naturally grows in a neat shape that requires little maintenance. Male holly plants can pollinate female holly plants to grow gorgeous red or blue berries that birds can’t get enough of come winter.

Some inkberry holly varieties are especially fit for small gardens and make an excellent boxwood alternative. 

Mirror Bush (Coprosma repens)

Mirror bush is a colorful evergreen shrub that features striking glossy foliage that is especially heat-tolerant, ideal for growing zones 9-11! Cold-climate gardeners can enjoy mirror bushes as summer plantings in containers and bring them indoors in winter – they make lovely, easy-to-grow houseplants.

This shrub can also be used as a low-growing hedge in small gardens. The fiery orange, red, and yellow tones give you a fall-like color all year round!

Azalea (Rhododendron x)

Azalea features tropical-looking frilled double blooms bursting with color that can take the heat, even in high summer temperatures. In mild climates, the bright green foliage stays and grows well in sunny patio containers or even as a vibrant ground cover.

Varieties like Perfecto Mundo® Reblooming azaleas from Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs will bloom in spring, again at the summer end of summer, and then again in the fall. That’s up to 5+ months of colorful blooms! If you’re looking for a colorful ground cover for your small space, consider Perfecto Mundo Fuchsia Carpet™ Azalea.

Arborvitae

Yes, you CAN build a hedge in a small garden, and arborvitae is just the shrub to do so! While varieties like ‘Emerald Green’ and Full Speed A Hedge® ‘American Pillar’ reach are very tall, they are also extremely narrow and only reach an average of 5ft wide, meaning you build a privacy fence without taking up much space along your borders.

Dwarf varieties like Tater Tot® and Anna’s Magic Ball® are small and rounded, cultivated especially for smaller landscapes, and easily tucked between other plants or containers.

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)

Enjoy big flowers and lovely fragrances in the garden without sacrificing garden space when you plant dwarf butterfly bush! Dwarf butterfly bush varieties have the gorgeous flower panicles that gardeners (and butterflies) love, just in a smaller size. Hummingbirds and honeybees also adore this shrub, so sit back and watch your hedge or container become a beacon of pollinator activity.

The Lo & Behold® butterfly bush series was created as a low-growing butterfly bush option for people with small garden hedges or containers. Plus, they are puppy-approved.

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

It’s all up from here; create vertical interest with rose of Sharon! Rose of Sharon is a unique hibiscus that naturally grows upwards in a columnar habit, making it easy to fit in just about any narrow space with no pruning. Try creating a narrow hedge or flank an entryway; it can make a stunning accent plant in a small perennial garden.

If you’re really strapped for space, Pollypetite® rose of Sharon is a dwarf selection that doesn’t grow in a columnar habit but is more mounded—great for containers!

Honorable Mentions

We hope this opened your eyes to many of shrubs for small gardens and containers. These are just some of our favorites, but the recommendations don’t stop there! If none of these shrubs are for you, consider checking out deutzia, potentilla, barberry, spirea, or wintercreeper. These shrubs feature small cultivars that can be cold or heat-tolerant, easy-care, long-blooming, and extremely useful in the landscape, even in urban settings.

Questions, comments, or concerns? Let us know! We have an experienced, knowledgeable staff ready to make sure your garden turns out perfect. Or check out our other blogs, here.