Are you looking for advice on the best low maintenance evergreen plants for pots?
This article covers 25 fantastic evergreen plants to inspire your container gardening and help you create a stunning display all year round.
The best evergreen plants for pots
We’ve included evergreen shrubs, flowering evergreen plants, and potted evergreen trees, so there’s something for every container size and location. Whether you’ve got one pot to fill, or a whole garden full of containers, you’ll find the perfect option here.
What is an evergreen plant?
An evergreen plant is a plant that doesn’t lose its leaves. Unlike deciduous shrubs and plants, which lose their leaves at some point in the year (usually winter), evergreen plants retain their foliage, adding more leaves each year.
Examples of evergreen plants include holly, conifer, eucalyptus, bay and camellia.
Why use evergreen plants in pots and containers?
There are lots of great reasons why you should think about using evergreen plants in pots:
- Year-round interest: evergreen plants provide year-round colour, texture and interest. This is particularly useful in winter months and early spring, when most plants are dormant.
- Low-maintenance container gardening: you won’t need to replace all your potted plants every season. Evergreen plants are also usually very hardy, which means you don’t have to worry about plant protection in colder months.
- Money saving: if you look after them, evergreen plants will look good year in year out. That means you can buy less plants – great news if you’re gardening on a budget.
- Lots of choice: there’s a wide range of evergreen plants for pots, offering lush foliage, stunning flowers or bright berries for garden wow factor.
25 low maintenance evergreen plants for pots
Let’s dive into our top picks for container gardening with the best all year round plants for pots.
Flowering evergreen plants for pots
Camellias are best known for their flowers, and those beautiful blooms will certainly create impact in early spring. But the foliage is well worth a mention too. Camellias have glossy dark green leaves that will add texture to a potted display all year round.
Camellia plants are happiest in slightly acidic soil, and you can provide this by using *ericaceous compost in your pot. They are native to the woodlands of South Asia, so they will also thank you for a shady spot or somewhere that has filtered light.
Heathers are compact plants with interesting texture and bags of colour. The abundant small flowers will bloom throughout winter and into spring, providing a much-needed source of pollen and nectar for insects.
Heathers like acidic soil, so they’re another candidate for *ericaceous compost.
Japanese Skimmia (Skimmia japonica)
Skimmias have glossy leaves and spring flowers, followed by bright red berries in autumn and winter – perfect for a festive show of colours.
To get those all-important berries, you need female plants (such as ‘Kew White’, “Temptation’ or ‘Nymans’), plus a male plant (such as ‘Kew Green’ or ‘Rubella’) nearby.
Daphne Odora ‘Aureomarginata’
This Daphne variety is a lovely evergreen for pots, with variegated leaves and beautiful pale pink blooms with a powerful fragrance. It can grow pretty big – up to 1.5 metres high – so make sure you choose a big pot if you want to grow this flowering shrub.
Another good candidate for festive colours, Wintergreen (or Gaultheria procumbens) is compact and low-growing. Use it in smaller pots over winter months.
White flowers, red berries and green leaves: cotoneaster has plenty to offer. It’s easy to grow, and you can choose from low-growing or upright evergreen varieties.
Clematis cirrhosa var. purpurascens ‘Freckles’
If you can provide some *trellis in your container, this evergreen clematis is a great option. The impressive flowers have freckle-like markings and will help to liven up the garden in winter. It’s a compact variety, and doesn’t need lots of pruning.
Hebe plants give you lots of options on foliage colour. Dense leaves and a low-growing habit make them ideal for filling up pots and providing impact and texture. Most varieties produce flowers in summer months too.
Photinia ‘Little Red Robin’
This is a lovely low-maintenance evergreen shrub for a large planter. Bright red leaves mature into deep green shades, and there are white flowers in spring.
Photinia ‘Little Red Robin’ is bushy in nature and will grow to around 1 metre tall.
Sweet box (Sarcococca confusa)
Another large shrub option when it comes to evergreens for containers, sweet box combines dense foliage with highly scented small white flowers in midwinter that give way to black berries. Grow it near a doorway or path to make the most of the fragrant blooms.
Evergreen Azalea (Japanese Azalea)
For flower wow factor, azaleas are hard to beat. These low maintenance evergreen shrubs are renowned for their floral display, with an abundance of flowers in late spring and early summer.
Azaleas need acidic soil (*ericaceous compost) and partial shade to thrive. If the variety you choose isn’t cold-hardy you will need to provide the pot with protection over winter.
English lavender retains its foliage all year round, so technically it can be classed as an evergreen plant. The foliage will fade in colour during winter, but the plant can still provide useful structure in a container display.
Our article on growing lavender in pots has more tips on using this fragrant favourite in containers.
Evergreen foliage plants for pots
Box (Buxus sempervirens)
Box is probably one of the most iconic evergreen shrubs for pots. Clipped pyramids, spheres and topiary shapes are an excellent choice for pots at the front door, or in a formal garden.
Box is a pretty slow-growing shrub, which means a larger plant can be quite an investment. The plus side of this slow growth is there’s very little maintenance; simply give your plant a trim every year to keep the new growth neat.
If you’re keen on adding a box plant to your garden, make sure you check whether your local area has a problem with box tree caterpillar or box blight first. If there is an issue, it’s a good idea to go for an alternative plant.
Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis)
Bay laurel is a good alternative to box plants for pots, as you can trim it into shape for a formal look. If you choose an edible variety you can also use the fragrant leaves in your cooking.
Bay enjoys a sunny location and free draining soil.
If you’re looking for a foliage showstopper in your pots, heucheras are definitely worth considering. They’re available in a range of stunning colours, from golds and reds through to deep purples.
In pots, heucheras will work hard to provide colour and interest when other plants have died back, or you can group them together for a foliage display.
The majority of heucheras are evergreen, and will happily grow in a container.
If you like silver tones in your planting schemes, look no further than calocephalus. The frothy, silvery stems look delicate, but it’s a hardy plant that can cope with pretty much any soil and weather. Use it to contrast with richer colours such as purples.
Succulents are well-known for being low maintenance and evergreen. Choose a hardy variety for your outdoor pots; sempervivum, sedum and agave are good options.
If you want to go big on foliage impact, you can’t go wrong with Fatsia japonica.
The leaves are an impressive size, an interesting shape, and a rich green. The plant also produces white flowers followed by black berries, but it’s the leaves that steal the show here. Grow it in a shady spot and provide plenty of nutrients.
With its trailing habit and glossy green leaves, ivy makes a very useful evergreen plant for pots. Use it to soften the edge of a container and increase the surface area of your planting.
The other great reason to grow ivy in pots is you can keep it under control!
Hart’s Tongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium)
Ferns are always a great option for dense green foliage in pots, and this variety is a tough little plant. Like many ferns, it will thrive in moist, shady areas, so it’s perfect if you have a tricky spot that most plants don’t like.
Phormium (New Zealand Flax)
Phormium is an evergreen shrub that produces upright, sword-shaped leaves. As such, it’s perfect for creating drama in a pot.
Choose from a range of colours, including greens, pinks, yellows and deep reds.
Grasses make wonderful plants for outdoor pots. They can be used to add texture, height, movement and even sound in a container, and also work brilliantly as a backdrop to flowering plants.
Grasses can really come into their own in winter months, when their structure stands out in the less busy garden. Great evergreen grasses include Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ (Feather Reed Grass), Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ (Blue Fescue) , Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted Hair Grass), and Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’ (Japanese Sedge).
Varieties that die back can also look fantastic in winter; just leave the stems intact (this will also help provide garden wildlife with food and shelter).
Evergreen trees for pots
Emerald Green Arbovitae (Thuja occidentalis)
If you’re short on outdoor space, this narrow evergreen tree could be the solution. It has a natural pyramid shape and is great for adding height, but not spread, to your container display – perfect for small spaces and compact patios. Grow it in direct sunlight for best results.
As the name suggests, dwarf conifers are small versions of conifer trees. Compact in size and slow-growing, they will provide foliage in a pot for many years.
Korean Fir (Abies Koreana)
The Korean Fir will grow up to 50ft high, but it’s very slow-growing, so don’t rule it out for a pot.
Grow it in full sun and well-drained soil, and it will reward you with zingy green needles and unusual purple-blue cones. Definitely a conversation starter for a container garden.
Care tips for evergreen plants in pots
Evergreen plants are pretty low-maintenance, but you can still take a few steps to make sure they thrive and put on their best show.
Here’s a quick guide to caring for evergreen outdoor plants in pots.
- Right plant, right place: Position your evergreen potted plants in a spot that provides the conditions the plant likes. For example, full sun, full shade, sheltered from strong winds etc.
- Choose the right container: Make sure your pot is big enough for your plant – remember it will grow! – and has drainage holes in the bottom to prevent waterlogging.
- Use good quality compost: Container evergreens can only access a limited amount of soil, so make sure you use a good *peat-free compost. Check also whether your evergreen plant needs a specific type of compost. You’ll find more tips in our article on the best compost for pots.
- Feed your container plants: potted plants will eventually exhaust the nutrients in their soil, so you need to top those up regularly. Options for plant food include *concentrated liquid, *granules and *ready-to-pour liquid feed.
- Water container plants when required: plants grown in containers dry out more quickly than plants grown in the ground, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on moisture levels regularly and water if necessary. Evergreen plants in pots won’t need much water in cooler months, but it’s still worth checking the soil on a regular basis.
- Useful tools for container gardening: you only need a few basics, but the right tools will make life easier and help your plants thrive. We recommend a *hand trowel, *gardening gloves, *small watering can, and *secateurs or *snips for pruning.
More container gardening advice
For more tips, inspiration and advice on gardening in containers, take a look at these articles: