If your goal is to transfer all files from `local_dir` the `*` wildcard does the trick

    $ scp ~/local_dir/* user@host.com /var/www/html/target_dir

The `-r` option means recursively so you must write it when you're trying to transfer an entire dir or dirs.

From `man scp`

    Recursively copy entire directories. Note that scp follows symbolic links encountered in the tree traversal.

So if you have dirs inside `local_dir` the last example will only transfer files, but if you set the `-r` option, it will transfer files and directories