Shrubs and trees are a natural fit

Winterberries are very handsome shrubs

Like trees, shrubs can be tall or small and bear flowers and berries, plus many are a favorite of various bird species. Ever wondered what makes them different from trees? Although they can become quite large, they are generally smaller than trees, and unlike trees they have multiple main stems that arise at or near the ground. French Lilacs are a good example of this. Japanese Lilacs, on the other hand, are trees because their main branches shoot out from the trunk. And Birches are trees too, although some varieties often have multiple trunks. This being said, some lists of trees often include shrubs.

'Rose glow' Japanese barberry
‘Rose glow’ Japanese barberry

It is rarely a good idea to plant trees too close to a house or any permanent structure for that matter. There are a number of reasons for this, the most important being that trees need room to grow above ground as well as below ground. A tree planted too close to a house will not grow well. It will often develop an odd shape as it tries to shoot branches against your walls and windows.

Landscaping shrubs, on the other hand, are perfect near walls and under windows. Mind you, they can be perfect in many other locations as well. If your house is located on a street corner, for instance, use them as barriers to deter people from walking across your lawn. Many varieties can also be used to create hedges.

Since most shrubs bear flowers and berries, they can be a very good choice to attract birds and butterflies. The good thing is that berries are not only a source of food for birds, but they also provide them with much needed water. For more information on attracting wildlife, see our page called Landscaping for wildlife.

Additional pages on shrubs

We have special pages dedicated to shrubs adapted to specific conditions.

Small sun shrubs
Medium sun shrubs
Large sun shrubs
Wet sun shrubs
Small shade shrubs
Medium shade shrubs
Large shade shrubs
Wet shade shrubs

We also have page dedicated to landscaping trees, conifers and evergreens.

List of lists

To make it simpler for you to find the shrubs that will fit your landscaping plan, we have created lists of trees based on various characteristics.

Note that, in each list, plants from different climate zones with different growing conditions may be mixed together. Before making a final choice on any given shrub, always check all its characteristics to ensure it is the right shrub for the right place.

Our favorite landscaping shrubs

Here are a few shrubs we particularly like.

There are many varieties of Barberries, some green, some red, but most of them very attractive.
Boxwood is always elegant looking and fits especially well in more contemporary landscaping designs.
Burning Bushes turn bright red and bear lots of berries. They can survive in partly shaded spots, but they will not be as red and produce as many berries in the fall. Note that they are considered invasive in some regions.
The Buttonbush is a nice bush all around that has strange looking pale yellow, spherical flowers. It can thrive in wet locations.
For big flowers that can reach almost two inches in diameter, choose the Japanese Quince.
Japanese Maples are eye catchers. Be they green, red or gold, they just look amazing .
Lantana shrubs have nice leaves and lots of tiny, multicolored flowers.
Rhododendrons are beautiful bushes that can bear a lot of dazzling flowers. Most bloom in the spring.

Large landscaping shrubs

Some varieties of the landscaping bushes listed here will grow to be over twelve feet in height.

The exact color of the Amur Maple in the fall is hard to describe. It is a beautiful shade of orange that catches the light very well.
There is a large selection of Magnolias available now. In early spring, before the leaves come out, some varieties bear a large number of large flowers, while others get covered with innumerable small flowers. All varieties are a feast for the eyes.
Robinias, also known as False Acacias or Black Locusts, can become quite large. They have contorted branches from which large bunches of fragrant flowers hang in early summer.
Adapted to urban life, the Seven-Son Flower bush blooms in the fall. Its white flowers are quite fragrant.
Some Serviceberries can grow to become huge bushes. In early or mid-spring, they are full of lightly scented white flowers. In the fall, their foliage can take yellow, orange or red shades.
The Royal Purple Smoke tree can grow to fifteen feet. Its strange blooms are sure to attract your neighbor’s attention.

Medium size landscaping shrubs

The landscaping bushes listed here typically grow to be between four and twelve feet in height.

Boxwood lovers should know about the Green Mountain boxwood, which can reach just about four feet in height.
Forsythia bushes put on a spectacular flower show in the spring, before their leaves come out. They turn red in the fall.
French Lilacs come in a variety of colors. Some have very fragrant flowers, while others are much more discreet.
The delicate Golden Full Moon Maple requires a sheltered location, but what an impression it makes. Talk about light catching.
If you like bushes that bear lots of berries, consider Common Winterberries. These members of the Holly family are not evergreens, but female plants can bear quite a lot of attractive berries that remain through the winter. Be sure to match the proper male and female plants.
The Red Dragon Japanese maple reaches its mature height at around twelve feet. Its foliage becomes dark burgundy in the fall. Placed in front of a first floor window, it adds to the decor of the room while not completely blocking the sunlight.

Small landscaping shrubs

The landscaping bushes listed here reach a height between one and four feet.

Use Common Boxwood to create low hedges or geometric shapes in your landscaping. Its shiny green foliage is a favorite of most people.
The Burkwood Daphne has interesting foliage, not to mention lots of delicately scented light pink or white flowers every spring.
The flowery branches of the Butterfly bush exude a perfume that butterflies can’t seem to resist.
Black Chokeberries have attractive green foliage and pink flowers. Their foliage turns red in the fall and their purple berries remain on through the winter. Birds love them.
Barberries come in many attractive varieties.
There are a number of interesting varieties of Summersweet. The Hummingbird has delicate, fragrant flowers and attractive orange foliage in the fall. The Ruby Spice has pink flowers and its foliage turns yellow in the fall. Why not combine them?

Ground covering landscaping shrubs

The landscaping bushes listed here rarely reach a height above one foot.

Great for rock gardens, Black Crowberries feature beautiful black berries in the fall.
There are many varieties of Japanese Spireas. The leaves of the Dakota Goldcharm is a nice shade of yellow that turns reddish in the fall. It bears pink flowers during the summer. The Flowering Choice has green foliage that turns deep red. It bears lots of flowers all summer long.
Lovers of Weigelas should know that there are dwarf varieties on the market. The My Monet, for instance, will grow to about one foot in height.

Fall flowering landscaping shrubs

Most bushes bear flowers during the spring, but as the summer reaches its climax and most trees and bushes are heavy with berries and fruits, there are a few late bloomers that take to center stage.

Hydrangeas, of course. There is a wide variety of Hydrangeas on the market now. Some are the classic white, others are red and even blue. Panicle Hydrangeas are especially nice. Note that Hydrangeas need lots of sun to give you beautiful flowers that change color as summer turns into fall.
Redroot bushes (also known as New Jersey Tea, Snowbrush, California Lilacs, etc.) come in a number of varieties. Many remain rather small, but the California Lilac can become quite large.
The Plumbago family offers bushes in a variety of sizes and colors. The Scarlet Leadwort has deep red or pink flowers, while the Cape Leadwort has deep blue flowers.

Landscaping shrubs for partially shaded locations

Some bushes can do relatively well with little direct sunlight, but these are rare. The bushes listed here do well with two to four hours of direct sunlight per day.

American Elders do well in sunny as well as partially shaded areas. They bear fragrant flowers and edible berries.
False Spireas have very attractive foliage and lots of delicate flowers.
Klondyke Rhododendrons do well in partial shade. Their flowers are amazing.
Mountain-Laurels bear lots of pink flowers in late spring and early summer.
Witherod Viburnums are easy shrubs. Their medium green foliage and white flowers are quite attractive.

For more information on landscaping plants for shaded locations, see Shade plants.

Shrubs for wet locations

The bushes listed below may survive or even thrive in wet or soggy soils, and some may even be planted in and around streams.

Button Bush shrubs do well in wet spots, but they do require lots of direct sunlight.
Common Winterberries don’t dislike soggy locations. The more sun they get, the more berries the female plants bear (if matched with the proper male).
The Summersweet bush is one of the few plants that can grow in moist, partially shaded locations.
The Swamp Azalea is a deciduous Rhododendron with delicate white flowers that are quite fragrant. It prefers partially sunny to sunny spots.

For more information on landscaping shrubs and trees for wet locations, see Wet sun plants or Wet shade plants.

Have you considered all the options available to you? If not, then have a look at our Landscaping plants page.

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The right plants in the right locations with the right conditions