10 Dwarf Flowering Shrubs for Containers

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Bring bushes out of the hedgerows and into your containers and patio gardens with these top picks for dwarf flowering shrubs.

Often overlooked as container plants, dwarf flowering shrubs offer seasonal interest, structure and fun in containers of all sizes. There are just a few simple rules to follow. To start with, grow them in weatherproof fiberglass, concrete or plastic containers with drainage holes. It’s also important to select container shrubs one or two zones hardier than usual to help them overwinter in colder climates. Finally, don’t be afraid to grow them in the company of annuals, perennials or even dwarf conifers. Ready to try it yourself? These dwarf flowering shrubs will not only perk up your container garden, they’ll also help you attract birds and butterflies!

Monro Variegated Dwarf flowering shrub weigelaVia Monrovia

Weigela

Weigela florida, Zones 5 to 8

Whether you’re looking for colorful foliage, bright flowers or plants to attract hummingbirds, plant weigela. The luscious spring floral display is often followed by a sprinkling of flowers later in the season. Grow in full sun for the best blooms, and water regularly, especially during the hotter months. For a dwarf flowering shrub, try Variegata Nana.

Why we love it: The many dazzling options include variegated, bronze or golden foliage, and white, yellow, pink, magenta or red flowers.

Check out the top 10 flowering bushes for your yard.

spireaVia Bailey Nurseries

Spirea

Spiraea, Zones 3 to 9

This favorite isn’t just beautiful, it’s also tough as nails. Spring bloomers, like the compact garland spirea, have arching branches covered with white flowers in spring. The summer bloomers boast white, pink or purple flowers, with leaves that may be green, blue-green or yellow in summer, turning purple-red in fall. For a pretty dwarf flowering shrub, try Magic Carpet.

Why we love it: There’s a possibility for a second and even a third flush of blooms if the summer bloomers are given a light trim as the first flowers fade.

Proven Winners

Lilac

Syringa, Zones 3 to 8

Add some fragrance to your container garden with one of the compact varieties of lilac. You’ll get more than double the fragrance and beauty with a repeat-blooming dwarf Bloomerang lilac. Gardeners in Zones 7 and 8 need to select a heat-tolerant, low-chill variety.

Why we love it: Enchanting outdoors, lilacs are equally lovely in your house as cut flowers.

Psst—we found more super fragrant flowers that pollinators love.

red elf firethornVia Monrovia

Firethorn

Pyracantha, Zones 5 to 9

For year-round interest, try adding firethorn to your containers. You’ll have white flowers in spring, glossy green leaves in summer and orange-red berries from fall into winter. The leaves are evergreen in milder climates, making this shrub an especially nice choice for winter container gardens. Thornless and dwarf flowering shrub varieties like Red Elf (shown here) are available.

Why we love it: Firethorn can be trained as an espalier for a unique display.

Love watching birds? Try these berry bushes birders should grow.

Bailey Nurseries

Pieris

Pieris, Zones 4 to 7

Start spring off with fragrant white flowers both you and the early pollinators will love. Then stand back and admire the show as the new growth emerges red. Evergreen pieris grows well in full sun or partial shade; afternoon shade is best where summers are hot. For a dwarf flowering shrub variety, try Pieris ‘Cavatine’.

Why we love it: A North American native, pieris has fragrant white flowers and is fairly tolerant of higher-pH soils.

Proven Winners, Tim wood/Spring Meadow Nursery

Summersweet

Clethra, Zones 4 to 9

Brighten up your late-summer garden with the fragrant white or pink flowers of summersweet. The pale yellow or rich golden brown fall foliage gives it appeal in autumn, too. Grow in full sun or partial shade and moist soil. For a dwarf flowering shrub, try cultivars like Sugartina, Sixteen Candles or Sweet Suzanne.

Why we love it: The summer blooms and the butterflies they attract are both irresistible.

Check out 17 blooming bushes that attract butterflies.

Proven Winners

Dwarf Butterfly Bush

Buddleia ‘Lo & Behold’, Zones 5 to 9

This small-scale butterfly bush is the perfect size for a container, and its heat and drought tolerance adds to its appeal. Grow in full sun for best flowering. Perfect for low-maintenance gardening, it doesn’t need deadheading. Just enjoy the blooms and watch as they bring in the butterflies.

Why we love it: It’s available in white, purple-blue and pink, and it’s important to note that Lo & Behold shrubs are noninvasive.

Learn how to care for and prune butterfly bush.

Proven Winners

Panicle Hydrangea

Hydrangea, Zones 3 to 9

Expand your hydrangea collection, or try one of the newer varieties of these longtime favorites. Grow hydrangeas in full sun or shade, depending on type. The hardy panicle varieties are available in smaller sizes just right for containers. Try Little Lime and Little Quick Fire.

Why we love it: The hardy hydrangea blooms start out white or lime green and fade to pink or red—and the dried flowers persist through winter.

Check out the breathtaking hydrangea species you need in your garden.

sweetbay magnoliaCourtesy Gabrielle Harrison

Sweetbay Magnolia

Magnolia virginiana

Zones 5 to 9

Sweetbay magnolia is an easy native tree to grow. The buds are less susceptible to frost because the tree blooms later in spring than its relatives. Once they emerge, the flowers live up to the family’s reputation: They are creamy white, fragrant and large (2 to 3 inches). Native to areas prone to flooding, this magnolia often is multistemmed and remains relatively small, around 10 to 20 feet tall. Also try Sweet Thing, a tough dwarf flowering shrub that is the perfect size for containers.

Vibtrilobumalfredo 9951Via Bailey Nurseries

Compact American Cranberrybush

Viburnum trilobum ‘Alfredo’

Zones 2 to 7

Dwarf flowering shrubs like Alfredo viburnum often direct energy to producing roots instead of flowers and fruit for the first few years. Once established, they flower and fruit more reliably. Gardeners will enjoy large white, lace-cap flowers in spring, and birds will gobble up the berries in fall and winter. Make sure the plant receives at least partial sun to encourage flowers, fruit and the best fall color.

Melinda Myers
Nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author, columnist and speaker.