New to growing shrubs? For a new gardener, growing anything than a potted plant or a flower can be daunting. Large plants like shrubs seem complicated and difficult. Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from using these foundational plants. Shrubs provide focal points, a backdrop for smaller plants, borders, privacy, and so much more. I, too, was intimidated at first. But here’s what I’ve learned along the way caring for shrubs in my own landscape.
Using Shrubs in the Garden, How and Why
Shrubs play many roles in a garden setting. Here are some reasons why planting shrubs is a must for anyone wanting to expand their gardening horizons:
- As larger plants, they provide a focal point around which you can place other plants.
- Shrubs make great hedges for borders but also for privacy and blocking sound from roads.
- Wildlife need shrubs for cover and, depending on the species, for food.
- Hide an air conditioner or utility box with a pretty shrub.
- Evergreen shrubs provide year-round color.
- Many shrubs add color, from spring flowers and fall foliage.
If you are planning a garden or just a bed from scratch, start with one or two shrubs. Use them in the center as a focal point, around the back edge as a backdrop, or in several clumps. Create a border with low shrubs or a privacy screen to ground a larger bed of perennials and other plants.
Growing and Caring for Shrubs
Design is one thing, putting shrubs in and keeping them alive is another. Once you have a garden design in mind, it’s time to put shrubs in the ground. Here are some tips that have worked for me:
- Choose shrubs that are suited to your climate. Natives are best, as they support wildlife and adapt well to changing weather.
- Plant shrubs with plenty of space for root and branch growth, not too close to the house or a tree.
- Dig a hole for your shrub that is as deep as the pot it comes in and twice as wide. Place the roots in the hole and pack in soil to fill in the space.
- Water your new shrub regularly as it develops strong roots, generally for the first growing season.
- Fall is a good time to plant a new shrub. It will not get stressed by the summer heat and still has time to grow roots before winter sets in.
Great Shrubs for Beginners
Some types are easier to grow than others. If you are new to growing shrubs, choose these low maintenance, forgiving varieties:
- Spirea. This shrub includes many cultivars and are easy to grow. Choose from among several flower and leaf colors.
- Arborvitae. These evergreen shrubs grow tall and narrow, perfect for privacy screening. Try the North Pole cultivar for fast growth and drought tolerance.
- Rose of Sharon. Related to hibiscus, this tall-growing shrub will give you spectacular summer blooms with little maintenance.
- Oakleaf hydrangea. This shrub has summer flowers and stunning fall color.
- Blue Star Juniper. For a small evergreen, choose this juniper. Create low borders with it and only prune if you need to keep it more compact.
- Black chokecherry. Native to the eastern U.S., this shrub grows easily in this region. It produces bright fall color and dark berries.