Evergreen and Flowering Buying Guide

Shrubs -- both evergreen and flowering shrub varieties -- are remarkably diverse and necessary elements in a landscape, providing everything from focal points to natural fences to windbreaks. Here's a guide to what you need to know to purchase your own shrubs.

Types of Shrubs: Evergreen and Flowering

Types of Shrubs: Evergreen and Flowering

Many a garden memory recalls the fragrance of a lilac or the blooms of a rhododendron. Those diverse plants have something in common: Both are shrubs. These adaptable plants -- found in evergreen and flowering varieties -- come in hundreds of different types, styles, and sizes. They are a great starting point for a new landscape and a welcome visual diversion for an established garden. Here are a few of the main types of shrubs: hydrangea, dogwood, forsythia, rhododendron and azalea, spirea, lilac, arborvitae, boxwood, butterfly bush, and miscellaneous types.

Hydrangea

One of the most beloved shrubs, hydrangea generally loves shade and has varieties that bloom from summer through fall. There are also compact hydrangeas as well as those that offer distinctive blooms in unusual colors such as blue.

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Dogwood

There are tree varieties of dogwood, but the shrub versions offer gardeners distinctive focal-point plants and bright-color branches. In addition, their fruit can be valuable food for birds and animals in wintertime.

Forsythia

Small yellow blooms stand out on forsythia shrubs in springtime. Forsythia loves full sun, and its tooth-shape leaves provide distinctive foliage that turns purple in the fall.

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Rhododendron and Azalea

Both rhododendron and azalea are woody, springtime-flowering shrubs that love moisture and shade; rhododendron has large, tough-looking leaves that stay on the shrubs through wintertime.

Spirea

The most distinguishing characteristic of the spirea is its lovely cascading branches, but the shrub also supplies either white or pink spring flowers. Many have traditional green foliage, while other varieties sport lighter shades of green or gold-tone leaves.

Lilac

Old-fashioned and beloved, lilac provides unmistakable fragrance in late spring. Traditional varieties -- which can get leggy if not pruned well -- are still available, but newer dwarf versions offer a more compact growing pattern.

Arborvitae

A lover of sunny locations, arborvitae is a dense evergreen shrub that works well as a solid border in a yard. Arborvitae lends itself to shaping, and dwarf varieties can be used as focal points in garden beds.

Boxwood

Boxwood naturally lends itself to sculpting, but it can also be left to grow as a small, clumping shrub. The deep-tone, evergreen leaves of boxwood work well as a border, such as along a sidewalk, for example.

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Butterfly Bush

Arching and fragrant, the beautiful blooms and branches of butterfly bush are attractive to both butterflies and hummingbirds. In warmer climates the shrub can tower over the garden, but in colder locales it will die down in winter.

Miscellaneous

Countless other evergreen and flowering shrubs are available, from crape myrtle to hibiscus. Each one has specific hardiness zone limitations and will grow differently based on your soil and microclimate.

Product Features

Product Features

There are countless factors that go into any landscape choice -- which often makes it overwhelming for homeowners to decide on what's best. To get started with shrubs, boil down plants based on a few product features, then apply personal preferences. For example, a row of boxwoods in front of a house can be contained, but a row of arborvitaes will soon block windows and doors. So mature height and width is an important product feature. Others to review include container versus bare root, foliage, and flowers. Here's a guide to get started.

Mature Height and Width

Shrubs that are tiny, tidy, gallon-container plants at the nursery may, after a decade of growth, be towering specimens that block your front window. Make sure you understand the growth potential of the shrub as it relates to your landscape.

Container vs. Bare Root

Shrubs may be container-grown or bare-root, which means the roots are free of any soil. Bare-root shrubs may be planted earlier than container-grown versions.

Foliage and Flowers

Shrubs differ in foliage type and flowers. Some are green year-round, while others reward with a burst of springtime blooms. Which you choose depends on your landscape needs and preferences.

Purchase Considerations

Purchase Considerations

We've all done it: purchased a plant for the landscape that pushed the limits of climate, soil, and convenience. The result is typically an unhappy plant -- and an unhappy homeowner. Particularly when it comes to shrubs, which are often more expensive but reward with longer life, it's important to take into account purchase considerations that will affect the plant and your time in the landscape. Carefully review water requirements, soil preference, and hardiness zone as you narrow down your options. Here's a short overview to get you started.

Water Requirements

To become established, all shrubs need adequate water in their first few years. Even when they're a few years old, though, shrubs will need water, particularly in times of drought. Know your shrubs' requirements before making a selection.

Soil Preference

Shrubs differ in the soil -- acidic, alkaline, clay, sandy, loam, or a combination -- that they prefer. Know the composition of your soil and what amendments your shrubs may require to do their best.

Hardiness Zone

Shrubs are an investment for your landscape, and you'll be disappointed if your shrubs don't survive because of incorrect USDA hardiness Zone. Know your climate, and choose shrubs that can survive.

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