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Can You Grow Evergreens in a Container?

February 18, 2021

Looking for a little winter color that you can put near your entryways or on your patios?

Evergreens grow well in containers and can be moved around to fit your needs. When evergreens outgrow their containers, you can repot them in larger pots or plant them in the ground.

Sound too good to be true? We can help get you started. Here are some tips on how to plant evergreens in containers, as well as some suggestions for the best evergreen plants for pots.

What Evergreens Grow Well in Pots?

Containers don’t have to just be a stand for annual color. Containers can provide you with year-round interest, depending on the plants you choose. Evergreens are also a great choice to add color and texture to the winter landscape.

Here are some of our suggestions for the best evergreens for pots:

Best Hardy Evergreen Trees for Pots

No one wants to have containers that need major maintenance. Who has the time for that?

What you want are hardy evergreen plants for pots that don’t require a lot of fuss. Here are some evergreens to consider, that fit your great-looking and low-maintenance demands:

  • Boxwoods - These make great container plants that are easy to grow and hardy in zones 4 to 9. Enjoying part shade to full sun, boxwoods can reach 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide, but they are very slow-growing. Smaller varieties like ‘Green Mountain’ or ‘Green Gem’ can provide manageable mounds of yellow-green color.
  • ‘Greenmound’ juniper - Junipers are tough and tolerant container trees. Growing to approximately 8 inches tall and gradually spreading to 6 feet wide, this evergreen likes full sun and, as a slow grower, can be kept in a container for three to four years. It prefers zone 4.
  • Japanese skimmia - Offering glossy green foliage year-round, as well as winter color with cherry-mauve buds that develop in autumn and last through the cold season, this tree comes in both male and female varieties. Choose males for decorative buds and spring flowers and females for smaller flowers but showy red berries after pollination. Place containers in partial to full shade in zones 7 to 9.

Best Tall Evergreen Trees for Pots

Looking for something that adds some height next to your entryway? Maybe you are looking at some containers to flank your front door, and you would prefer something with a bit of a grand feeling.

Here are some tall evergreen potted plants to consider:

  • Arborvitae - Elegant, classic, and low maintenance, ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae is deep green and holds its narrow pyramid shape to around 7 to 15 feet tall. They enjoy full sun to partial shade in zones 2 to 7. Plant them in larger pots with quality soil, and they can live in your containers for years.
  • Italian cypress - Create a formal look with this slender evergreen that grows best in outdoor pots in zones 7 through 10. They like full sun and well-drained soil. Being drought-tolerant makes this evergreen a natural for a container.
  • ‘Hicks’ yew - This evergreen grows easy as long as it isn’t given an overabundance of afternoon sun, particularly in the southern U.S. Hardy to zone 4, this yew can grow to 30 feet, but not that fast or tall in a container.
  • ‘Skyrocket’ juniper - Hardy to zone 4, this sun-lover has gorgeous silver-blue foliage all year, growing to 15 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Stately in its columnar shape, these slim trees work in a group to make a colorful screen or in a pair as statement pieces due to their unique hue and versatile nature.

Best Dwarf Evergreens for Pots

Looking for something on the smaller side? There are dwarf evergreens for pots that give you the look you’re after without taking over the space. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Dwarf mugo pine - For a round-shaped green gem, seek out this evergreen that maintains its form without requiring pruning. Thriving in zones 3 to 7, this sun-loving, slow-growing pine can reach 3 to 5 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide.
  • Dwarf blue spruce - The silver-blue needles of this evergreen steal the show. Slowly growing to 3 to 5 feet in height, this tree loves sun and grows in zones 2 to 8. Varieties come in small, conical shapes, as well as mounded forms.
  • ‘Little Giant’ dwarf arborvitae - This globe-shaped evergreen with medium green foliage can grow to a max height of 4 feet in zones 3 to 8.

How to Plant Evergreens in Containers

Sure, looking out the window in winter at a drab, snow-covered garden can feel disheartening. Good news: Evergreens grow well in containers and are cold hardy in many environments. Place them in a few spots to ensure you have a little more color in your backyard view.

Here are the main steps for successfully planting evergreen container plants.

  1. Start with the right container. A light-colored container won’t absorb heat as much as darker colors, keeping the soil and roots from overheating. Concrete containers are durable. Wood containers create a natural look and can be stained. Terra cotta and clay containers are porous and provide great drainage.
  2. Choose a pot that is two or three times wider than the root ball of the tree you’ll be planting so your evergreen roots have room to grow. Because their roots do not like to remain wet, make sure the pot has drainage holes. Placing a piece of screen or wire mesh over the hole will help hold the soil in place but still allow the water to drain.
  3. Use top-quality potting soil -- one with a coarse texture and that drains well is a good choice. Fill the container part-way with the soil before placing the plant in the pot.
  4. Place the plant in the pot and add more soil around its base, tamping the soil down as you go.
  5. Depending on the type of evergreen and their preference for sunlight. avoid putting your pot in direct sunlight to keep the soil and roots cooler throughout winter.
  6. Give the evergreen a thorough soaking.

How Long Can You Keep Evergreens in Pots?

Many evergreens are slow-growing, so they can survive in the right container for three years or longer.

Once they get too large for the container, evergreen container plants must be repotted into a larger container or planted in the ground to continue to thrive.

How to Care for Evergreen Trees in Pots

For evergreens, life in containers can be much different than in the ground.

While containers provide great drainage, those evergreens depend on you for nutrients and water. Containers also don’t insulate an evergreen’s roots from winter temperatures the way soil can, so they are more susceptible to temperature changes.

Due to this, choosing evergreens that are hardy to winters colder than what your area experiences isn’t a bad idea. Additionally, you want to make sure you know how to care for evergreen trees in pots.

These maintenance tips will guide you on your way to successful evergreen container plants.

  • Water - You might think evergreens don’t need water in winter. While they may not need a ton of attention, you don’t want to ignore watering completely. If you live in an area that has a hard frost, water the roots normally until the soil is frozen (a weekly soaking is usually adequate). You will want to water again during warm spells. This will help keep your evergreen roots from drying out. Since evergreens growing in pots are more prone to drying out, the use of an anti-desiccant spray may also help reduce moisture loss.
  • Mulch - Mulch the soil with woodchips to help hold soil moisture and deflect the sun’s heat.
  • Sunlight - Extreme temperature fluctuations can shock your evergreen container plants. To combat this, placing pots in partially shady areas where they won’t be warmed by the sun and then shocked by decreasing night temperatures is a great strategy for long-lived evergreens.

Can Potted Evergreens Survive Winter?

Winter is a harsh season. And that may make you ask yourself, “Can I keep my potted evergreen outside during winter?”

Evergreens in containers can survive outside in winter. By providing proper care and keeping the roots consistently cold -- avoiding repeated freezes and thaws -- you improve your chances of success. Tucking your containers against walls to break up harsh winds can also help.

We would love to help you improve your odds of evergreen container plant survival. Contact your Davey arborist for some more evergreen care tips.

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW TO WINTERIZE AND STORE POTTED FRUIT AND MAPLE TREES OVER WINTER? CHECK OUT THESE STRATEGIES.

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