How to Choose Shrubs for Landscaping | Almanac.com

How to Choose Shrubs for Landscaping

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Landscape Shrubs for Shade, Front of House, Flowers, & More!

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Wondering which landscaping shrubs are best for the front of a house? To hide a foundation or thrive in shady spots? Bring in more pollinators? Find the right shrub for the right purpose! Here are some of our ideas on choosing shrubs.

The gardening adage of choosing the “right plant for the right place” is extremely important for shrubs. There are too many beneficial shrubs to list in this one article, but here are some shrubs to consider for certain roles.

Most shrubs should be planted about six weeks before the ground freezes; in many regions in the U.S. and Canada, this is in the autumn, by October. 

Shrubs can be tall and do the job of a small tree or tiny and act as a groundcover but most occupy the mid-level in our gardens. Here they add structure and interest throughout the year and provide a backdrop for other plants. They can play a supporting role or be the star of the show! 

Shrubs for Front of House and Foundation

When considering the front of your house and foundation, many homeowners go for evergreen shrubs with year-round color along with some flowering shrubs for some seasonal color. 

  • Evergreens: Add rhododendrons, azaleas, boxwood, inkberry, pieris, creeping juniper, or yews.
  • Blossoms: Add deutzia, spirea, sweetspire, smooth hydrangea, and knockout roses.

Boxwood creates an evergreen hedge in front of the house with flowering shrubs and plants tucked into the corners.

Inkberry, part of the holly family, produces dark berries in fall. Grows in zones 5 to 8 in partial sun/shade.

The “Annabelle” hydrangea has big white blooms that grow in full sun and dappled shade. Zones 4 to 9.

Rhododendrons are also classic foundation plants that bloom well even in part shade. Their dense evergreen foliage hides an ugly foundation all year long. Zones 4 or 5 through 9.

Shrubs for Privacy

Privacy a problem? Block the neighbors view with a hedge of arborvitae or western red cedar. Both grow fast and are evergreen. They can also provide a windbreak. See more privacy shrubs.

A dense planting of arborvitae, also known as thuja, is great for blocking an ugly view or providing privacy.

Arborvitae or western red cedar come in dwarf-size shrubs that are 1 to 2 feet tall. They would also work well as a shrub in front of the house between larger shrubs and flowers or ground cover. Full sun in zones 1 to 7.

Short Shrubs for a Living Fence

Need a living fence? Delineate your property line or create a hedge with a row of boxwood or wiegela.

This boxwood fence along the house and sidewalk provides a beautiful but useful living wall.

Shrubs for Containers

As well as providing low hedging, smaller boxwoods also work well along walkways, to add a formal element around your front yard flowers, in container entrance gardeners, or even as ground cover.

Other evergreen shrubs which are suitable for containers including dwarf holly, azaleas, and rhododendrons. 

Shrubs to Hide Eyesores

Eyesores? Hide the AC unit, trash bins, or pool pump behind a screen of yews (taxus), forsythia, or ninebark. 

Shrubs for Butterflies, Bees, and Pollinators

Want to attract pollinators and butterflies? Try buddleia, buttonbush, clethra, potentilla, and caryopteris to provide nectar and pollen.

Bees and other beneficials love buttonbush blossoms!

Shrubs for Birds

To feed and shelter birds? Look to evergreens including rhododendrons, holly, juniper, small spruces and pines for providing not only winter shelter but also spring nesting sites. Berry producers including blueberry, elderberry, and winterberry are favorites with the fruit eaters.

Elderberries are a favorite of many songbirds.

Shrubs With Fragrant Flowers

Looking for fragrance? Korean spice viburnum, lilac, daphne, mock orange, clethra, and sweetspire will scent the air in your garden from spring well into summer. Chionanthus is not only fragrant but at its mature height of 12-20 feet tall it can take the place of a small tree.

Fragrant lilacs are a springtime favorite. Plant one near a window so you can enjoy its perfume inside and outside.

Shrubs That Provide Fall Color

Fall Foliage? Fothergilla ranges in size from 2 foot tall dwarf to 10 foot tall major and has wonderfully colorful autumn leaves. Itea, ekianthus, purple cotinus, and aronia can all take the place of that invasive burning bush you need to get rid of.

Purple smokebush has dark maroon leaves all season long.

Ninebark can have dark maroon leaves or green.

Decide what your goals are and put the appropriate shrubs to work for you.

About The Author

Robin Sweetser

Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. Read More from Robin Sweetser

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