Growing evergreens in containers can expand your garden if you have a small planting area. Plants grown in containers are portable, so garden design is not fixed in place. Cold-sensitive plants are moved indoors as the winter weather causes freezing temperatures. People with disabilities can place evergreen containers on tables to perform maintenance. Suitable evergreens for containers need to grow slowly so they do not out grow the container quickly and do not develop a deep tap root.
English yew (Taxus baccata) is a slow-growing evergreen that grows like a shrub. It reaches 30 to 60 feet tall at maturity, so it needs pruning to keep its size suitable for a container. English yew has feather-like dark green needles. Yellow flowers appear on male plants and red berries appear on the female plants. English yews thrive in moist, well-draining soil.
Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) grows as a pyramid of blue-green foliage that develops a bronze tone during the winter with small cones. Mature-sized Japanese cedars are 50 to 60 feet tall, so prune throughout its life to keep the tree’s size manageable. Japanese cedar enjoys good-draining soil. Try the low-growing types like Sekkan-sugi and Winter Mint.
Korean fir (Abies koreana) grows 15 to 20 feet tall and develops a canopy 6 to 12 feet wide. It is a slow-growing evergreen that naturally forms a pyramid shape. It produces gray-green needles and flowers in pink, green or crimson colors in the spring. Blue or violet-purple 1-inch fir cones appear after flowering. Korean firs do not like compacted soil, air pollution or wet roots.
Mugo pine (Pinus mugo) is a dwarf evergreen tree with dense growth. It grows 5 to 20 feet tall at a slow rate. The 1- to 2-inch needles are bright green and do not shed for five years. The mugo pine produces dark gray cones and gray bark that looks cracked. This pine tree is tolerant of shade.
Pointleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens) grows 5 to 7 feet tall and has a shallow root system reaching only 8 inches into the soil. This evergreen shrub has smooth, shiny reddish branches with an interesting crooked growth pattern. The thin outer layer of bark peels every year and the thick 1-inch leaves are bright green. Clusters of 10 to 15 waxy, bell-shaped flowers grow on the ends of the branches in white and pale pink shades. Round, orange berries appear after the flowers finish blooming in April.
Strawberry madrone (Arbutus unedo) is a small evergreen tree that reaches 8 to 15 feet tall. This multistemmed tree reaches 20 to 25 feet in its natural habitat. The branches form a twisted appearance with dark red bark that flakes and sheds. Dark green, leathery leaves have strawberry red-stems and white, gray or pink flowers appear in the early spring. Try the variety Compacta for a smaller shrub-like tree that grows 6 to 10 feet tall. Another variety to try is Elfin King which is a contorted dwarf form that produces flowers and fruits all year long.