37 Festive Focal Plants For Holiday Containers and Planters

Holiday containers brighten the season and bring festive charm to the winter garden. Join garden expert Katherine Rowe in exploring stunning focal plants for holiday containers.

A beautiful and festive windowbox arrangement comes with evergreen branches and red berries.


Container planting designs are the perfect opportunity to highlight jewels of the winter garden – indoors and out – and to celebrate the festive holiday season. In a time when much of the garden is dormant, use containers to curate the season in vibrant and diverse ways.

Achieve an abundance of color and texture in holiday containers with a foundation of exciting evergreens, rich foliage variations, and winter bloomers that brighten shorter days. Incorporate natural touches like colorful fruits, pinecones, birch poles, and red berries among evergreen boughs in planted arrangements. Fill gaps with boxwood, fir, and magnolia cuttings for a holiday twist.

The winter garden means beautiful evergreen specimens for focal points in holiday planters. Complement an anchor plant with lower-growing plants to fill and trail over a pot.  


A close-up of an Amaryllis plant reveals its stunning red bell-shaped flowers, each petal gracefully unfurling. The surrounding green leaves provide a lush backdrop, contrasting beautifully with the vibrant blossoms.
During the holiday season, amaryllis bulbs offer a splendid potted display spanning several weeks.
botanical-name botanical name Hippeastrum spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 18-24 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

Amaryllis bulbs create a beautiful potted display that spans the weeks of the holiday season. With large, bold blooms in various colors, picking an amaryllis to match your color scheme is half the fun. Amaryllis ‘Red Lion’ is bright red, ‘Apple Blossom’ is a lovely pink, ‘White Christmas’ is pure white, and ‘Candy Cane’ has striped petals of red and white – just to name a few!

Amaryllis can take six to eight weeks to bloom, so plant in early November for flowers around the holidays. A single bulb in a container makes a statement all its own. Arrange multiple bulbs in a shallow urn or bowl for a luxe look.

Companion plants: Add moss for lushness and ivy to trail and spill over the arrangement. Amaryllis also stands alone as a stately beauty.


A close-up of a Boxwood plant displays lush green leaves with their glossy surfaces catching the sunlight. In the background, a diverse array of garden plants adds depth and variety to the scene.
These evergreen shrubs are ideal for winter container gardening.
botanical-name botanical name Buxus spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height Varies
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Boxwood is one of the most versatile evergreen shrubs because of its deep, glossy leaves, dense branching, and ability to be shaped. Boxwood has a long history in the garden, beginning with the ancient Egyptians and Romans, who planted and shaped boxwood into hedges. Since its arrival in North America from Europe in the 1600s, boxwood has appeared in historic gardens as parterre hedges and punctuating specimens. Their form lends them to numerous garden spots, including anchoring the holiday container.

Boxwood makes just about the perfect container specimen in its cultivated forms but can take shaping well if you’re looking for something more defined. Topiaries in cones, pyramids, or spheres add flare to a contemporary design.

Companion plants: Pansies and violas add brilliant color against the green boxwood, fitting the scale as a low-grower to the taller evergreen anchor. Consider trailing pansies that bubble over with little blooms. Plant several (depending on container size) to surround the boxwood. Fatshedera and star jasmine provide a lovely trailing contrast.


A close-up of the Camellia plant showcases its vibrant pink flowers, exuding a palpable sense of beauty and vitality. The branches, gracefully extending in various directions, complement the lush green leaves, enhancing the plant's overall allure.
Container gardening with camellias is an excellent choice due to their attractive appearance and compact growth.
botanical-name botanical name Camellia sasanqua
sun-requirements sun requirements Part shade
height height 8-10 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-10

A gorgeous evergreen shrub, camellias bloom in fall and winter, depending on the variety. Camellias lend a lush look to the landscape year-round, and the striking winter blooms are a joy when little else is blooming.

Camellia sasanqua blooms throughout the holiday season with bold colors contrasting glossy, evergreen leaves. Camellia japonica blooms in late winter/early spring with large flowers to usher in the new year. Look for Camellia sasanqua ‘Yuletide’ with cheery red blooms to brighten the holiday planter.

White camellias thrive in the garden; they are also well-suited to containers. Camellias grow best in the American South. A classic camellia brings years of enjoyment to the garden with single, double, or semi-double flowers to decorate the season naturally.

Companion plants: Camellias are beautiful as singular container specimens, given their size and loose habit. A low-growing trailing plant in varying color or texture, like variegated wintercreeper, vinca, Asiatic jasmine, or wire vine, can complement a potted camellia (while a container helps keep spreading vines from migrating to other parts of the garden; avoid those with invasive properties in your landscape).

Christmas Cactus

Positioned by the windowsill, a Christmas Cactus thrives in a brown pot of rich soil, nestled against the white interior of the house. Its cascading leaves create a stunning visual, while vibrant pink flowers add a pop of color.
To create an eye-catching display, group them with other tropical plants in pots of different sizes.
botanical-name botanical name Schlumbergera bridgesii
sun-requirements sun requirements Part shade
height height Up to 2 feet tall
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

The Christmas cactus is an easy-care, popular houseplant. Named for its bloom time, Christmas cactus blooms for four to six weeks near the holidays. Buds emerge along branches of fleshy, segmented leaves in late fall. Billowy blooms appear in winter, ranging in white, coral, red, pink, purple, and bicolor shades.

Christmas cactus adds variety to holiday plants like poinsettia and Norfolk pine. Its unique succulent form lasts beyond the holidays with all-season interest that can be moved outdoors in warm weather.

Companion plants: Christmas cactus lends a tropical, succulent accent to holiday containers. Group them with other tropicals in separate pots of varying scales. Ferns and palms contrast nicely in color and texture. Assorted succulents in various shapes and colors work well, too. Cyclamen can complement the Christmas cactus in similar hues.


A close up photo of a Coprosma repens plant under bright sunlight. The plant is about 12 inches tall and has several branches covered in glossy, green leaves that are about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide.
Well-suited to warm climates, Coprosma is drought-resistant and tolerant of wind and salt.
botanical-name botanical name Coprosma repens
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3-6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

Coprosma, or mirror bush, brings foliage cast in various hues to spice up a holiday container. The vibrant, high-gloss leaves are packed on dense branches in compact form. Coprosma thrives in warmer conditions and are drought, wind, and salt tolerant, but they also make excellent container plants that can overwinter indoors.

During the holidays, coprosma gives a punchy evergreen texture and bright gold or plum color to the porch or interior display. Look for ‘Waxwing Gold,’ ‘Lime,’ or ‘Orange’ for a variegated leaf in multiple green, gold, and pink colors. For a richer look, dwarf variegated ‘Waxwing’ is pleasing in creamy white and green, and ‘Plum Hussey’ is a shiny deep purple.

Companion plants: Coprosma is a beautiful singular container plant. Add creamy white, blue, or red pansies against a plum or variegated mirror bush for embellishment. Gold tones can be mellowed with dark leafy foliage like Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ (in a large container) or trailing ivy.

Coral Bells

A close-up of Coral Bells leaves displays their delicate, pale green hue, with prominent veins intricately etched across each leaf. This intricate pattern adds to the visual appeal of the plant, making it a stunning addition to any garden.
For a unique spring display, consider underplanting coral bells with tulips and daffodils.
botanical-name botanical name Heuchera spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 1-2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Coral bells, or heucheras, are North American native perennials, mostly evergreen in warmer climates. Prized for their foliage form and color, heuchera hybrids have green, purple, bronze, black, red, or orange leaves, often in mottled tones. Their showy leaves add significant visual interest to winter containers.

Coral bells make gorgeous container “filler” options with other foliar textures and colors. Look for Heuchera ‘Georgia Peach,’ ‘Plum Pudding,’ and ‘Limelight’ to give high contrast.

Companion plants: Pair coral bells with hellebore, pansies, purple fountain grass, or black mondo grass for a striking combination of multi-season foliage and flowers. For a twist on the display in the spring, underplant with tulips and daffodils.


A close-up of Cyclamen plants. The plant showcases a large container brimming with Cyclamen, displaying an abundance of vibrant pink and purple flowers. The dark green leaves provide a rich backdrop, enhancing the visual appeal of the scene.
Hardy cyclamen produce upright blooms that rise in clusters above their deep green foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Cyclamen persicum
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 6-16 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

Cyclamen, with dappled, heart-shaped leaves, offer a sweet choice in white, pink, purple, red, or bicolor flowers for the holidays. Cyclamen blooms from November through April, giving months of color and active growing until summer dormancy – when they thrive on neglect.

Hardy cyclamen provide a profusion of upright blooms, rising in a bunch above deep green leaves. These make excellent container options as a complement to evergreen anchors and other perennials.

Companion plants: Use cyclamen as a colorful contrast to the form and texture of cypress and spruce. Combine with hellebore, heuchera, and pansies for a burst of color or a dusty miller for a frosted evergreen pairing.


A close-up of Daphne. There's a cluster of delicate pale pink flowers nestled amidst glossy green leaves. Their subtle beauty and the lush green foliage together create a harmonious and charming botanical composition.
For companion plants, you can enhance the beauty of Daphne by underplanting it with trailing vines.
botanical-name botanical name Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’
sun-requirements sun requirements Part shade to full shade
height height 2-3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-9

Noted for its deliciously sweet fragrance in the winter garden, Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ has glossy green leaves tinged with a creamy white margin. Small pink bloom clusters appear in winter, followed by blue or red berries.

Daphne is a broadleaf evergreen to grow for all-season interest. Pretty as a container plant, even when not in flower or fruit, daphne delights with flowery perfume is unparalleled in the winter garden. Place containers near a walkway or entrance where garden visitors can enjoy the fragrance.

Companion plants: Underplant daphne with trailing vines like vinca or jasmine to spill over a container. Pair with cyclamen for low-growing color. Arrange a container grouping with a background of potted spruce, midground daphne, and a low foreground container brimming with pansies and dusty miller.

Dried Flowers

A close-up of Dried Flowers in a small container. This composition features a variety of ornamental dried flowers with different shapes, colors, and textures, creating a visually captivating and aesthetic arrangement. Placed on a table against a white wall background, it exudes a charming and rustic appeal.
Brighten your display and infuse it with a delightful fragrance by adding dried citrus slices.
botanical-name botanical name Varies
sun-requirements sun requirements Any
height height Varies
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Dried arrangements of exciting flowers and foliage can be front and center in holiday decor and make lasting, sustainable displays. Highlight plants from your garden by cutting blooms throughout the growing season and hanging them in a cool place to dry. Dried materials are also readily available for purchase in natural or dyed forms.

The fun of dried florals is their endless design opportunities. Dried florals are gorgeous on grapevine wreath frames, as tabletop centerpieces, and under a cloche. They offer vignettes of seasons past and nostalgia of a long garden tradition. Simple or abundant, dried florals make a unique holiday container alternative.

Companion plants: For impactful foliage and natural accents in a vase or vessel, consider palmetto fronds, eucalyptus, red twig dogwood branches, birch branches, and lotus pods. Dried citrus slices are perfect for the holidays to brighten a display and add fragrance. Even dried mushrooms add wild visual appeal. Try gomphrena, strawflower, dahlia, aster, peony, yarrow, lavender, celosia, and sea holly for colorful dried blooms. Repeat the assortment in garlands and fresh evergreen holiday motifs.

Dusty Miller

A close-up of Dusty Miller plant. The intricate and silvery leaves of the plant are shown. These delicate, finely textured leaves provide a captivating visual, evoking a sense of grace and elegance.
The delicately-divided, silvery-white, fuzzy leaves of dusty miller are a captivating feature.
botanical-name botanical name Senecio cineraria
sun-requirements sun requirements Full to part sun
height height 12 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

Dusty miller showcases delicately-divided, silvery-white, fuzzy leaves. The thick, feathery leaves give great textural interest to containers, with silver foliage as the absolute highlight. Dusty miller shines in the holiday container, bringing a frosty accent.

Use dusty miller as a cool-season annual in moderate climates to accent container specimens and flowers. Dusty miller provides an excellent contrast to deeper foliage and colorful seasonal annuals.

Companion plants: Chartreuse heuchera gives a shot of color as a “filler” companion to dusty miller. Cyclamen, snapdragons, pansies, and violas are stunning in violets, pinks, and reds among its silver foliage.


A close-up of potted Fatshedera plants, showcasing their unique leaf shape. The leaves exhibit a vibrant green color with striking yellow edges, creating an eye-catching contrast. These Fatshedera plants are nestled among other lush green potted companions, forming a harmonious garden arrangement.
One of the advantages of using contained ivy is the ease of maintenance.
botanical-name botanical name Fatshedera x ‘Angyo Star’
sun-requirements sun requirements Part shade to shade
height height 5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-9

‘Angyo Star’ tree ivy (Fatshedera lizei ‘Angyo Star’) is a hybrid between Fatsia japonica and English ivy. It has giant ivy leaves on semi-upright stems. ‘Angyo Star’ leaves are glossy green with creamy white margins, making it a gorgeous container accent and brightening up a holiday-inspired display of evergreens.

In general, ivy adds the evergreen trailing accent we want in holiday-themed containers. It gives a “spiller” option that complements many plant combinations, and ivy can be grown indoors where not winter hardy to keep the holiday arrangement festivities going.

The benefit of a contained ivy is ease of management. Trim the plant to keep it from creeping into the landscape, or opt for a native alternative like wild ginger (Asarum spp.) or bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi).

Companion plants:  Boxwood and other anchor evergreen specimens shine with ivies. Annual blooms and greens like violas, snapdragons, and red kale make for a colorful pairing.

Flowering Kale

A close-up of Flowering Kale gracing the sidewalk with its rich colors. Its vibrant purple flowers stand out against the backdrop of lush green leaves, creating a vivid visual contrast. The intricate form of these flowers and leaves adds an elegant touch to the urban landscape.
In winter containers, it’s essential to have both ornamental and vegetable kale.
botanical-name botanical name Brassica oleracea
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 10-15 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Ornamental and vegetable kale is a must-have in winter containers. During the holidays, colorful kale and other cool-season vegetables create textural and visual interest. Ornamental kale features rosette “heads” in green, creamy white, and deep pink. Vegetable kale can be curly-leaved in deep green, purple, and red hues. Both are from the same family, both are edible, and both are showy “filler” options.

Other vegetables to pack in a container are bright lettuces like ‘Black Seeded Simpson‘ and Swiss chard varieties like ‘Celebration,’ ‘Bright Lights,’ and ‘Peppermint,’ which feature brightly colored stems against deep green or purple leaves.

Companion plants: Kale and other cool-season veggies make wonderful snapdragon, pansy, and viola accents. Pair deep tones like red-purple ‘Redbor’ kale against chartreuse foliage of heuchera, threadleaf false cypress ‘Golden Mop,’ or lemon cypress.


A close-up of Hellebore, where white flowers boast intricate purple markings and striking yellow centers. The elegant green leaves complement the blooms, providing a lush backdrop for the captivating flowers. This Hellebore variety adds a touch of natural beauty to any garden.
Depending on the climate, Hellebores maintain their evergreen or semi-evergreen leaves.
botanical-name botanical name Helleborus orientalis
sun-requirements sun requirements Part to full shade
height height 18 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Hellebores, or Lenten roses, feature large, cupped-shaped nodding blooms atop dark green palmate leaves. They grace the garden in late winter with nodding blooms among evergreen or semi-evergreen leaves, depending on the climate.

Hellebores’ toothed, palmate leaves provide seasonal interest year-round. Hellebores bloom in various colors, from creamy white to soft pink to wine red, with single or double flowers. Hellebore ‘Ann’s Red’ features scarlet blooms to add richness to holiday containers.

Companion plants: Deep green hellebore leaves contrast nicely with rich heuchera hues, with dusty miller, and creamy white, blue, rose, or purple varieties of pansies and violas, depending on the color scheme.


A close-up of a Holly plant, featuring branches adorned with vibrant red fruits. The glossy, deep green leaves provide a striking contrast to the brilliant red berries, creating a festive and inviting sight. This Holly plant adds a touch of seasonal charm to the landscape.
To enhance your holly-centered holiday container, consider complementing plants like trailing pansies to fill the base.
botanical-name botanical name Ilex spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 4-15 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-9

Hollies brighten the winter landscape with their glossy evergreen leaves and vibrant red berries that provide food for wildlife, winter interest, and enjoyment as festive decoration during the holiday season. Holly is well-suited to container culture, and if a large variety outgrows its pot, it can go right in the garden. Select your container holly for its desired form and size to start.

‘Christmas Jewel’ is a dense, upright, and compact holly of pyramidal form requiring no cross-pollination to fruit. ‘Christmas Jewel’ has large red berries in winter, making it a true hallmark of the season.

Companion plants: Consider variegated ivy like ‘Angyo Star’ fatshedera, ornamental kales, and trailing pansies to round out the base of a holly-centered holiday container.


A close-up of a Juniper plant showcasing its delicate blue fruits nestled on the branches. The needle-like leaves of this Juniper variety create a beautiful, textural contrast with the small, vivid blue berries, adding a sense of serenity and natural beauty to the scene.
‘Blue Point’ juniper is an ideal choice for a classic Christmas tree shape with blue foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Juniperus spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 5-15 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-7

Junipers, with their columnar shape and blue-green needles, create a dramatic focal point in holiday containers. Adding winter interest, they produce blue, waxy berries during colder months. ‘Blue Point’ juniper is an excellent holiday planter option for a classic Christmas tree shape with blue foliage. Specimens trained in topiary forms like spirals create elegant, formal container displays.

Juniper varieties also include low-growing, mounded forms. Look for ‘Blue Star’ and ‘Angelica’’ for smaller evergreen container specimens with interesting texture and color.

Companion plants: Underplant upright junipers with colorful seasonal blooms like violas and pansies. Deep or bright shades work equally well against juniper foliage. Heuchera mixed with blooms provides high contrast, too.


A close-up showcases a Lavender plant, focusing on slender branches adorned with delicate lavender spikes. The purple-hued spikes offer a calming and aromatic presence in any garden.
For your holiday container, consider opting for lavender cones.
botanical-name botanical name Lavandula spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

Lavender is loved for its refreshing fragrance, silvery foliage, purple bloom spikes, and many uses – from cleansing to relaxation to culinary. Whether it’s one of the many English, French, Spanish, or Dutch varieties, lavender makes a showy, evergreen focal point.  

Choose a lavender cone for a holiday container. Don’t forget to take clippings for fragrant bouquets indoors. Bring in lavender’s calm to the holiday hustle and bustle.

Companion plants: Pair lavender with red cyclamen and trailing herbs like English thyme. Among taller plants, use lavender and other herbs like purple sage as “fillers.”

Lemon Cypress

A close-up showcases a Lemon Cypress potted plant. The slender, elegant form of the plant is perfectly complemented by the decorative pot, enhancing the overall aesthetic. The Lemon Cypress leaves display a vibrant shade of green, providing a refreshing touch to any space.
This tidy evergreen comes in both tall columnar and dwarf pyramidal varieties.
botanical-name botanical name Hesperocyparis macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 10 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-10

Lemon cypress adds a pop to the holiday container with its fine, bright yellow needles and conical form. Fresh, lemony-scented needles complement its striking color.

A tidy evergreen with a tight, uniform habit, lemon cypress is available in tall columnar or dwarf pyramidal varieties. Dwarf varieties like ‘Gold Crest Wilma’ are well-suited for containers with heights of only three feet.

Companion plants: Lemon cypress adds vibrant color and fine texture against deeper greens. Pair with cyclamen, deep heuchera, viola, and dusty miller for rich contrast.

Live Greens

A close-up of a wooden crate filled with rich, dark soil serves as the home for small, green conifers. The conifers thrive within the container, exuding a sense of nature's beauty in a carefully crafted arrangement. The lush, live greens add a touch of life to the rustic wooden surroundings.
To fill gaps in potted arrangements, employ live greens or arrange them around stems and branches.
botanical-name botanical name Varies
sun-requirements sun requirements Part to full shade
height height Varies
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Usher in the holiday season with welcoming containers of evergreen boughs. Cuttings from conifers, hollies, eucalyptus, magnolia, and boxwood make a bold statement in a container arrangement.  

Arrange live greens with the same rule of thumb as potted containers – a “thriller,” or taller focal point, “filler” to create an abundant look, and “spillers” to overflow the pot. Branches of interesting form or color can become the focal point among filler evergreen boughs and spilling clippings of eucalyptus and boxwood. Add natural elements like pinecones and berries to punctuate the display. 

Companion plants: Use evergreen boughs to create their own striking display or combine with potted winter blooms and foliar interest plants. Fill gaps in potted arrangements with live greens, or display them around stems and branches like white paper birch, red twig dogwood, and berries that give height and visual interest. 


A close-up of the Loropetalum plant unveils its lush branches adorned with deep maroon leaves, creating a lush and captivating display of nature's beauty. The plant also features striking, vibrant pink flowers that provide a delightful contrast to the deep maroon foliage, making it a picturesque sight.
Consider dwarf cultivars with green foliage and white blooms or purple foliage with pink blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Loropetalum chinense
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height Varies
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-10

Loropetalum, or Chinese fringe flower, has rounded leaves in deep purple or green. A member of the Witch hazel family, loropetalum features clusters of strappy, fringe-like blooms in magenta, red, or white in the spring.

Dwarf cultivars in green foliage with white blooms and purple foliage with pink blooms are good options to add richness to holiday containers. Look for ‘Snowmound’ for dense growth and new leaves that emerge light green and mature to olive green. White blooms appear from late winter through spring. ‘Jazz Hands Dwarf Pink’ brings deep purple-red leaves with dark pink blooms in a mounded habit.

Companion plants: Both deep green and dark purple loropetalum contrast nicely with brighter foliage colors and finer textures. Pair with trailing ivies, sword fern, and ‘Color Guard’ yucca for high contrast. Evergreen carex, sedges, and other ornamental grasses give a fountain-like backdrop to low-growing loropetalum.


A close-up of a Magnolia plant, showcasing its robust brown branches adorned with glossy green leaves. The centerpiece, a stunning white Magnolia flower, radiates an elegant and timeless beauty, making it a captivating addition to any garden or landscape.
Enhance the holiday look by using fresh evergreen boughs, pinecones, and berries around the tree.
botanical-name botanical name Magnolia grandiflora
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 15-80 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-8

Magnolia, renowned for its lemon-scented, creamy white summer blooms, has broad evergreen leaves with a bronze underside. Its deep, glossy leaves and form make a beautiful holiday container option, especially as leaf undersides become velvety in winter.

Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ is a dwarf variety with dense leaves and a compact, upright habit. Smaller and slower growing than the more giant Southern magnolia, it does well in a container, at least to start. ‘Brackens Brown Beauty’ is semi-dwarf and more winter-hardy than other varieties.

Companion plants: ‘Angyo Star’ fatshedera and a base of poinsettias are a glowing contrast to magnolia. Densely planted pansies and violas also work well. Use fresh evergreen boughs, pinecones, and berries at the tree’s base for a festive holiday look.


A close-up reveals intricate details of Mahonia flowers, showcasing vibrant yellow clusters that pop against a backdrop of lush, green leaves. The delicate petals glisten with dew, capturing the essence of a spring morning.
Mahonia offers splendid winter interest with vibrant yellow bloom spikes followed by dark berries.
botanical-name botanical name Mahonia spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Part shade to full shade
height height 3-7 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-8

This yellow-blooming plant makes a fine multi-season container specimen with evergreen leaves that are either holly-like (broad and serrated) or feathery (narrow and smooth). Mahonia has splendid winter interest with bright yellow bloom spikes followed by dark berries.

Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ makes a charming potted plant with delicate, dark foliage that is soft and airy. These compact growers add a lush, elegant feel to the container garden and versatility to highlight a larger plant form or as a primary container feature.

Companion plants: ‘Soft Caress’ makes a soft landing at the base of topiary forms, like conifers and ivies. It is also a beautiful anchor plant to heuchera (look for a bright or dark foliage color to contrast with the deep green mahonia). ‘Angyo Star’ fatshedera and black mondo grass also provide a striking contrast. Look to pansies, violas, and cyclamen for a bloom color that pops with mahonia.

Norfolk Island Pine

A small Norfolk Island Pine shaped like a Holiday Tree grows in an indoor terra cotta pot.
For a festive touch during the holidays, adorn these pines with tiny lights.
botanical-name botanical name Araucaria heterophylla
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 3-200 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 10-11

Norfolk Island pines feature soft, symmetrical evergreen needles in a loose pyramidal shape for a lush look any time of year. Norfolk Island pine is not a pine but native to the subtropical South Pacific. It thrives as a houseplant and can be moved outdoors during warmer months, bringing joy well beyond the holidays.

Decorate with strands of tiny lights for a festive holiday season. If your Norfolk Island pine is small, use it as a tabletop decoration. Norfolk Island pine is slow-growing and can remain dwarfed as a houseplant, usually three to six feet tall – perfect for a holiday container.

Companion plants: Underplant Norfolk Island pine with white cyclamen and violas for a colorful display beneath the graceful foliage.

Olive Tree

A close-up of an Olive Tree branch highlights its lush green leaves, their surfaces textured with a subtle silvery sheen. Amidst the foliage, tiny white flowers delicately bloom, adding a touch of beauty to the scene.
Enhance the olive tree planter by adorning it with evergreen boughs and natural ornaments.
botanical-name botanical name Olea europaea
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 25 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-11

Olive trees boast a lovely form of evergreen leaves with a graceful habit. Slender, deep green leaves have a silvery underside. Tiny white blooms cover the trees in late spring and become ripened fruit from October through December.

An elegant plant with a rich cultural history, the evergreen olive tree makes a lasting container display beyond the holidays. Look for dwarf European olive varieties like ‘Little Ollie’ for a fitting container planting; more shrub-like, suited for topiary, and growing to six feet.

Companion plants: Decorate an olive tree planter with evergreen boughs and natural embellishments or plant herbs to fill and trail among violas.


A multitude of orchids stands uniformly, their slim stems adorned with pristine white flowers. A subtle pink hue of orchid flowers in the background adds depth and contrast to the composition. The lush, green leaves provide a vibrant foundation to the floral display.
When it comes to design, orchids are well-suited for both formal and contemporary styles.
botanical-name botanical name Orchidaceae
sun-requirements sun requirements Full to partial sun
height height 6-10 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-12

A classic addition to any indoor garden, orchids add an elegant flare to the holiday season. Opt for a readily available, stunning Phalaenopsis variety for a reliable, easy-care orchid. Phalaenopsis stems produce numbers of large, bright blooms at once.

Orchids typically lend themselves to formal and contemporary designs. For a holiday container, arrange a few plants in complementary color schemes among natural accents like branches, seed pods, and moss. Scarlet, bronze-peach, and white blooms are beautiful holiday options.

Companion plants: Combine potted orchids with cut flowers and greenery in a tabletop vessel. Use red twig dogwood or birch branches to accent the blooms. Arrange a bed of spike moss for a lush look.


A close-up of Osmanthus reveals the vivid orange flowers, their delicate petals contrasting with the glossy, dark green leaves. The branch extends gracefully, creating a harmonious blend of natural elements that signify the arrival of autumn.
For companion plants, low-growing annuals and perennials are excellent partners for Osmanthus.
botanical-name botanical name Osmanthus spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 10-15 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones Varies

Osmanthus fragrans or fragrant tea olive, is a broadleaf evergreen shrub with deep green leaves that are slightly serrated and toothed. Diminutive white blooms appear in fall through spring with unmatched fragrance – a delightful perfume to permeate the cool season garden. 

Fragrant tea olive is a contender as an evergreen anchor in holiday containers, holly-like if a little looser in form but still densely branched and with broad leaves. Tea olives take shaping and pruning well and can even be espaliered.

Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’ is notable for its mottled, multicolored leaves with delicate holly shape and dense form. New growth emerges pinkish-bronze among leaves splashed with cream, gold, and green.‘Goshiki’ offers a twist on traditional evergreen container plants.

Companion plants: Low-growing annuals and perennials are a good fit for osmanthus, usually sold as larger shrubs, in showy holiday containers. Trailing pansies and viola are a perfect match. Incorporate evergreen boughs and decorations for a festive look, and, in protected areas, a base of poinsettias is gorgeous.

Paperwhite Narcissus

A close-up of Paperwhite Narcissus plants displays delicate white flowers with vibrant yellow centers. The blossoms exude a pure, elegant charm. The slender, green leaves beneath them add a touch of freshness and contrast.
Combine paperwhites in a bundle and enhance the festive ambiance by pairing them with poinsettias.
botanical-name botanical name Narcissus tazetta
sun-requirements sun requirements Full to part sun
height height 16-24 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-11

Paperwhites bring a bouquet of cheer to the holiday container. Quick-flowering bulbs bloom within four to six weeks of planting. Look for a light and sweet fragrance in cultivars like ‘Inbel,’ ‘Ariel,’ and ‘Nir’ from your local nursery, or order directly from growers.  

Paperwhites are small bulbs that make the most significant impact planted in numbers. Plant a bundle of bulbs in a shallow bowl filled with soil or pebbles. Place bulbs one inch apart or less – they handle crowding well and present many blooms.

Companion plants: Paperwhites in a bundle make a beautiful display. Complement with poinsettia to embolden the holiday look.


A close-up of Pieris reveals slender branches adorned with glossy, evergreen leaves. The foliage is dark and lustrous, providing year-round beauty. Hanging in clusters, the white flowers are like ethereal bells, enhancing the enchanting appeal of the plant.
This shrub exhibits unique features, including its hanging flowers and rosette leaves.
botanical-name botanical name Pieris japonica
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 4-8 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

Pieris is a broadleaf evergreen that forms pendulous beads of flower buds in late summer. These buds persist through winter until blooming in spring, giving lovely winter interest. New growth on pieris is bronze and red, and established leaves are deep, glossy green.  

Pieris is unique in form with its hanging flowers (hence “Lily-of-the-Valley Bush”) and rosette leaves, making a novel holiday container option.

Companion plants: Black mondo grass, dusty miller, and annual winter flowers stand out with pieris at the center. ‘Color Guard’ yucca lends a high-contrast foliar texture with its sharp, bright blades.


A close-up of the vibrant, crimson-hued Poinsettia flowers in all their glory. The petals are velvety and richly colored, creating a festive and warm atmosphere during the holiday season.
These vibrant plants are cultivated in a range of colors and patterns.
botanical-name botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima
sun-requirements sun requirements Part sun
height height 2 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

Around the globe, poinsettias are traditionally associated with the holiday season. With merry names and flashy varieties like ‘Jingle Bells,’ ‘Winter Rose,’ and ‘Plum Pudding,’ the colorful plants we celebrate today are bred in various colors and patterns, from bright red to white to pink to blotched variegations.

Companion plants: Use poinsettias to enliven evergreen boughs, with potted evergreen focal plants, and among trailing ivies. Place a few nursery-potted poinsettias in a larger pot for a full, abundant display.

Red Twig Dogwood

A close-up of Red Twig Dogwood, the striking contrast of the vibrant red branches against the backdrop of lush, green leaves is eye-catching. A cluster of delicate white flowers adorns the branches, adding a touch of elegance and natural beauty.
The vibrant branches of red twig dogwood harmonize well with deep or brightly colored foliage.
botanical-name botanical name Cornus sericea
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 6-10 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Red twig dogwoods offer unique winter plant adaptations with upright stems that turn from burgundy to bright red with cold weather. Striking in the winter landscape, the red twig dogwood is a suckering shrub native to much of North America, excluding the lower Midwest and the South.  

Red twig dogwoods can be planted directly in the holiday container or use cut stems for a dynamic focal point.  

Companion plants:  Red twig dogwoods are striking against evergreen foliage, whether cut live greens, juniper, spruce, pieris, or mahonia. Use red twigs to heighten lower bedding annual arrangements and “filler” perennials like coral bells and hellebore. Deep or bright foliage combines well against red twig dogwood’s vibrant branches.


A close-up of Rosemary plants reveals woody branches adorned with needle-like leaves. The leaves are a rich, earthy green, contributing to the herb's culinary and ornamental appeal.
This herb adds beauty and fragrance to your holiday home and garden.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia rosmarinus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3-6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

Rosemary brings form and fragrance to the holiday home and garden, making it an ideal holiday container. Select a rosemary already pruned into conical or standard tree form for a unique twist on a container, or plant a classic upright or trailing variety in a decorative pot. Rosemary ‘Barbecue’ has sturdy upright stems that can be used in grilling, ‘Arp’ is more cold hardy, and ‘Tuscan Blue’ cascades in a container or as a groundcover.

Enjoy the lemony scent throughout the season, and add flavor to holiday dishes with fresh herb clippings. Rosemary makes a beautiful year-round specimen well beyond the holidays.

Companion plants: Pansies, violas, ornamental kale, and Swiss chard make lovely adornments to the needle-like, deep green foliage of rosemary.  


A close-up of Snapdragon flowers reveals a delightful array of colors. There are white, yellow, red, and pink blossoms, each delicate petal forming a vivid display. Surrounding the flowers, the branches adorned with vibrant green leaves add to the botanical beauty.
These flowers can endure winter temperatures in gardens or containers in moderate climates.
botanical-name botanical name Antirrhinum majus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 0.5-3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-10

Snapdragons are classic garden flowers with yellow, red, pink, peach, and coral bloom spikes – among many others. Snaps make a beautiful cut flower and, in moderate climates, can survive winter temperatures in the garden or containers. 

Snapdragons are cool-season annuals that, like violas and pansies, can complement nearly any seasonal display. In heights from tall to intermediate to dwarf, there is a snap for every container. Tall specimens benefit from the stem support of a lower plant, while shorter varieties hold their own.

Companion plants: Snapdragons give a burst of color in varying heights to leafy cool-season greens like Swiss chard, ornamental kale, and parsley.  Add pansies or violas to the mix in a complementary color for a stunting all-season display.

Spike Moss

A close-up of the intricate leaves of Spike Moss. These leaves exhibit a remarkable texture and pattern, resembling delicate green fronds, making them a captivating subject of natural wonder.
A beautiful accent to containers and terrariums, add spike moss for full, fern-like texture.
botanical-name botanical name Selaginella spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Part sun
height height 3 – 24 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

Spike moss, with its ferny foliage, adds a soft touch to the holiday container as a pretty filler. Spikemoss adds pop between other plants or atop container soil in tones of blue-green and chartreuse. Use spike moss as a singular container planting in contemporary and rustic containers for a modern, natural holiday embellishment.

Companion plants: Use spike moss in terrariums with ferns, mood moss, and natural elements. Plant around indoor amaryllis or use in shade planters with hellebore, heuchera, and black mondo grass.


A close-up of Spruce leaves captures their lush, vibrant greenness. Glistening with moisture, these leaves reflect the recent touch of rain, creating a refreshing and invigorating image of nature in its purest form.
Dwarf and weeping spruce varieties are perfect for container gardening and provide eye-catching appeal in pots.
botanical-name botanical name Picea spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height Varies
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-7

A classic Christmas tree-shaped evergreen, sometimes shaped into spirals or topiaries, spruce makes a beautiful addition to the winter porch.

Look for Norway spruce, a hardy evergreen to grow in a container (though it will eventually outgrow a pot and need to be planted in the landscape). Norway spruce is a tall, pyramidal tree with long cones that decorate its branches.

Dwarf and weeping cultivars are well-suited to container culture and create attractive visual interest in pots. ‘Dwarf Alberta’ spruce has fine, dense foliage with a fuzzy look, and ‘Bird’s Nest’ Norway spruce has a rounded spiral spreading form with a flat top. ‘Formanek’ has a graceful weeping, spreading form.

Companion plants: Underplant pyramidal spruces with colorful winter annuals like pansies and ornamental kales. Place low-growing, dwarf varieties in front of taller specimens like pieris or those with contrasting foliage like mahonia.


A close-up of succulents showcases a stunning diversity of forms, sizes, and shapes. From the compact rosettes to the tall, slender varieties, the succulents paint a mesmerizing picture of botanical variety.
Mix and match succulents with diverse textures and colors to craft a unique holiday design.
botanical-name botanical name Varies
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height Varies
hardiness-zones hardiness zones Varies

Succulents such as sedums, echeverias, crassulas, and more offer color and texture to make a creative holiday display. With plants of varying scale and form, from spiky to flat-leaved to trailing, and with thick, fleshy foliage, succulents are glowing in a shallow bowl or terrarium.

Companion plants: Mix and match succulents of varying form, texture, and color for a vibrant holiday container. Arrange with leafy greens, pansies, and even fruit like apples and citrus for a fun take on a holiday design.


A white table serves as a stage for transparent terrarium jars, each containing a self-sustaining forest ecosystem. The tiny plants within the jars create a miniature world of greenery, set against a modern interior with a clean, white wall as the backdrop.
Consider a unique holiday twist on terrariums as your choice for distinctive containers.
botanical-name botanical name Varies
sun-requirements sun requirements Varies
height height Varies
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

For a unique container, try a holiday take on a terrarium.  As with dried arrangements and cloches, terraria bring boundless creativity in plant combinations and form. They give vibrant detail to the interiorscape, keeping the frosty weather at bay.

Opt for ferns and mosses in contrasting heights and textures on a micro-scale. Include natural elements like lotus pods, pine cones, red berries, and budded branches from the garden.

Companion plants: For a lush look, include ferns like bird’s nest and maidenhair on a bed of moss. Alternatively, pair small potted bromeliads and palms for bright color and texture or mini succulents for a low-moisture, colorful arrangement with varied shapes.

Threadleaf False Cypress

A close-up of Threadleaf False Cypress reveals delicate, feathery leaves, their vibrant green color and needle-like texture catching the light. The plant thrives in the ground, surrounded by rich wood mulch, providing a nurturing and natural environment for its growth.
When selecting companion plants for ‘Golden Mop,’ consider those with contrasting foliage colors.
botanical-name botanical name Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 3-5 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-7

Chamaecyparis offers year-round interest in form, texture, and color. Bred for smaller stature in many varieties, false cypress offers choices for every container. ‘Golden Mop’ is a low-growing, mounded shrub with feathery foliage in bright gold and green. Like dwarf spruce and juniper, it adds a unique flare to a holiday container design.

Companion plants: Plants with foliar color in high contrast are a good option with ‘Golden Mop.’  ‘Color Guard’ yucca, dusty miller, and deep coral bells add richness to a large pot. Use ‘Redbor’ kale as a focal plant to rise above the bright ‘Golden Mop.’

Violas & Pansies

In a cast stone pot, Violas & Pansies display a vibrant array of orange and purple flowers. The contrasting green leaves enhance the colorful spectacle, making it a charming addition to any garden.
Selecting these annuals is a joy in itself, with a vast array of colors and combinations to choose from.
botanical-name botanical name Viola spp.
sun-requirements sun requirements Full to part sun
height height 6 inches
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Violas and pansies, available in numerous varieties and colors, are the perfect blooming annual to bring to the cool-season garden. With a profusion of blooms and a compact form, violas create a lively border for the garden bed and are a cheerful addition to garden containers, hanging baskets, and window boxes in fall, winter, and spring.

With so many varieties to choose from, in almost endless shades and combinations of color, picking out annual violas and pansies is nearly as joyful as the extended cheer they will bring to the display. Consider petal tones like the deep purples of ‘King Henry’, velvety red, clear white, and blue for the holiday container. 

Nursery select mixes offer sweet combinations for the holiday display. Opt for trailing pansies for delicate blooms to spill over a pot. Bonus – violas are edible and make a lovely garnish for holiday dessert.

Companion plants: Pansies and violas embellish nearly any holiday planting arrangement. Use as a filler plant for evergreens, snapdragons, and veggies. Pair with pieris and yucca for a striking arrangement, or with perennials like heuchera and hellebore. There is no end to accenting with pansies and violas for a boost of color on short winter days.


A close-up of Winterberry branches unveils bright red fruits nestled amongst lush, dark green leaves. The vibrant red berries stand out against the backdrop of the evergreen foliage, creating a striking contrast that captures the essence of winter's beauty.
These brilliant winterberry fruits endure from autumn through winter.
botanical-name botanical name Ilex verticillata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to part shade
height height 3-15 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Winterberry, or black alder, is another standout plant among the frosty, muted hues of the winter landscape. In the holly family, winterberry is one of 30 deciduous hollies. The aptly named winterberry has showy red, yellow, or orange fruit. Not only are the berries strikingly colorful  – they are also a food source for wildlife. Dark leaves form a compact habit with a softer look than other hollies and drop in winter. 

The bright winterberry fruits persist from fall into winter and make beautiful specimens for containers and other holiday decor. Use cut stems indoors or out to add to a display.

Companion plants: Trailing ivies and vines add to the winterberry holiday container, particularly wintercreeper, ‘Angyo Star’ fatshedera, and star jasmine. Alternatively, use cut stems to embellish a container of evergreen boughs, a terrarium, or a dried arrangement.

Final Thoughts

Festive holiday containers embrace the spirit of the season and enrich our connection with nature, bringing cheer to the winter landscape. With so many beautiful evergreens, perennials, and seasonal annuals, the creative container possibilities are endless. The key is to focus on winter interest, visual appeal, and using plants in new combinations.

Beyond the holidays, container specimens can provide multi-season interest. Change out annuals and perennials in fresh tones and schemes, and expand the garden as holiday plants outgrow their pots. Underplant holiday arrangements with spring-flowering bulbs for an everchanging container display.

A man wearing black gardening gloves carefully teases out the root system of a canna lily bulb, exposing the intricate network of fine roots. Nearby sits a large brown pot, ready for planting.


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A close-up of hyacinth bulbs in rich, dark soil housed in colorful plastic pots that range from white, blue, and magenta. These bulbs display fresh green shoots, promising a vibrant bloom in the near future.


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A variety of small terracotta pots house a collection of fall plants, accented with tiny green and yellow pumpkins.

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Frost sparkles on the cupped leaves of a green winter cabbage,


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