Shrubs are a key foundation planting for many gardens. They offer structure and organizing points; many also supply year-round color, as well as food and shelter for wildlife. But selecting the right shrub for your landscape and particular gardening need can be difficult. Luckily, the Better Homes and Gardens Plant Encyclopedia provides information that will help with both practical questions and design problem-solving. For starters, you can choose shrubs that are sized to fit your landscape -- dwarf, mid-size, or full-height varieties, for example. You may also look for shrubs based on both scientific or common name and find shrubs that work best for your particular site constraints, such as USDA Hardiness Zone and amount of sunlight. You can also ensure the success of your shrubs with information on growth habit and design potential. View a list of shrubs by common name or scientific name below.
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Michelia ‘Allspice’ features glossy foliage and highly scented cup-shape flowers that resemble magnolia blooms. It takes a pyramidal form when young but eventually assumes a rounded shape.
A showstopping shrub that transforms any space into a tropical getaway, angel's trumpet boasts huge, pendulous blooms that perfume the air after sunset. And with its unique trumpet-shape flowers and quick-growing nature, this exotic beauty offers a multitude of reasons to give it a try in your own garden.
These slow-growing trees create dense evergreen foliage that can make wonderful “living walls” when privacy is needed in the garden. Some varieties take on a bronze cast in the fall and winter, so be selective when picking an Arborvitae variety to plant in your yard. These trees stand up well to trimming and can be made into whimsical topiary plants to create living garden art. Arborvitae have long been used for their various medicinal properties.
Evergreen foliage and twisted trunks clothed with shaggy, shedding bark all contribute to Australian tea tree’s unique look and texture. Also called Australian myrtle, this tree displays masses of white, roselike flowers in spring. Trim vigorous upright branches for use in mixed bouquets.
Banana shrub sports thick, glossy dark green leaves (similar to those of magnolia) and flower buds cupped by six petals each that bloom from spring to summer. Its common name refers to the intense bananalike fragrance of those creamy yellow blossoms. This broadleaf evergreen, which has multiple stems and a rounded habit, grows 6 to 10 feet tall and wide if left unpruned. But don’t worry; it tolerates pruning well and is easily maintained at 4 to 5 feet tall.
When planted near a home foundation, banana shrub’s evergreen leaves will provide color all year long, and its flowers will deliver a welcome fragrance during blooming season. Plant it as part of a mixed shrub border alongside other easy-to-grow shrubs such as bay laurel and evergreen holly. Not only will this shrub border mask views, it will provide a welcome wildlife habitat.
Note that banana shrub nursery specimens often exhibit sparse branching and limited foliage. They will quickly fill out once they are planted in the landscape.
Barberry is a tried-and-true classic throughout the entire growing season with its vibrant foliage. In shades of green, yellow, and rich burgundy, these plants make up for their lack of showy blooms with their constantly colorful foliage. Although these tough hedge plants used to be planted frequently, they are more and more being shunned as invasive plants. So if you are thinking of planting a barberry, make sure to check with your local authorities before making your decision.
A culinary classic, bay's glossy green foliage is a flavor favorite in soups, stews, and meat dishes. Bay only survives to 25 degrees, so it's commonly grown in containers, sounding a steady evergreen note on patios during the growing season and gracing sunny interior windows after frost. In the landscape, established trees are fuss-free and drought tolerant. Potted bay is susceptible to scale insects; hand-pick any offenders. Protect potted bay from intense sunlight in hottest zones. If you love to cook, keep dried leaves on hand; they're an essential herb for bouquet garni.
Bayberry forms a beautiful semi-evergreen shrub that tolerates either wet or dry soils. The shrub also withstands salt spray, making it a good choice for coastal landscapes. Plants gradually spread from underground suckers, eventually forming a thicket. Pruning is rarely necessary.
Bayberry has long been prized for its fragrant, waxy gray berries, which can be used to make candles. Plants are either male or female; to ensure berry production, plant several shrubs in the same landscape. The berries are also attractive to a wide range of songbirds.
Beautyberry produces white or light pink flowers in the summer that make quite a statement in the garden. This shrub gets its name from a gorgeous display of bright purple berries in the fall. The berries hold well into the winter, making a delicious treat for birds. Because beautyberry blooms on new growth, you don’t need to worry about accidentally pruning off flower buds in the fall. Bud hardiness is not an issue.
Grown for its delightful blue blossoms, bluebeard adds a much-needed splash of garden color in mid- to late summer. The plant also carries on through much of the fall for a spectacular display that mixes well with cool color palettes and also acts as a refreshing contrast to the hot colors of fall. Bluebeard shrubs also look attractive in containers, especially when you choose the variegated and golden varieties.
Tasty blue fruits and vibrant fall foliage make blueberry plants landscape all-stars. Call on this plant to create a multitasking hedge. Add several blueberries to a shrub border as a colorful, fruitful planting partner. Plant breeders have selected many new varieties that thrive in containers, producing patio-side fruit that is just as sweet and delectable as the fruit grown on 8-foot-tall shrubs.
The poster child for traditional formal gardens, boxwood has seen its ups and downs in popularity over the years—but it always seems to bounce back. Because boxwoods are easy to manipulate and maintain into so many different shapes and sizes, they can always find a home in formal settings. And with their timeless glossy green leaves, they easily add elegance to any garden space.
Most buckthorn varieties are easy-to-grow shrubs that make great privacy screens, backdrops, or hedges, thanks to their dense habit and lustrous, dark-green foliage. Steer clear of several types of buckthorn, though. Common or European buckthorn and glossy or alder buckthorn are invasive species that are illegal to sell and plant in many areas. Noxious weeds, these rogue buckthorns degrade woodlands and wildlife habitats; prevent native plants from accessing nutrients, light and moisture; and are difficult to eradicate.
The sparkling white flowers of bush anemone will cool down the hottest afternoon. An evergreen shrub native to California, it is a great plant for the back of a perennial border or an informal hedge. Bush anemone grows well in full sun or part shade and tolerates a range of soil conditions but does best in well-drained soil. It thrives on neglect: do not fertilize, and water only during periods of extended drought.
Native to California and Baja California, bush poppy (sometimes called tree poppy) is covered with cheerful yellow flowers from spring through early summer. This striking evergreen plant has blue-green, willowlike foliage that takes on a silver sheen in some types of light. Drought-tolerant to the extent that it languishes in irrigated garden settings, bush poppy is an excellent plant for xeric gardens, rock gardens, hedges, screens, and stabilizing slopes in arid environments. Hardy in Zones 9-11 yet able to tolerate a hard freeze, it is great plant for western North America.
Drenching the air with a fruity scent, butterfly bush's flower spikes are an irresistible lure to butterflies and hummingbirds all summer long. The plants have an arching habit that's appealing especially as a background in informal flower borders. In warmer climates, butterfly bushes soon grow into trees and develop rugged trunks that peel.
To nurture butterfly bush through cold Northern winters, spread mulch up to 6 inches deep around the trunk. Plants will die down, but resprout in late spring. Prune to the ground to encourage new growth and a more fountainlike shape. Avoid fertilizing butterfly bush; extra-fertile soil fosters leafy growth rather than flower spikes. Remove spent flower spikes to encourage new shoots and flower buds.
Note: Butterfly bush can be an invasive pest in some areas; check local restrictions before planting it.
Although your garden visitors may not believe you, this horticultural kaleidoscope is only one rosebush -- even though it blooms in three colors and varying shades thereof all at once. New foliage and bud sheaths are a coppery-bronze, and the established foliage is clean green and shiny to boot. And adaptability? The butterfly rose is disease-resistant, shrugs off humidity, and grows taller the more shelter it is given. This arching shrub is at its best covering a wall or tall fence, with its splayed, wrinkled petals flitting in a soft breeze. Spiffy, huh? That said, one proviso -- this is most certainly not the hardiest rose in the galazy. Mutabilis is almost exclusively a southern or western beauty.
Here's how the petal coloring works: At first a vivid orange, the buds open to a honey yellow, then the next day, after pollination, they become pale pink, deepening in the following day or two to nearly crimson.
Adaptable and easy to grow, California bay laurel is native to the West Coast. It grows best in full sun to part shade, and when planted in full sun and watered regularly, it can grow as much as 4 feet each year. In partial shade with less-frequent watering, it is a slow-growing yet lovely plant. Its clean, green foliage is aromatic and often used in cooking. California bay laurel is a great choice for many areas of the landscape: Plant it in a container to enjoy it as a lush patio plant, add it to a mixed border for a pleasing touch of evergreen foliage, or use it as a shade tree.
This native plant is blanketed with showy yellow blossoms in spring. Notably drought-tolerant, California flannel bush thrives in hot, dry climates and fast-draining soil. It has a somewhat wayward growth habit, sending out a mix of long and short fast-growing shoots. What it lacks in form and outline, it makes up for in flowering when it explodes with color in spring. Trim the tips of overly long shoots to promote branching, and remove lower branches to create a tree form. California flannel bush is a great shrub for hillsides, mixed borders, and rock gardens. Quick-draining soil is a must.
The Southern belles of the plant world, camellias come in a wide variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. These broadleaf evergreen shrubs bear some of the most beautifully formal blooms. Plus, their leaves are used to make tea, said to be the world’s most popular drink.