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Successfully Grow Shrubs and Bushes in Containers.... Even if You Don't Have a Green Thumb

June 11, 2017

Arborvitae bush in pot
Faux shrubs and bushes are a great alternative to the real thing when planted in pots and containers for your porch. Learn where to find these plants and how to make them look as real as possible to easily enhance your home's curb appeal.

CREATE   |   Updated May 16, 2022

Peach calibrachoasto in pot

An easy and cost effective way to add curb appeal to your front entryway is through planting flowers and shrubs on your porch.

Flowers add color and variety, while growing things like arborvitae or boxwood in containers adds natural beauty year round and creates height in your plantings.

But bushes and shrubs can be tricky to keep alive and thriving in containers. These living things need adequate water and light in order to look their best. And if there is anything worse than no curb appeal, it is curb appeal that looks like it hasn't been taken care of.

Planter with arborvitae and flowers

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There is a convenient solution for those of you who love the look of potted bushes and shrubs, but don't like the upkeep. It is especially helpful for those claiming they weren't blessed with a green thumb in the garden. This solution also eliminates the problem of your shrubs being damaged by bugs or eaten by a friendly neighborhood deer.

The secret to having lush greens growing on your porch? Faux shrubs and bushes!

Orange and peach calibrachoasto

While I'm not instructing anyone to landscape their front yard with fake trees and artificial flowers, it is a nice alternative to "grow" shrubbery successfully in a few pots on your porch.

These aren't the gaudy looking plastic plants that were once commonplace years ago. Many are very realistic looking and come with UV-protection making them perfect for the outdoors.

You can purchase different types of bushes like boxwood and juniper, and they come in different sizes and shapes. There are even fancy shaped topiaries you'll never have to trim or maintain again.

Top of faux arborvitae shrub

Don't Artificial Plants Look Fake?

Believe it or not, but many of the artificial bushes and topiaries look real, especially from a distance.

One way to make the shrub appear more realistic is to plant live plants around the base of the tree or in additional pots surrounding your container.

The size of your planter will determine the size of the plants that can be added in. You want to be sure that they have room and enough soil to grow around the artificial shrub.

Peach calibrachoasto and green dichondra in pot

As someone who can speak personally about having killed numerous trees by trying to plant them in pots, I love this simple fix for outside my door.  So here is what I did.....


Fake arborvitae bush next to urn

Step One: Shop for Your Faux Bushes + Shrubs

The arborvitae that I purchased came from the garden department of a local department store called Boscov's, but you can also find them online at various price points from retailers like Kohls and Target.

As you can see, mine has a very basic pot on the bottom, and since I already had a very large urn to put it into, that didn't matter to me.  Some versions have fancy bases that you can place outside as is.

Here are 25 great options to scroll through available online of faux cedar, juniper, arborvitae, boxwood, and other flowering shrubs. Click on the image to learn more about the trees and to purchase.

Trowel in soil in planter

Step Two: Plant Your Shrub

Just as you would when planting a live bush or shrub, I dug a hole down into the dirt in the urn where my artificial version could be placed.

I was sure to dig down in far enough so that the plastic pot wouldn't be sticking out anywhere drawing attention to the fact that the bush isn't real. This also ensures that it is firmly secured in the dirt so that the wind doesn't knock it over.

Then I added more dirt into the urn completely covering the plastic pot I planted.

Faux arborvitae in planter

Step Three: Do a Little Fluffing

It's likely that your faux bush will be compacted from shipping. I did a little "fluffing" and arranging to spread out the branches of the arborvitae. A real bush will not be growing with every branch perfectly in place, so be sure to make some branches stand out more than others to give it a natural look.

Fluffing branching of faux arborvitae

Step Four: Add Something Real

Following a trip to my local nursery, I choose green dichondra (called "Emerald Falls") and a peach and orange calibrachoasto ("Confetti Garden Hawaiian Hula Lili") to plant around the base of my shrub.

The dichondra will fill in and drape down the front of the urn as it grows, while the colorful petunia-like flower will fill in growing up and around the base of the arborvitae.

Peach calibrachoasto planted at base of arborvitae

Faux arborvitae in garden urn with peach flowers

Step Five: Add the Final Details

To finish off my front porch display, I also planted a coordinating colored dahlia in an aged clay pot.

All three of these flowers can handle the full sun they will see in this location. It is important to choose flowers that will grow well based on the conditions where they are being planted.

Also, if you are planting different species in the same pot, you'll need to choose plants with similar watering needs.

For a little more styling, I laid down a new door mat and tucked in a copper colored watering can purchased from Target many years ago.

Pink dahlia in clay pot

Pink dahlia next to copper watering can

A Few Frequently Asked Questions


Obviously, purchasing something artificial will cost more than the real thing. You'll have to weigh the pros and cons about what is best for you. If you are dealing with poor growing conditions or tend to not take care of what you plant, then this is well worth the added cost for well-kept curb appeal.


The length of time that your artificial greenery will last partly depends on the amount of weather and sunlight it will see.

If the bush is under a covered porch, you can expect it to last a lot longer than if it getting direct sun, rain and snow, especially if you leave it out in the elements year round.

This one stayed out in the open all year and lasted really well for five years before the greenery became brittle and began breaking off. I moved it to a flower bed next to the shed where it can still add great height and visual appeal, even though it wasn't perfect for up close inspection any more.


Yes! While under a covered porch you can use practically any artificial flowers, there are ones that are made just for outside with special UV protection to keep them looking their best for years even in the elements, Like with the shrubs and bushes, the UV protected plants will cost more up front, but will likely end up cheaper over the long haul if you don't have to buy real flowers each year.

LEARN MORE: How to Design a Container Garden Using Faux Flowers - Find out what type of plants to look for, how to plan your pot, and step-by-step to putting it all together.

Arborvitae planted with peach flowers and green dichondra

While I know this idea isn't for everyone, it really is a great solution for those who want the beauty of shrubs and bushes growing in containers without the work of keeping them healthy. There is so much to do and take care of in the summertime and this is one way to minimize what needs to be tended to.

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