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How To Choose Shrubs For Your Garden

shrubs used in landscaping

Woody plants with a mature height of less than 20 feet are usually classified as shrubs. Shrubs have branches coming from the base and their special merit is demonstrated in the nature and colour of foliage, flower, their shape and display of colorful fruit.

Plants are used to:

  • Provide major landscape features
  • Provide a space or screen a view
  • Accentuate or soften the shape of a building
  • Create a contrast or establish unity; with color, shape or texture
  • Create interest by using exotic materials

types of shrubs

Consider the following characteristics when selecting plants:
  • Suitability (hardiness)
  • Mature size
  • Flowering habits
  • Seasonal change
  • Susceptibility to insect and disease damage
  • Environmental requirements of the plants
  • Maintenance requirements such as pruning

Shrubs with Attractive Fruits:

In most cases shrubs are grown for the beauty of their flowers, but many have fruits that are ornamental. Fruits also provide food for birds. It should be noted that some shrubs have sexes on separate plants so both male and female are required for fruiting to occur.

Choosing the right shrub for your landscape:

There are hundreds if not thousands of species and variations of species of shrubs and it would be impossible to list everyone. Table 1 represents the most common shrubs, there attributes, colors, advantages and disadvantages.


Table 1 - The Most Common Shrubs With Their Attributes

Siberian Crabapple:

  • small tree or tall shrub to 20 ft.
  • susceptible to fire-blight
  • fruit remains on tree throughout the winter

Highbush Cranberry:

  • deep red edible berries
  • shade tolerant shrub growing to 6 ft.

Red-osier Dogwood:

  • medium sized shrub to 6 ft.
  • white inedible berries
  • dogwood is shade tolerant and grows on a wide range of soils.


  • bright yellow edible berries
  • fruit remains on shrub throughout winter
  • silvery foliage is desirable
  • suckers profusely
  • very drought resistant and recommended for use on alkaline soils
Other shrubs with colorful fruit:


  • Ginnala Maple
  • Cotoneaster
  • Nanking Cherry
  • Rose


  • Juniper


  • Nannyberry


  • Cistena Cherry

Shrubs with colorful foliage:

Colorful foliage provides a main or added attraction in shrubs and usually lasts longer than flowers.

  • Buffaloberry:

    • shrub growing to 15 ft.
    • inconspicuous flowers
    • main merit for landscaping is the silver white foliage and irregular erratic branching habit.
    • useful in creating a contrast with green foliage plants.
  • Coyote Willow:

    • shrub growing to 15 ft.
    • hairy silvery foliage contrasts beautifully with conifers and other green foliage
    • tendency to sucker.
  • Silver-Leaved Dogwood:

    • small shade tolerant shrub
    • creamy edges around leaves
    • may suffer some dieback.
  • Shubert Choke Cherry:

    • small tree or tall shrub to 15 ft.
    • new growth is green, but turns deep purple in June and remains until fall.
  • Red Leaf Rose:

    • upright shrub to 6 ft.
    • flowers are inconspicuous
    • best feature is red tinted bluish-green foliage
    • susceptible to crown gall.
  • Golden Elder:

    • produces golden yellow foliage
    • grows to 10 ft.
    • susceptible to winterkill, but re-growth is rapid.
  • Other shrubs with colorful foliage:

    Sea-Buckthorn - silver grey

    Russian Olive - silver grey

    Royalty Crabapple - purple

    Cistena Cherry - purple

    Golden Ninebark - yellow

    Golden Leaf Mock Orange - yellow

    Golden Leaf Dogwood - yellow/green