Shrubs can add a wealth of structure and color to your garden, some of which lasts all year round. This helps fill in the gaps where flowers have finished for the season.
Without them, your garden may otherwise look a little empty or unloved, though you know the latter is not the case!
Whether you’re looking to fill an empty space, or you want something that will add a little more landscaping to your garden and pull your planting scheme together, this list is for you.
Shrubs are a great way to divide your garden into ‘rooms’, to provide you with some screening, some privacy, or even a sound buffer to block out some traffic noise or a particularly noisy neighbor.
They also help take the brunt of the wind when it comes to strategically placing wind-vulnerable plants next to them or even behind them as protection.
Whatever the reason you would like a shrubbery (Ni!), this is the list for you. There’s one for every garden, one to suit your space and needs.
What is a Shrub?
It’s helpful to know what a shrub is, while we’re onto the topic. A shrub is a plant that grows as a bush, either as a small shrub or medium-sized. Anything bigger tends to be a tree.
Flowering shrubs usually have woody stems that branch out similarly to a tree.
But what’s the difference between a shrub and a tree? Trees usually only have one “stem”, that is, the trunk, and the foliage grows higher off the ground, and away from it.
Shrubs tend to produce a lot more leaves, which will grow in all directions, and don’t always reach so high off the ground.
Best Bush and Shrubs to Grow in Your Garden
This list aims to cover nearly every reason you’d want a shrub in your garden, and nearly every growing condition you may have in your own space.
The arborvitae keeps its greenery all year round, which is ideal for privacy, sound buffers, and to separate areas of your garden, as your border or privacy buffer won’t disappear in the winter months.
Some shrubs need a lot of maintenance, especially when they are young.
This is not the case for the arborvitae, as it naturally grows into a cone shape, and needs very little care.
It’s perfect for areas where you may not be able to reach in all seasons, especially if you plan on using it to shoulder the back of borders which are normally filled with flowers.
Lilac shrubs are a great choice for any space, as they produce the most fantastically scented flowers, and are especially good for near seating areas or back doors, where you’ll be able to appreciate the fragrance.
Unfortunately, the lilac only blooms for a short window in the spring, but the fragrance is well worth it.
They do require a little more maintenance than some other shrubs on this list, but pruning back spent flower heads will mean more vigorous growth the following year.
If you like the sound of hydrangeas, there are a plethora of different varieties to choose from.
There’s nearly every color you can think of, including fabulous whites, greens, pinks, reds, blues, and purples, though it’s worth knowing that some can change depending on the pH of the soil.
You can also take the huge flower heads as cut flowers, or dry them out as wonderfully architectural dried flowers.
Refrain from cutting anything off the plant – even the dead flowers – until the risk of frost has passed in early spring. This will protect the new growth from being damaged from the cold temperatures.
Blue Star Jupiter
If you’re looking for year-round color that doesn’t need a lot of attention, the blue star juniper is a good option.
The best feature of the shrub is its foliage, which is a lovely blueish green, and looks especially well as a backdrop against purple flowers.
It’s also a shrub that you can just plant into the ground and mostly forget about, as it will take care of itself.
It is worth keeping an occasional eye on it, just to make sure it’s growing the way it should, and that it likes where you planted it.
Rose of Sharon
The Rose of Sharon is a popular shrub that provides a lot of shelter and food for a wealth of pollinators, and is descended from the tropical hibiscus flower.
It’s designed to grow well in climates which have cold winters, while still giving any space a tropical touch.
This is a shrub that can grow to resemble a tree as it can get quite large, but you can prune it back to the size and shape you want without too much trouble.
Boxwood has always been a popular shrub, so we’d be remiss if we left it off the list. They have the benefit of being evergreen, and have been used as miniature mazes, tiny bordering hedges, and larger hedges.
They are also the shrub of choice when it comes to topiary. Unfortunately, box blight has become a real menace to the boxwood, and attempts to eradicate it have so far been fairly unsuccessful.
Despite this, boxwood is easy to care for, and produces tiny yellow flowers.
Rhododendrons have the two-fold benefit of flowering profusely, as well as growing substantially both upwards and outwards, which makes them a great choice to fill large empty spaces.
You will need to check the pH of your soil before you get a rhododendron, though, as they only grow well in soil which has a pH between 4.5 and 5.5.
While you can alter the pH slightly, it is much easier to either grow a rhododendron in a pot where you can control the pH, or choose a different plant!
Spirea (see also Spirea Varieties And Care Guide) is a lovely flowering shrub that blooms in reds, whites, and pinks, and is very resistant to cold.
It’s a classic choice for gardens, and it’s not hard to see why when you can get varieties which bloom repeatedly.
You can grow this shrub to line a path, or to add color and height to borders which are otherwise full of smaller plants.
The spirea (see also Spirea Grow Guide) is hardy in zones 3 through to 8.
Flowering quince is a lovely option if you want your (potential) shrub to produce lovely flowers in the early part of spring, and has the advantage of being fairly easy to care for.
The flowering quince also has the added benefit of coming in many colors, shapes, and flowers.
If you are picturing a thorny quince, and you’re wincing at the prospect of putting it into your garden, there are some thornless varieties to choose from.
These plants will happily grow in zones 5 to 9, but if you live somewhere warm, you’ll need to plant your flowering quince somewhere that gets afternoon shade, that way the flowers will last a lot longer.
Ninebark has glorious burgundy leaves, and produces white flowers as an added bonus. The leaves are evergreen, so it’s a great option for adding a wealth of color into your green space.
The ninebark is also a very hardy bush, and thrives in zones 2 to 7.
Pink Flowering Almond
If you like pink flowers, the flowering almond shrub is the perfect option.
It’s also good if you want a plant that has a season that it will showcase itself in (in this case, spring), and then allow other plants their ‘time to shine’, which allows for an ever-changing display which shifts with the seasons.
It also grows quickly and is tolerant to drier conditions, making it a great option for those spaces that you need to fill, and you need to fill them now, but you want the shrub to be able to look after itself.
The pink flowering almond is a hardy shrub in zones 4 to 8, and needs well-draining soil, the more nutritious, the better.
If you’d like a shrub to produce clusters of vivid yellow flowers in early spring (for one that flowers most of the year, try Thryallis), look no further than a Forsythia. This shrub almost seems polite with its neat and tidy growing habit, as it doesn’t take up a lot of room.
It is worth noting that forsythia do lose their leaves in winter, and the flowers appear on the bare stems. This makes them bad choices for screening options or year-round barriers.
You could also plant this in conjunction with another shrub that is evergreen if that’s something you need, if you still fancy the sea of yellow that forsythia produces in spring.
You can also train a forsythia into a hedge, or if you’d prefer a smaller form, you can get dwarf varieties.
Forsythia grows best in the sunniest position you can give it, and is tolerant of the cold in zones 5 to 8.
If you’d like a shrub that flowers in early spring or summer (depending on where you live), and then the foliage changes color during autumn, ‘Deutzia’ is the perfect shrub for you and your space.
It produces huge white, pink, or even lilac blooms. You can get dwarf or standard types, and the dwarf types are perfect for low borders or even in pots.
They are happy in full sun or even partial shade, so they will suit a range of areas in your garden.
After flowering, the shrub will benefit if you remove some of the old shoots, as it can then spend the energy on new growth.
All of the Deutzia shrubs are hardy in zones 5 to 8, where they will produce striking flowers year after year.
There’s nothing wrong with a classic. And when it comes to roses, these timeless beauties will fill any sad corner of your garden with color and fantastic blooms.
Shrub roses are particularly beautiful, and don’t need the support that climbing roses require. While there is a belief that shrub roses are difficult to grow, this is not true – they just need some time to establish themselves.
Shrub roses will need deadheading, and you’ll have to keep an eye out for fungal diseases and pests. They also require full sun, and well-draining soil.
These requirements may sound more demanding than other shrubs on this list, but once you see a shrub rose bloom in all its glory, you’ll know it is worth it.
Another spring bloomer, the pearl bush produces a sea of petite flowers during spring. It’s a great option if you need a hedge, but it also stays pretty compact in its growth habit, meaning it won’t take over cramped spaces.
The pearl bush will withstand any conditions, provided you live any zones 4 through to 8.
The beautyberry needs full sunlight in order to thrive, which will then ensure it produces the purple berries it is named after.
The bush itself produces striking foliage, and in some varieties, the leaves can be a very rich, dark purple that looks black in some lights.
In the late days of summer, the beautyberry also produces lovely white flowers.
The bush itself is fairly low maintenance, and is hardy in zones 5 through to 8.
A favorite of novice and experienced gardeners alike, the double viburnum needs a sunny location.
Provided it gets the warmth of the sun’s rays, this shrub will put on a unique display of color, blooms which form in double rows on the branches.
It needs loamy soil which drains freely in order to be at its best, and it’s hardy in zones 5 to 8.
There are lots of varieties of weigela to choose from, and these lovely flowering shrubs can flower all the way through late spring right up until the first frosts of autumn, making this plant a fantastic choice for any space.
Weigela do best in full sunlight, but they may prefer partial shade in very hot and dry conditions to protect the blooms from the sun.
Weigela is a very attractive option for screening, though some varieties are semi-evergreen, no variety is truly evergreen, so you may need to layer this plant with an evergreen to get privacy all year round.
Azaleas (see also Azalea Flower Meaning and Symbolism) are right up there with rhododendrons for being absolutely gorgeous flowering shrubs, which produce stunning flowers reliably every year.
Large azaleas are perfect for under trees or at the backs of borders, or even to give your garden some privacy.
Dwarf azaleas are great for very low hedges, or as part of a border as a feature, or even in a pot.
You can get both evergreen and deciduous azaleas, and there are nearly countless varieties of azalea, some of which can rebloom, and come in a kaleidoscope of colors.
Camellias are beautiful shrubs in their own right, but they really shine when they bloom in shades of red, white, and pink early on in the year.
They bloom from January through to March if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, and June to August if you don’t.
Camellia plants will thrive in zones 7 through to 9, and the blooms are heavily fragranced too.
You’d be forgiven if you thought King’s Gold was a grass, with its golden, airy, feathery leaves. It’s actually a false cypress (see also Hinoki False Cypress Bonsai Care), and spreads better than other varieties do.
The best feature of this plant is the golden foliage, which lasts all year round, and needs no maintenance. To encourage King’s Gold to produce the best color it’s capable of, plant it in full sun.
It’s a perfect shrub for growing as a hedge, to provide texture in a border, or to line fences and walls.
This shrub is also fairly hardy, thriving in zones 4 through to 8.
Koreanspice viburnum are lovely shrubs with a heady fragrance, and produce pink buds which open out to gorgeous white flowers which have a touch of pink to them.
The leaves of this shrub turn a striking red in the autumn.
The Koreanspice viburnum does best in full sun, though it will also tolerate shade, and will thrive anywhere in zones 4 to 8.
From late summer into the early days of autumn, the Caryopteris shrub produces vivid blue flowers at a time when most flowering shrubs have finished flowering for the year.
This plant will make a great contrast as part of any planting scheme, and the flowers themselves are a magnet for pollinators.
Caryopteris will thrive in zones 5 through to 9.
If you need a shrub for a shadier part of your garden that will remain green all year round, look no further than the mountain laurel. It has large broad leaves, which make this shrub perfect for privacy screening, or absorbing the noise of traffic or a neighbor, and it looks very similar to some rhododendrons, and you can treat it similarly.
This plant does however need acidic soil which drains freely, and does well in zones 4 to 9.
Yes, you could argue it’s another hydrangea. But have you ever admired the broad leaves of an oak tree, and wished the plant had the flowers of a hydrangea?
Well, this shrub is perfect if you have. While it produces fantastic flower heads through the summer months, in autumn the leaves are their own showcase, with lovely architectural shapes and great color.
In both spring and winter, you can see the peeling bark of the shrub, which is also a lovely feature.
The oakleaf hydrangea thrives in zones 5 to 9.
Also known as the buddleia, or the summer lilac, (see also How To Grow Buddleia) the butterfly bush produces some of the most aromatic clusters of blooms in the height of summer, and it is a magnet for all kinds of pollinators.
You can get them in different colors to match your planting scheme, and there are even varieties which are bicolored or even tricolored.
You might protest. Maybe you’ve seen buddleias before, and you know how they can take over a garden. Yes, the standard ones can. If you have a smaller space, you can grow dwarf buddleias, even in containers.
They produce the most flowers in full sun, but they will also grow fairly well in partial shade.
If you have particularly boggy or wet soil, the buttonbush shrub is the perfect option. There are both dwarf varieties and varieties which get extremely tall, so there’s a type for every space.
Some cultivars can get over 20 feet high, so it’s worth checking before you buy, otherwise you might have a lot of maintenance to do!
Most buttonbush shrubs produce white flowers, followed by red fruits in the autumn months.
You can grow the buttonbush in zones 4 to 10, as it’s a fairly hardy plant.
The Abelia shrub produces some of the most fantastically fragranced flowers of all the plants on this list, which are both sweet and spicy.
The flowers also come in purple, orange, and pink, and appear just as spring comes to a close, providing your garden with early color.
Older varieties are more vulnerable to frost and winter temperatures, but there have been new cultivars developed which are cold-hardy.
Make sure to plant it somewhere that you’ll be able to appreciate the gorgeous fragrance that these flowers give off.
Abelia bushes are hardy in zones 4 through to 9.
Red Twig Dogwood
While most shrubs are valued for their flowers or their foliage, the red twig dogwood (see also Dogwood Flower (Cornus florida) Meaning) is valued for its vivid red bark.
The bark remains bright all throughout the year, which really comes into its own in winter, when the lovely green and white leaves drop in autumn.
This bush goes by many names, including sweet bubby, spicebush, Carolina allspice, and confusingly, strawberry-bush.
As you might expect, the sweetshrub produces heavily fragranced flowers, which often smell sweetly fruity.
If you’re after a plant which will add a little more life to your garden, the sweetshrub is a magnet for all sorts of pollinators as a valuable food source.
What You Need to Know in Order to Care for Shrubs and Bushes
When you want to introduce new shrubs into your garden, there’s a few things you need to know.
If the shrub is young, it will need thorough and careful watering in order to establish properly, the first year especially so, as it will take this long for your shrubs to settle in.
It’s worth keeping an eye on both young and mature shrubs just to check that they are doing well, and they don’t need water or treatment for pests and diseases.
You’ll also need to know how to prune your shrubs. The best way to do this largely depends on the species, as some need to be cut back only at a certain time of year, to prevent disease or pests taking hold.
Trimming excess growth at an angle will also help prevent disease.
While most shrubs will largely take care of themselves, some flowering varieties will benefit from being fed during the flowering season, especially if the shrubs are fairly young.
Shrubs are versatile plants that add a lot of height, interest, and color into your garden, as well as serving as screening, border edging, or features in their own right.