If you live in any major city in the United States and you don’t own a real estate property there, chances are you’re most likely renting a condominium, apartment, or townhouse. These types of living spaces usually don’t have a lot of space for a garden, so you’re going to have to work with what’s available with the property you have. But if you think that the small garden you have will only feature uninteresting lumps of green dotting a landscape, you probably want to reassess your assumption because there are actually a variety of compact bushes that blooms flowers with assorted colors. Here’s a summary of some of the many options you can choose between, including many of the best low-maintenance dwarf shrubs, categorized by features and characteristics.
Benefits of these
Versatility would be the most obvious benefit relative to other things you could put in your garden; however, they offer more benefits than what meets the eye.
Save Energy – For shade-loving folks, be sure to put them on the sides of your house where the sun rises and sets (east and west). They provide a cool shade in the morning and in the afternoon when the summer season arrives, but during the fall you’ll enjoy the warmth of the sun’s rays as the leaves drop off. Meanwhile, ones that are planted on northern part of your house protects you from the cold winds of the winter.
Food and Shelter for Birds – Your miniature garden will help provide birds roaming the city with shelter during winter and since some are also fruit-bearing, they would be convenient in sustaining birds when food is not abundant. Some bear colorful flowers that attract hummingbirds and sometimes butterflies as well.
Seasonal Beauty – If you pick the right kind, then your tiny garden could sport multicolored bushes dotting all over the landscape. This may range from blooming pretty flowers that you’ll see in the spring and summer, or multicolored berries in autumn. Alternatively, deciduous ones also beautify your garden during the fall and winter seasons when the leaves turn yellow to orange to brown, or their textural bark.
Environmental Benefits – Like most vegetation, they improve the air quality by absorbing the carbon dioxide in the air. They also help in keeping the soil fertile and intact, which results in reducing the chances of soil erosion and minimizing storm water runoff as well as hazardous chemicals running in the waterways.
Reliability – They are probably among the most reliable plants in the world, because they will thrive under the right soil and climate conditions. In fact, a lot of them will live for many years and beautify your garden.
There are almost a hundred types as far as botanical science is concerned, but for this article we will only feature 18 to get you acquainted with them. They are as follows:
- Winter Creeper
- Japanese Laurel
- European Box Plant
- Daphne Odora
- Fatsia Japonica
- Rose of Sharon
- Persian Shield
- Purple Ninebark
- Siberian Carpet Cypress
- Juniper “Blue Star”
- Yew “Densiformis”
- Dwarf Norway Spruce
- Juniper “Sea Green” and Juniper “Mathot”
How to Grow Them
The same way we’re trying to protect the ozone layer with the Montreal protocol, you will also want to ensure all your garden flowers, such as your Hibiscus or your shrubs are grown in a protected way.
Select the Location
Take note on which soil is the plant most suited to grow before selecting a planting site. Determine its soil and light requirements. If they will attain maximum growth in full display of the sun and well-drained soil, then avoid planting it in a location that’s different from its needs. It’s common knowledge that they don’t grow tall or big, but consider its growth nonetheless and avoid planting it near potential obstacles exist. Otherwise it may create unnecessary problems in the future that will add to your already busy schedule pruning it.
Dig the Planting Hole
When you dig the planting hole, make sure that it’s 2 – 3 feet wider than the entirety of the root system, so the roots can spread unhindered to get water and nutrients for the plant. The dig depth should the full length of the root ball. Puncture the soil around the plant with a gardening shovel lightly after planting it to ensure nitrogen absorption of the soil and give proper nutrients to the plant.
Remove it from the pot and inspect the root ball. You may notice that the root growth is compact as it grew in the tight space of the pot. In order to loosen the roots use a sharp tool like the trowel, knife or pruners. Once the roots have been loosened, put it in the hole you dug earlier. When you cover the hole with dirt, make sure that the tip of the trunk connecting to the root ball is at ground level. Firmly but gently press the soil in place while being careful not to pack the soil too tightly.
Water the shrub immediately so that the roots will take hold, as it signals the plant that it is in a healthy environment allowing it to grow. Moreover, it helps reduces the shock of the roots while being transplanted from one location to another. Keep under a watchful eye the watering of the newly planted garden addition for about 6 months and make sure it’s moisted, especially during summer or droughts.
Pour 2 – 3 inches of mulch creating a layer surrounding the base. The mulch will be beneficial to the plant as it helps keep moisture in the ground and ward off weeds. Just don’t pour them directly at the base of the trunk because they might do more harm than good condensing water where it should not be.
Small, Evergreen Ones
If you want a small, evergreen option, here’s the list you’ve been looking for.
Winter Heath (Erica carnea)
It’s been reported by many first time gardening enthusiasts that they are very impressed with its unusual blooming period. The reason why it is called winter heath is (you guessed it) because it blooms in the winter, which is completely opposite to typical shrubs. It may even bloom for about 6 months or more under the right climate conditions. Typically, they grows to a height of roughly 1 feet and spreads symmetrically with its height, or sometimes twice it, and it thrives in slopes and rock gardens.
Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia ‘Minuet’)
If you’ve ever walked through the New England woods in summer, then you must’ve have already seen this type. It’s actually Connecticut’s state flower. The wild laurel bushes found in the forest normally grow large with thick foliage, but the minuet version will grow to no more than 3 feet in height. Also this variety has one more advantage compared to its forest cousins – it boasts more colorful flowers. Prune the bush periodically after each blooming season to keep it looking full and bushy.
Blue Star Juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’)
This plant gets so big because it grows thick foliage. If you want to have blue spruce trees in your garden but you need to adjust to the small places, choose the blue star juniper. This type has a mean growth of 1 – 3 feet tall with equally dimension spread. You should plant it next to bushes with golden foliage as its short blue-green needles create a perfect color contrast. You can also create a ground cover if you plant them enmasse.
‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’)
The euonymus is a genus of the evergreen family that has unique leaf variegation. For this reason it is called ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’ as it possesses the bicolored feature in its leaves. Two-thirds of its leaves sport the emerald color on them, while their edges are gold colored. This bush is also a dwarf and its maximum height is 2 feet high with a 2 – 4-foot spread. This plant is actually very resilient and can grow on almost any environment, which also makes it a potentially invasive bush type. But as long as you keep pruning it, you can hold it at bay.
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Small, Flowering Bushes
This compact flowering perennial option is excellent for small places or gardens as their maximum growth height is just 2 or 3 feet with an equally wide spread. Also the chances of any bud freeze are low because panicle hydrangeas flower on new wood. The flare hydrangea has a unique cone-shaped flower that initially blooms white, but turns bright red-pink when they age. Preferably you plant them in an area where they can get 4 – 6 hours of sunlight daily, so they’ll grow thick foliage and bloom beautiful flowers every season.
This tiny compact cultivar belongs in the honeysuckle is very useful in your garden. The leaves of the nightglow diervilla is deep burgundy in color and will grow to no more than 3 feet tall and wide, which will save you time to do any pruning. You may notice that the flowers are in the shape of a trumpet with a canary-yellow shade, and they mostly bloom throughout the spring and summer as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds come to suck the nectar from these clusters. The nightglow bush requires at least 6 hours of sunlight and it’s quite resilient during winter – it can survive at temperatures of up to – 30 °F.
Bella Bellissima Potentilla
Its bright pinkish-red colored flowers are one the most attractive features of the bella bellissima potentilla. The potentilla option helps espouse all kinds of beneficial insects and gardeners can also help attract good bugs through it without additional paraphernalia. This will grow at a maximum height of 2 – 3 feet tall with similar dimensions to its width and will regularly blossom in both spring and summer seasons. Shearing and deadheading are optional as it can hamper continuous blooming of the plant. Amazingly, this variety can withstand up to – 50 °F temperatures during winter, so there’s no need to worry about it dying throughout the 4 seasons each year.
Rainbow Fizz Spirea
The botanist that gave this guy its name, rainbow fizz, is spot on when describing the mixture of copper, yellow, and red foliage of this plant. Although it is a bit taller than the others in this article, it’s still the smallest in the spirea family. You’ll see clusters of pinkish-red colored flower buds bloom to a fuzzy pink hue during summer.
Peach Lemonade Rose
The light multi-colored range of the flowers of the peach lemonade rose will captivate anyone who loves gardening in an instant! The flowers bear a sunny yellow color at the beginning of the blooming season, then they turn light pink once they age. If you’ve planted these across your garden, then you should get a breathtaking view, and it will accentuate the entire landscaping of the area as well. This variety will grow shy short of 3 feet tall which is perfect for your miniature garden.
Low-Growing Bushes that Stays Small
Franklin’s Gem Boxwood
Boxwood ones are known as the most favored evergreen due to the following reasons – they’re low-maintenance, deer-resistant, insect resistant, accentuates your garden with colors all year round and they can be trimmed to form different shapes and sizes. One of the best examples of boxwood bush is Franklin’s Gem. It’s essentially a dwarf shrub that grows to a maximum height of 2 feet and is typically rounded. If you occasionally prune it, it elevates any landscape to a fresh and sophisticated look.
Magic Carpet Spirea
As the name suggests, it enhances your garden with pink flowers and lime green leaves. Freshly grown foliage also has a red hue but then turns into vibrant gold at maturity. If you plant them in soil with black mulch their growth is unhampered. You’ll have two perfectly good reasons why you need to include this on your list – its vibrant gold leaves and pretty pink flowers. t’s max growth height reaches about 1.5 – 2 feet and if planted in rows, then you’ll have your own personal enchanted garden.
Dwarf Norway Spruce
Tony Gullo, the famous professional landscaping 3D designer is said to be fond of using the dwarf Norway spruce in his designs. He stated that the reason why he likes them is because they’re limited to growing up to 3 feet in height, they have a nice rounded shape and they’re resilient. This should be on your list of garden itineraries as it adds superb beauty to the surrounding all year round.
Pink Elf French Hydrangea
Planting this elf French hydrangea in shady places in your garden would be a sensible choice. At only 1 and 1/2 feet max height and compact size, this will make the landscape appear very neat. The pink elf French hydrangea’s flowers are shaped like a mophead and have a rich vibrant rose-pink color that lasts a long time after it blooms. Gardeners love this option because it’s low maintenance and is excellent when used as cut flowers.
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Four out of five photographers choose to do photo shoots with their models with a field full of English lavender in the background, or sometimes they just take photos of the field itself. This Mediterranean herb has one of the most beautiful blooming purple flowers and a sweet scent that’s used to make perfumes. Not only will you add beauty, but you can also make them as a fragrant hedge and perhaps impress people who walk past it.
If you prune the butterfly bush by late August, then it should have enough time to grow new branches and bloom by fall, as well as not die off in winter. Once their roots will take hold in your garden, they basically maintain themselves freeing up your schedule for gardening. You’ll absolutely love this choice in your garden because when they bloom they attract all types of butterflies adding beautiful colors to your already impressive collection of other plants.
You’ll appreciate the beauty of this bush during late spring to early summer, as it blooms with white, fringe-like flowers – then it bears bluish-black fruits that birds love. They’re even lovelier during fall with their leaves shift from bright shades of green to golden yellow. This tree is able to withstand air pollution, has no pests and requires no pruning. The only downside to this tree is that it grows from 12 – 20 feet, so you may need to choose a specific location in your garden to plant it, especially if you only have a small one at home.
When they grow to maturity they look strikingly similar to coral reefs in the sea, thus the name. These plants are amenable whether in full sunlight or shady parts of your garden, and they bring a multitude of colors to beautify the landscape. You can get creative with your photographs and use them as a background to your photos, or invite guests over and impress them with your plant collection. They’re frequently deer resistant and always carefree/ Coral bells are deer-resistant and requires low to zero maintenance.
Low Growing Bushes for the Front of the House
This plant variety of the yew family is an ideal option for your garden with thick foliage that looks like green glossy needles. This bush has a maximum growth height of 3 – 4 feet tall. The densiformis genus of the yew is great for the shady areas in your garden. The Anglo-Japanese yew is perfect for enhancing your house foundations, because it’s low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and evergreen leaves. The best place to put it is in front of your house and it can thrive in full sunlight, partial shade or fully shaded areas.
Also great for foundations, it has a wide spreading growth, which is great for your tiny garden. The dwarf version of the English yew grows from 2 – 4 feet tall.
Rhododendron ‘April Rose’
The April rose is one of the most cold-resistant semi-dwarf types known to botany. Its broad green leaves and beautiful purple flowers will be a great addition. Growing from 3 – 4 feet tall it makes this bush an excellent perimeter foliage.
Thuja occidentalis ‘Fire Chief’
This option looks like a tiny Christmas tree under the snow as it has a dense feathery foliage. Its leaves turn from dark green to bright yellow to red during the fall season. If you’re looking to fill your garden with foundation plantings, low hedges, or borders, then you should opt for this dwarf arborvitae shrub. The fire chief has a max growth height at about 3 – 4 feet high.
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Small Options for Full Sun
Sonic Bloom Pink Weigela
This has some impressive tricks up its sleeves – it keeps blooming for almost 2/3 of the year! Its pink flowers attract hummingbirds across vast distances, so expect to see them a lot as your weigela puts up a stunning flower show. The sonic boom pink weigela grows from 4 – 5 feet tall at maturity and it also spreads at the same width.
Wine and Roses Weigela
Perhaps nothing else will excite garden enthusiasts than watching a floral fireworks in their garden with the wine and roses weigela. Its rosy tube-like flowers highlights the bush during late spring, attracting hummingbirds and other insects that want to suck the nectars in them. The contrast between the dark green leaves and bright pink flowers is very pleasing to the eyes and you’ll be happy to know that it blooms irregularly throughout the summer season. Prune the bush after each bloom to keep it blossoming.
To give your garden a different appeal, why not go for the orange blossoms scent? That’s exactly what the mock orange variety does when it blooms in late spring to early summer – it releases a fragrance that smells a lot like oranges. Choose mock orange varieties that have single or double flowers and plant them along the walkway or patio, so you could appreciate the fragrance each time you visit your garden.
Midnight Wine Weigela
A very tiny weigela shrub but is excellent for your garden nevertheless. It grows to about 10 – 12 inches tall at maturity with a foliage spread at 18 – 24 inches wide, it is the smallest of the weigela varieties. It’s also the best choice for bedding plants, edging paths, or containers. Its pink flower buds will bloom starting early to late spring.
While technically not a low-maintenance option, dwarf shrub, if you want another option that has some beautiful yellow flowers, we recommend the Forsythia, which will also provide slightly more privacy. The dappled willow is another fast-growing addition that does well in full sun!
Ones with Small White Fragrant Flowers
The star jasmine belongs to the evergreen family that blooms fragrant white flowers in summer and climbs wood trees, walls and fences.
Anne Russell Viburnum
The viburnum’s clusters of pink flowers will remind you of a wedding day bouquet of the bride. This compact deciduous plant not only has beautiful flowers to display but they also have a sweet scent.
Another great optionwith strong fragrant white flowers that blooms during winter is the Christmas box. You can opt to plant it in a small container and place it by your window to catch that fresh scent every morning.
Also goes by the name Mexican Orange Blossom, the Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’ boast exuberant white flowers that bloom in late spring.
This one is perfect for the walkways and entrances to your garden. The Burkwood Osmanthus provides an amazing view with its high contrast of colors between its deep green leaves and tiny white fragrant flowers.
The Daphne is a typical deciduous (leaf-shedding) shrub that blooms in early spring with purple-pink flowers that is also fragrant. However, you may want to be cautious when getting in close to smell the flowers because they’re toxic, as well as for dogs and cats.
If you want an extravagant floral display and if you have enough space in your landscape, then you definitely should plant this one! The white-edged, single bloom cluster purple flower array opens in mid-spring is mesmerizing. This shrub is not a dwarf but grows from 8 – 10 feet tall and spreads to about 8 – 12 feet wide as well.
Small Options for Part Shade
The mountain laurel’s flowers resemble elegant China wares which are clustered together contrasting its evergreen leaves. Its beautiful flowers blooms during late spring and if you want this to bloom regularly in its season, then prune it after each bloom and use acid-enhanced fertilizer in order for it to thrive.
An array of colorful flowers adorn this tiny bush ranging from yellow, purple, pink and orange – it will drive you bonkers when you see them bloom. The Japanese rose is one of the most shade-tolerant shrubs you can find and it may also open its flowers several times a year, which means you’ll be seeing a lot of those colorful and lovely flowers.
Climbing hydrangeas are actually vines and not shrubs; however, you can control their spread and make them look like ones. When they get enough sunlight they yield great floral displays, but they’re also tolerant to shaded areas.
Carol Mackie Daphne
Giving the carol Mackie daphne enough sunlight will enhance their growth and allow for consistent floral blooms each season. The daphne’s flowers have sweet aromatic smell that makes it very pleasing to stand next to it when they’re at full bloom. Keep in mind not to plant this guy in acidic soil as it will choke them.
In case you’re looking for one that has a high tolerance to deep shaded areas, then you ought to plant the leatherleaf arrowwood in your garden. Their attractive, evergreen foliage and clustered white flowers makes them attractive on cloudy days.
While this produces flowers in small amounts and rarely blooms, its evergreen leaves are enough reason to grow them anywhere. The inkberry also goes by other names such as dye-leaves, gallberry and evergreen winterberry and is a native species of holly of the Eastern and Southern United States.
As far as having attractive flowers is concerned the Japanese Andromeda has got it in spades. They’re very easy to maintain as they thrive in fully shaded areas plus they can survive in droughts too!
This variety is usually grown for ornamental purposes due to its dense, attractive, evergreen foliage. You may think that this plant is unattractive because it’s not producing any flowers, but it’s one of those plants that make great landscaping. The Japanese holly is native to eastern China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan.
Euonymus, Low-Growing Options
The eastern wahoo resembles the fire tree with its beautiful scarlet-red fruits that overshadows its leaves. Native to North America, this will grow up to 20 feet tall and spread its foliage 25 feet wide.
A perfect groundcover option that features deep green leaves during spring and summer, but changes to pink/rose color in fall. The Euonymus fortunei ‘Coloratus’ is a must in the list for your garden.
It’s safe to say that the person who named this may have thought about the story of Moses in the Bible, because during the fall season this looks like a “burning bush” from some distance away. The reason for this is due to its leaves turning bold flame red and it also produces reddish-purple berries that birds love. It’s not a dwarf shrub as it can grow up to 20 feet tall and spread up to 10 feet wide.
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