The Q&A Archives: Ideas

Question: Good morning. I am located in St. Louis, MO, and would like some suggestions for container planting. The containers are 20 inches and will be used at my business as part of my exterior landscape. I definitely want something that I will keep for a long time, like a shrub.

Thank you,


Answer: So many shrubs can be grown in Missouri that describing all of them is impractical. The species and varieties described in the following section are hardy statewide and most commonly grown. Those not reliably hardy throughout the state have been appropriately noted. The expected maximum height of each shrub is listed after the common name.

Dwarf flowering almond (Prunus glandulosa); 3 feet; Flowering almond is a small, delicate shrub. Its branches are covered with small flowers in early May. The flowers may be pink or white, single or double. This shrub is a fine specimen plant and makes a nice accent plant for a foundation planting.

Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergi); 5 feet; Barberry is a rugged plant that adapts to many situations. It has been widely used as a hedge or barrier plant because of its thorny twigs. It is an easy plant to prune and can be clipped into tight hedges.

The small yellow flowers are not especially showy, but the bright red berries are attractive in the fall. Barberry leases normally have a good red fall color. The variety atropurpurea has red foliage throughout the growing season. 'Crimson Pygmy', a dwarf red-leaved variety, is also available.

Mentor barberry (Berberis x mentorensis); 5 feet; An extremely hardy plant, Mentor barberry will adapt to almost any soil. It is a semievergreen shrub that will retain its leaves until midwinter. It has been planted extensively for hedges because of its dense, upright habit of growth and its thorny branches. Little maintenance is required to keep it looking attractive.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica); 4 feet; A small shrub with fairly inconspicuous flowers but with uniquely colored purple fruit, borne on the tips of the current season's growth and remaining on the plant a few weeks after the leaves have fallen. Heavy pruning in early spring will force vigorous growth that results in profuse fruit production. Unfortunately, this shrub has little ornamental value except the colorful berries.

Purpleleaf sand cherry (Prunus x cistena); 4 feet; A small shrub valued for its purple foliage, which persists throughout the growing season. It produces small, white flowers in May and small, colorful cherries in fall.

Spreading cotoneaster (Cotoneaster divaricata); 4 feet; An interesting plant with upright growth habit and arching spreading branches. Red berries cover the branches during early fall, adding considerable interest to the landscape.

Rock spray cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis); 3 feet; One of the smaller cotoneasters, Rock spray has semi-evergreen foliage persisting into fall and gradually taking on a reddish color. It also has attractive red berries in the fall. Because of its flat, horizontal growth habit, it is often used in rock gardens or as a groundcover in small areas. Fire blight and spider mites are occasional problems.

Slender deutzia (Deutzia graeilis); 3 feet; Deutzias are a group of shrubs grown for the showy white or pinkish flowers produced in May. Slender deutzia is best because of its small size. It has a slender, graceful arching, growth habit.

Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia); 6 feet; The profuse yellow flowers of forsythia are considered by many people to be the first sure sign of spring. They are easily grown on almost any soil but prefer full sun. There are many varieties of forsythia available, including some dwarf forms.

Hydrangea, Hills of snow (Hydrangea arborescens grandiflora); 3 feet; This hydrangea is a small shrub that produces large white flower clusters almost 6 inches in diameter. It is frequently killed back to the ground in winter, but it grows rapidly, and this does not interfere with the flowers.

Hydrangea does not require any special soil but would prefer to have a sunny location for best flower production.

Persian lilac (Synnga xpersila); 4 feet; Persian lilac is smaller overall than common lilac. When properly grown, its branches are often covered with flowers. It flowers at about the same time as common lilac.

Spirea (Spirea spp.); 5 feet; Spireas are as easy to grow as any group of flowering shrubs. They adapt to a wide range of soil types. A good deal of sunshine is required for flowering but they will grow in moderate shade. Most spireas have white flowers, but there are a few with red flowers. They range in height from 1-1/2 to 7 feet. Vanhoutte spirea is the best known and still popular because of its heavy set of white flowers and graceful, arching growth habit. Bridal wreath spirea is attractive with its double white flowers, lustrous green foliage and orange fall color. Anthony waterer is the most popular small spirea, around 3 feet high. The red flowers of this species are borne in large 5- to 6-inch clusters.

There are many recently introduced spireas that grow 2 to 3 feet tall. 'Gold Flame' has golden spring foliage and pink flowers. 'Snowmound' has a moundlike form with white flowers, and 'Little Princess' forms an 18-inch mound of pink to rose-colored flowers in early summer.

Spireas are relatively free of insect or disease pests. Occasionally in spring a heavy infestation of aphids will require control.

Viburnums (Viburnum spp.)

As a group of shrubs, viburnums have more to offer than almost any other single group of plants. In spite of their almost unlimited possibilities, they are infrequently used in most landscapes. They have beautiful spring flowers, attractive summer foliage, excellent fall color and attractive, bright-colored fruits in fall and winter. The fruits may be red, yellow, blue or black and in a given species may change color several times as they mature. In some species the flowers are quite fragrant, adding materially to their value as ornamental plants. Viburnums are usually sold balled and burlapped or in containers.

Best wishes with your container garden!

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