All gardens need structure, and one of the easiest ways to provide it year-round is to plant evergreen shrubs. They provide other plants with a solid anchor, and many offer useful winter greenery followed by displays of flowers in spring and summer. Large shrubs can be overbearing in small gardens, so choose evergreens that stay small or tolerate some hard pruning: most of the common broad-leaved evergreens can be cut back. One of the great pleasures of gardening is looking forward to the changes brought about by a new season, so make sure you leave plenty of room for all those herbaceous perennials, deciduous shrubs and bulbs, too.
- Fargesia murieliae
- Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’
- Ribes laurifolium
- Viburnum tinus ‘Gwenllian’
- Ilex × altaclerensis ‘Golden King’
- Itea ilicifolia
- Summer Flowering Shrubs
- Smoothie Althea
- Blue Chip Buddleia
- Miss Molly Buddleia
- Tutti Fruiti Buddleia
- Yellow Bird of Paradise
- Hardy Hibiscus
- Shoal Creek Vitex
- Bubba Desert Willow
- Dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens and landscapes
- The many benefits of small shrubs
- 5 beautiful dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens
Photograph: Clive Nichols/GAP Photos
Bamboos are the antithesis of the often leaden effect you can get from other evergreens such as yew and rhododendrons. They won’t enjoy a dry, windswept garden, but give them some shelter and they are one of the best plants around for movement and lightness of touch. Avoid the invasive species, of which there are many. F. murieliae is clump-forming and likely eventually to hit 3m in height. It is happiest in light shade and soil that does not dry out. The umbrella bamboo’s shorter selections, such as ‘Simba’, need time to gain the grace of the species.
Available from UK Bamboos, 01629 55010
Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’
Photograph: The Garden Picture Library/Alamy
Glossy leaves with the narrowest of yellow margins, dense clusters of pink, heavily scented flowers in late winter/spring and a good shaped shrub up to 1.5m tall combine to make this a very special plant indeed. It can be slow to start, but given sun or light shade, a site out of the wind and some fertile, moist soil, it will undoubtedly give you a plant to be proud of and flowers with a scent to make you swoon.
Available from Burncoose Nurseries, 01209 860316
Photograph: Marianne Majerus/MMGI
The laurel-leaved currant is less of a structural element and more of a spring treat. The leathery leaves provide the perfect backdrop for cascading heads of creamy green, scented flowers in late winter or spring. Give it full sun or light shade and a fertile soil that doesn’t dry out. Slow to establish, so don’t expect it to get to more than 50cm to 1m tall. Male plants have bigger flower heads, but both sexes are good shrubs.
Available from Burncoose Nurseries
Viburnum tinus ‘Gwenllian’
Photograph: Neil Holmes/GAP Photos
One of the most reliable and easy evergreens, ‘Gwenllian’ is a dense shrub with dark green, leathery leaves. Clusters of deep pink buds open to white flowers throughout winter, but don’t overlook the metallic blue berries (they eventually turn black) that follow. This viburnum copes with shade, but it flowers best in full sun. It will reach 3m, but can be cut down almost to ground level in spring if needs be.
Available from Binny Plants, 01506 858931
Ilex × altaclerensis ‘Golden King’
Photograph: Garden Picture Library/photolibrary.com
Variegated evergreens can be difficult to place in the garden because getting them to “work” with other plants is never easy. With this one I don’t even try – I just give it its own space and let it show off its bright, prickle-free foliage. Despite its name, this is a female plant that produces red berries in winter. ‘Golden King’ can get to 4m or 5m tall, but it’s very easy to clip to shape if your garden is small. It thrives in a wide range of soils and situations.
Available from Gardening Express, 08000 336161
Photograph: Howard Rice/Photolibrary.com
This classy shrub has many good qualities; light green leaves armed with prickly edges, long (up to 30cm, but usually less) catkins of scented, pale green flowers from mid- to late summer, and a fairly robust constitution. It’s often grown against a wall, but a free-standing specimen makes an elegant sight. Plant it out of cold winds and in any reasonably fertile soil. It can reach 3m or more, but takes a good few years to get there.
Available from Burncoose Nurseries
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Shrubs are an essential component in every garden, whether evergreen or deciduous, providing an ever changing framework and the backdrop against which everything else is seen.
Evergreen shrubs provide colour and foliage all year round. Great winter flowering evergreens include Mahonia (flowers November to February). Popular hardy evergreen shrubs include Cotoneaster or the more unusual Trochodendron Aralioides with its aromatic bark and petal-less flowers. Spring flowering favourites include Viburnum and Photinia Red Robin (flowers April – May) which also has striking new foliage colour. Laurels and Bays are ideal as evergreen screening shrubs and for hedging.
If you have a sheltered town garden and acidic soil, stunning camellias can be included as flowering shrubs. Following spring flowering, their dark green foliage remains attractive throughout the year. Early summer flowering Azaleas are also a popular choice and at Paramount we have an enormous choice.
Evergreen dwarf conifers make ideal shrubs and add an interesting dimension to the foliage. The Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis Obtusa Nana) is slow growing and an interesting structure.
To create a striking effect, you can use a mixed grouping of deciduous and evergreen shrubs, interspersed with small trees (such as evergreen Arbutus) and perennials (such as Agapanthus Dr Brouwer).
Summer Flowering Shrubs
Summer flowering shrubs provide color to the landscape in the hot, dog days of summer. Most of these shrubs begin blooming in June and continue to blossom into October. They’re critical allies to have if you value continuous sequence of bloom. These deciduous flowering shrubs are easy to grow and have been favorites for a long time. They are tough, durable, and will tolerate a wide range of conditions. They will grow in full sun or part shade, but require a minimum of 6 hours of sun in order to produce flowers. Once established these shrubs are very drought tolerant and require minimal care. Best of all, they provide spectacular summer color. The following are TLC Garden Centers’ recommendations.
Beautiful double flowers adorn this upright shrub summer through fall. Matures at 8 feet by 4 feet wide. Available in several colors: Bluish-purple blueberry, pink strawberry, raspberry, and a bi-colored red and pink peppermint.
Blue Chip Buddleia
A miniature and vigorous Butterfly Bush that reaches only 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Has blue flower panicles from summer to frost. Deer tolerant. Small size makes it perfect for containers or mixed borders.
Miss Molly Buddleia
Bright, rich, reddish-pink flowers bloom in profusion from mid-summer to frost. A neat plant with silvery-gray foliage and compact branching. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage reblooming. Grows 4 to 5 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide.
Tutti Fruiti Buddleia
Featuring fragrant, bright fuchsia-pink blooms from summer to frost, and scented foliage, this plant is great for use in smaller areas of the garden. Will reach 2 to 2.5 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. Deer and drought tolerant.
Features clusters of flowers from summer to frost against glossy dark green leaves that turn orange and red in fall. As they mature the cinnamon brown exfoliating bark is outstanding. Crapemyrtle are available in several different shades of red, pink, coral, lavender, purple, and white. There are also varieties with reddish to purple leaf color. Mature size varies as follows:
Dwarf Crapemyrtle only reach a height 4 feet or less. Suggested varieties include Pocomoke, Victor, and Violet Filli.
Semi-Dwarf Crapemyrtle grow to heights of 4-8 feet. Suggested varieties are Princess, Enduring Summer, and Double Feature.
Large or Tree Crapemyrtle grows to a height of 10 to 20 feet. Suggested varieties include Dynamite, Ebony Flame, Pink Velour, Red Rocket, Muskogee, and Natchez.
Yellow Bird of Paradise
Large, exotic, yellow flowers with striking long red stamens adorn this open, fine-textured shrub. This high-heat tolerant shrub adds superb color to minimal care, waterwise gardens. Reaches a height of 4 to 6 feet tall and wide.
A compact perennial plant that reaches 4 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide with maple-like foliage. Brilliant colored lflowers are up to 6 to 12 inches wide appear all summer. Bloom colors are available in shades of red, pink, white, and bi-colors.
Shoal Creek Vitex
Also called Chaste Tree. Rugged and reliable, this is a superior selection of an old-fashioned favorite that grows into a large shrub or small tree. Mature height is 8 to 15 feet and width 12 to 15 feet. It produces fragrant blue-violet racemes throughout the summer above dark, gray-green, and compound palmate foliage.
Bubba Desert Willow
Bright bicolor lavender and dark purple flowers bloom throughout the summer. A vigorous grower matures at 15 to 25 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide. Its flowers and leaves are larger than that of the species. Requires well drained, dry soils.
Dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens and landscapes
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Gardens in suburbia seem to be shrinking. As houses grow bigger, yards grow smaller and there’s less and less room to garden. Combine that limited space with shrinking free time and narrowing gardening budgets, and you have the perfect recipe for an overgrown landscape. Smaller gardens quickly become overrun by full-size shrubs when the homeowner doesn’t have the time to be constantly pruning them to a suitable size. Thankfully, plant breeders are coming to the rescue by selecting and developing many new varieties of dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens that stay naturally petite without a lot of fuss.
Today, we’ve teamed up with the good folks at Bloomin’ Easy® to introduce you to a handful of beautiful dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens and tell you why these plants are such a good fit for your backyard (or front!).
The many benefits of small shrubs
Dwarf flowering shrubs, such as those listed below, are ideal choices for both urban and suburban gardeners with limited space, or for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time pruning, deadheading, and otherwise maintaining their landscape. With their ease of care, prolific flower production, and minimal pest and disease problems, small shrubs like these are a sure bet for just about any landscape setting.
Compact flowering shrubs like this spirea are great for small yards and low-maintenance landscapes.
In addition to all of those perks, small shrubs are generally easier to plant than most larger shrubs, too. One- to two-gallon-sized containers are the norm for dwarf flowering shrubs, so there’s no need to wrestle with a massive balled-and-burlapped root ball or an enormous five-gallon container that weighs a hundred-plus pounds. Simply dig a hole twice as wide as the pot but no deeper, loosen the shrub’s roots once it’s popped out of the container, and settle the root mass into the planting hole. Use the soil you dug out of the hole to backfill and water the shrub well. A layer of one to two inches of shredded bark mulch spread around the shrub’s root zone (but not right against the base of the trunk) helps retain soil moisture and restrict weed competition. As you can see, the process of planting dwarf flowering shrubs is far easier than planting larger specimens. There’s no need to call in a tractor or forklift!
5 beautiful dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens
Once you recognize the many benefits of using smaller shrub varieties, it’s time to pick out a few favorites and get planting. Here are some excellent choices from the Bloomin’ Easy line of flowering shrubs. When selecting plants for this line, their breeders focus on compact, tidy size and form, as well as flower power and winter hardiness.
1. Flare™ Hydrangea
A compact panicle hydrangea that maxes out at just two to three feet tall and equally as wide, this compact flowering shrub is perfect for small yards or for gardeners who don’t want to fuss with having to prune their hydrangeas “just right” in order to get them to bloom. Plus, panicle hydrangeas flower on new wood, so there’s no chance of bud freeze. The cone-shaped flowers are white when they open, but they age to bright red-pink. Give this dwarf hydrangea four to six hours of full sun each day and it will bloom its head off every year. Hardy down to -40 degrees F, Flare™ is a must when it comes to dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens.
Flare panicle hydrangea is an excellent small flowering shrub for the garden.
2. Nightglow™ Diervilla
A tiny little powerhouse of a shrub, this compact cultivar of the bush honeysuckle has so much to offer. The deep burgundy foliage reaches just two to three feet tall and wide at maturity which, of course, means no pruning is necessary! The clusters of canary-yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers occur from spring through summer and are a welcome sight to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Winter hardy to -30 degrees F, Nightglow™ requires at least six hours of full sun per day to perform its best.
Dwarf bush honeysuckle Nightglow is a great choice for smaller yards and gardens.
3. Bella Bellissima™ Potentilla
A personal favorite of mine, this dwarf flowering shrub is not only beautiful and low maintenance, it’s also packed with shocking pink blooms. Potentilla is a great plant for supporting beneficial insects of all sorts, and with the compact growth habit of Bella Bellissima™, gardeners can lend a hand to “good” bugs without having to dedicate a ton of space to their efforts. Maturing at just two to three feet tall and wide, this mounding shrub is smothered in blooms from spring to summer. An occasional deadheading or shearing does keep this shrub a bit “cleaner” looking, but it isn’t necessary for continual flower production. With a winter hardiness of -50 degrees F (!), there’s nothing to stop you from adding this beauty to your must-have list of dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens.
Small-space flowering shrubs like Bella Bellissima potentilla are a great fit for gardens.
4. Rainbow Fizz™ Spirea
A blend of copper, yellow, and red foliage graces this compact flowering shrub throughout the season, making the name Rainbow Fizz™ more than appropriate. Though it gets a tad taller than the rest of the compact shrubs on this list, topping out at three to four feet tall and wide, it’s still far smaller than most other spirea varieties on the market. Flat-topped clusters of red flower buds open to a fuzzy pink off and on all summer long. Give this dwarf shrub full sun and it can handle whatever winter throws at it down to about -40 degrees F.
Rainbow Fizz spirea is a compact flowering shrub that reaches just two to three feet tall and wide.
5. Peach Lemonade™ Rose
We’ve written about this multi-colored rose variety before on Savvy Gardening, but we have to mention it again. The young flowers are a sunny yellow, but as each bloom ages, it turns to a bright shade of pink. And no, we aren’t kidding! Peach Lemonade™ is in continual bloom from late spring through fall, so there’s often pink and yellow flowers on the plant at the same time. And, because it’s on a list of dwarf flowering shrubs for small gardens, it’s important to note that this rose reaches just three feet tall and wide. Requiring little more than full sun and an occasional top-dressing of an organic, granulated rose fertilizer, this variety withstands winters down to -30 degrees F.
Peach Lemonade rose is a compact variety that has bi-colored flowers and a small stature.
We hope you enjoyed discovering the many perks of dwarf flowering shrubs and learning about why they’re such a good fit for modern gardens. We’d like to give a big thank you to Bloomin’ Easy® for sponsoring this post and allowing us to introduce our readers to a few great dwarf shrub varieties to get them started. To find a source for these plants, please visit one of the nurseries or online retailers you’ll find on the “Find a Retailer” feature on the Bloomin’ Easy website.
Want to learn about more great shrubs for your garden? Check out the following posts:
Flowering shrubs for your garden: 5 beauties for full sun
Evergreens to create privacy
Panicle hydrangeas: 3 no-fail choices for reliable blooms