Shrubs for patio pots

by Adam Pasco

I'm always looking for plants that make an impact - things that will grab the attention and put on a good show.

OleanderI'm always looking for plants that make an impact - things that will grab the attention and put on a good show. Seasonal bedding and bulbs are always popular, but many shrubs also grow well in patio pots.

Over the years I've tried all sorts, from dwarf rhododendrons to pieris, skimmia to euonymus, cordylines to phormiums, hydrangeas to acers. All have their place, and when they've outgrown their containers they have often taken up residence in my garden.

This year I've gone for something a little different. Having seen drifts of oleander flowering relentlessly on visits to the Mediterranean in the past, I was tempted by a really large specimen I discovered in a garden centre last spring. Costing about £12, this made the perfect subject for a large terracotta pot that was normally planted with bedding. Filled with loam-based John Innes compost my Nerium oleander took up residence in June, and was soon in flower. Now, I wouldn't describe its display as spectacular, but my shrub produced luxuriant stems of green foliage with flower buds developing at the tip of each.

The pink form of oleander is possibly the most commonly seen abroad, but I've chosen the white form. The flowers don't last long, but there are always more coming, and it continued to bloom well into October.

Now for the dilemma. Oleander is not a hardy shrub. Perfect for warmer Mediterranean climes, I'm not sure how it will do in my Midlands garden. If I had a conservatory, moving it indoors for winter would have been my best course of action. As I don't have one the greenhouse offered my best alternative. I don't heat my greenhouse, so will just be providing a few degrees of protection plus shelter from freezing.

I hope it will survive, despite the cold weather arriving early this winter. Outside temperatures dropped to around -4&#176C a couple of nights ago...chilly for me, but what about my oleander? If it gets through I'll be really chuffed, but if not another trip to the garden centre next spring will reveal other delights to experiment with I'm sure. I wonder what other tender plants gardeners around the country are trying to protect through winter?

Discuss this blog post

Talkback: Shrubs for patio pots
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

Gardeners' World Web User 20/12/2007 at 16:07

Hi Adam, why not take out a bit of extra 'insurance' by wrapping the pot in bubble polythene and wrapping the plant in fleece, if it isn't too big to do so. If it is too big for the fleece why not put a layer of mulch round the base of the plant. Regards,Lorrie

Gardeners' World Web User 04/01/2008 at 00:00

Hi Adam, it gets really cold up here in north west of england, but despite this i have 2 bannana plants, cordylines, treefern, trachycarpus, phormuimsginger lillies, pineapple lillies, etc the trees i wrap with fleece & the rest of it just gets a thick layer of farmyard manure to keep it warm. I have done this for the last 8 yrs now and have some really huge specimens to show for it.

Gardeners' World Web User 07/01/2008 at 20:30

Thanks Paul. Insulating tender plants can keep the cold away, and a thick layer of farmyard manure certainly helps. However, the past few winters really haven't been that severe, so I wonder if this protection would be good enough if we got a 'really' freezing spell. Anyone remember the winter of 1963? (The snow lasted for weeks, and I even built an igloo you could get inside!)

Gardeners' World Web User 12/01/2008 at 16:20

I think these plants are really pretty. They grow well and look nice. I like the picture its very interesting and it has captured the flower at an interesting angle.

Gardeners' World Web User 19/08/2008 at 18:23

I have a Oleander growing in a pot outside. it has been there for for 3 years now and it has never flowered once. Can anyone explain why? (I do feed it and protect it during the winter)

See more comments...