Tips for Growing Shrubs

Shrubs bring beauty, shade, and fragrance to your landscape.
Shrubs bring beauty, shade, and
fragrance to your landscape.

While you may think of shrubs as "just bushes," they are actually much more. Shrubs come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with many different types of foliage. Some shrubs produce berries, and others even provide fragrance! No matter what effect you are trying to achieve, there is undoubtedly a shrub that will fit the bill.

Creeping shrubs, like junipers, can serve as evergreen ground covers. Low, bushy shrubs like Japanese spirea and potentilla blend nicely into flower gardens or the front of a planting around the house. Larger, rounded shrubs can be grouped into clusters to define space or create privacy. More compact cultivars that mature when around 4 feet high, like Newport viburnum, can be used around a house without any pruning. Taller shrubs, like Allegheny viburnum, are best kept at some distance from the house, where they won't block the views. They make good screens for the property perimeter. Vertical shrubs that are shaped like an upright cone or pillar, such as Skyrocket juniper, create formality or emphasis in the yard. They can be striking when placed on either side of a doorway or garden gate.

  • Using a medley of shrub shapes offers design interest that goes much deeper than the leaves and flowers. And when you also take into account the other qualities shrubs have to offer, you'll see that they are an asset to any kind of garden.

  • Plant fragrant flowered shrubs near doors or windows so you can enjoy their perfume both indoors and out.

  • Cut flowering stems from your shrubs and bring them indoors to use in big bouquets. If you have large vases that dwarf ordinary annual or perennial stems, fill them with long branches of forsythia, lilacs, or viburnums. What a wonderful way to celebrate spring!

  • Plant shrubs that will flower in succession through the growing season. Get some spring, summer, and fall bloomers -- then play them up, using other plants as supporting characters. Match the flower color of a viburnum with a cluster of daffodils. Echo the color of a rhododendron with a pot of pink pansies.

  • Plant a coniferous shrub garden for winter fun. Use evergreens with a variety of different shapes and leaf colors -- gold, blue, gray, and green. In northern climates where winter is long, this kind of garden brightens the yard. Suitable shrubs include dwarf firs, pines, hemlocks, spruces, heathers, junipers, arborvitaes, and false cypress. Specialty nurseries and catalogs abound with other, less common conifers as well. Interplant cone-shaped and vertical evergreens with low and mounded forms. Add in some spectacular weeping conifers for excitement, and contrast blue and gray foliage against green and gold. In summer, add some interplanted annuals, perennials, and ornamental grasses for variety.

  • Consider changing an overgrown shrub into a multi-stemmed tree. This works nicely with flowering plums, black haw viburnums, winged euonymus, and lilacs, all of which can grow to be 12 to 15 feet tall.

    Begin by removing small, crowded upright stems to reveal a handful of shapely mature branches that can serve as trunks. Cut side shoots off the trunks up to about 5 feet off the ground, creating a tree form. Continue pruning as needed to keep the trunks clear of growth.
­New shrubs need some special care right from the start to ensure a healthy life and good growth. Keep reading for tips about planting shrubs in your garden.

Some Shrubs for Seasonal Blooms

Want more gardening tips? Try visiting these links:

  • Gardening Tips: Learn great helpful hints for all of your gardening needs.
  • Annuals: Plant these beauties in your garden.
  • Perennials: Choose great plants that will return year after year.
  • Gardening: Discover how to garden.