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 shrubs you can choose between, including many of the best low-maintenance dwarf shrubs, categorized by features and characteristics.
Benefits of Shrubs
Versatility would be the most obvious benefit of shrubs; however, they offer more benefits than what meets the eye.
Save Energy – For shade-loving folks, be sure to plant shrubs 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, shrubs 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 shrub are also fruit-bearing, they would be convenient in sustaining birds when food is not abundant. Some shrubs bear colorful flowers that attract hummingbirds and sometimes butterflies as well.
Seasonal Beauty – If you pick the right kinds of shrubs, 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 shrubs 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, shrubs improves 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 stormwater runoff as well as hazardous chemicals running in the waterways.
Reliability – Shrubs 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 of shrubs 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 Shrubs
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 the shrub 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 shrubs 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 of the shrub, 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.
Plant the Shrub
Remove the shrub 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
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 new shrubs 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 of the shrub. 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 Shrubs
Winter Heath (Erica carnea)
It’s been reported by many first time gardening enthusiasts that they are very impressed with this shrub’s unusual blooming period. The reason why this shrub 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, this shrub 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 shrub. 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 is a dwarf shrub that will grow to no more than 3 feet in height. Also this dwarf shrub 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 dwarf shrub 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 of shrubs 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.
Want to make a nice fence that surrounds those fast-growing, dappled willow shrubs you are planting? The right 3 point post hole digger can help you get the job done. A fence is also a great way to add some privacy around your property!
Small Flowering Bushes
This compact flowering perennial shrub 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 shrub 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 of this shrub is 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 shrub helps espouse all kinds of beneficial insects and gardeners can also help attract good bugs through it without additional paraphernalia. This shrub 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 shrub 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 shrub its name, rainbow fizz, is spot on when describing the mixture of copper, yellow, and red foliage of this plant. Although this shrub is a bit taller than the other shrubs in this article, it’s still the smallest in the spirea family of shrubs. 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 have a breathtaking view on your garden and it will accentuate the entire landscaping of the area as well. This shrub 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 shrubs are known as the most favored shrub in evergreens 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, the Franklin’s Gem Boxwood shrub elevates any landscape to a fresh and sophisticated look.
Magic Carpet Spirea
As the name suggests, this shrub 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 in your garden – 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 shrub should be in 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 shrub 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 shrub because it’s low maintenance and is excellent when used as cut flowers.
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 to your garden, 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 shrub in your garden because when they bloom they attract all types of butterflies adding beautiful colors to your already impressive collection of shrubs and 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 your garden. 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 dwarf shrub 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 plant this shrub is in front of your house and it can thrive in full sunlight, partial shade or fully shaded areas.
Also great for foundations this dwarf shrub 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 shrubs known to botany. Its broad green leaves and beautiful purple flowers will be a great addition to your shrub and plant collection in your small home garden. Growing from 3 – 4 feet tall it makes this bush an excellent perimeter foliage for your garden.
Thuja occidentalis ‘Fire Chief’
This dwarf shrub 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.
Small Shrubs for Full Sun
Sonic Bloom Pink Weigela
This shrub 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 this shrub 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 shrub 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, dwarf shrub, if you want another shrub that has some beautiful yellow flowers, we recommend the Forsythia, which will also provide slightly more privacy. The dappled willow is another fast-growing shrub that does well in full sun!
Shrubs with Small White Fragrant Flowers
The star jasmine belongs to the evergreen family of shrubs 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 shrub not only has beautiful flowers to display but they also have a sweet scent.
Another shrub with strong fragrant white flowers that blooms during winter is the Christmas box shrub. 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.
A dwarf shrub 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.
If you want an extravagant floral display and if you have enough space in your landscape, then you definitely should plant this shrub in your garden! 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 Shrubs 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 shrub 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 shrubs. 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 shrub in acidic soil as it will choke them.
In case you’re looking for a shrub 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 shrub produces flowers in small amounts and rarely blooms, its evergreen leaves are enough reason to grow them in your garden. 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 shrub 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 Shrubs
The eastern wahoo resembles the fire tree with its beautiful scarlet-red fruits that overshadows its leaves. Native to North America this shrub can grow up to 20 feet tall and spread its foliage 25 feet wide.
A perfect groundcover shrub 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 your list of shrubs for your garden.
It’s safe to say that the person who named this shrub may have thought about the story of Moses in the Bible, because during the fall season this shrub 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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