Since you said big containers, I was thinking small shrubs. You would have other choices such as ornamental grasses or making a mixed container with with tall perennial in center, then smaller perennials, then something trailing to drape over the edge.
But suggestions for small shrubs would be:
dwarf abelia - just gets to 2-3' tall/wide, has glossy evergreen leaves, dense growth, flowers, variegated leaves
daphne 'Carol Mackie' version is similar sized, very fragrant flowers, white variegated leaves, evergreen
dwarf pieris - slowly grows to 3-4' tall and wide (by ten years), has winter buds, spring flowers
Texas sage - purple flowering evergreen salvia, flowers several times a year, well adapted to desert climate
If it were me, for plants in front of the front door, I would go with shrubs as being more striking, less fussy and busy than mixed containers, but let us know what you think.