Great Shrub Alternatives for High-Maintenance Favorites!

Great Shrub Alternatives for High-Maintenance Favorites!


We love it when things are easy to care for! That goes for our landscaping as well!

Ditch the fussy, high-maintenance shrubs that need constant shearing, pruning, fertilizing, spraying … and worrying! There’s so much more out there that’s available!

Check out these shrub alternatives to plant instead!

Whether it's pests, diseases, the weather, maintenance and upkeep, or deer that keep you busy (or holding you back from buying that hottest new variety hitting the market), there's an easy-going alternative available in every instance!

Some shrubs are gorgeous, but they are just too much work!

1. Over-Sized Panicle Hydrangeas

Instead of planting those incredible Paniculata-type Hydrangeas like Limelight® that get too large for the foundation planting, let us help you with a selection of some of those very same plants that only get half of the size.

Instead try one of these smaller, more low-maintenance shrubs for those applications:

  • Bobo® Hydrangea
  • French Manicure® Hydrangea
  • Little Lime® Hydrangea
  • Invincibelle Wee White®
  • Little Quick Fire® Panicle Hydrangea

All these selections only get in the 3-4 foot range instead of the 6-10 foot range.

2. Rose Bushes

japanese beetle on rose

Roses were made to be thought of as difficult when they first became popular. After all, the aristocracy didn't want anyone else growing them! Grandma's Roses did have some issues with disease and pests, which are still present to this day. But now there are so many easy-to-grow and disease-resistant Roses on the market that your head will spin!

Check with your local County Extension Office to see what challenges that Roses may face in your area to be sure and buy Roses that will perform best where you live. Whether it's Black Spot or Japanese Beetles, or some other disease … There's a Rose out there resistant to it!

Everyone still loves Roses, but not everyone has the patience to care for some of the Hybrid Teas and Grandifloras. For those of you who would love the Roses without all of the fuss, you should consider one of the great newer Shrub Rose selections that offer more disease resistance and continued bloom for your landscape and then list some good options here.

Problem - High Maintenance

  • Oso Easy® Roses need no spraying or deadheading, plus they stay compact and full of flowers!
  • Knock Out® Roses - bloom from spring until frost and do not need deadheading. Disease-resistant, drought-tolerant, and only need pruning once a year.
  • Easy Elegance® Roses are perfect for beginners! Hardy and disease-resistant type of Shrub Rose that resists everything!

Oso Easy® Knock Out® Easy Elegance® roses

Problem - Constant Spraying, Chemicals & Insect Damage

  • Rugosa Roses - salt-tolerant wild and hybrid Roses that grow and bloom like crazy. Very hardy to cold and won’t be bothered by many pests or common Rose issues
  • Wild Roses - If they can grow in ditches, think of what they can do in your backyard!

Problem - Climate too Cold or too Hot?

  • Choose Roses rated for USDA growing zones 9, 10 and 11 for hot climates
  • Choose Roses rated for USDA growing zones 3 to 4 that have extreme cold in the winter
  • For Arctic zone 2 winters - Choose Redleaf Rose, Rugosa Roses, or Purple Pavement Rose

Problem - High Humidity and Powdery Mildew

  • Sunbelt® Roses - highly heat and humidity resistant
  • Try Rose alternatives like Rhododendrons, Gardenias, or Camellias

3. Formally Sheared Evergreens & Hedges

evergreen hedges infographic

Problem - Sheared formal hedges look fantastic, but they need shearing at least a couple of times of the year plus the usual maintenance and issues that may arise. Even shearing once a year is a significant chore when you have a lot of hedges!

Instead, try one of these naturally neat and tidy shrubs that may only need a single trim to keep them looking just as formal and tidy.

  • False Holly (Osmanthus)
  • Deutzia
  • New varieties of Spirea
  • American Arborvitae
  • Native Inkberry Holly
  • Dwarf Conifers - False Cypress, Junipers, Bird’s Nest Spruce and Dwarf Alberta Spruce
  • Boxwood
  • Indian Hawthorn
  • Chinese Fringe Flower (Loropetalum)

Instead of planting a hedge that only offers green leaves, how about planting a hedge that wildly blooms?

Or instead of planting a hedge that will need constant pruning to keep nice and the size you want, let us help you with a selection of shrubs that mature at 2-6 feet in height … without pruning!

4. Shrubs That Are Deer Buffets = Spray Spray Spray!

Wintercreeper Euonymus, Rhododendrons and Azaleas, Yew (Taxus), Hydrangea (Bigleaf/Panicle/Oakleaf), Blue Holly, Staghorn Sumac, Roses, and American Arborvitae (Thuja) are often favorites of hungry deer in some parts of the country. Even when they have plenty to eat outside of your yard. But when food is scarce, these and many other shrubs take a hit each winter.

You can spray every three months from the date of installation to train deer to not like your shrubs and go for the neighbors instead, put up expensive fencing and barriers … or you can simply plant shrubs that deer despise!

  • Plant Boxwood instead of Yews in areas it does well
  • Plant Daphne instead of Rhododendrons in hot growing zones
  • Plant Oregon Grape Holly in place of Azalea in cold growing zones
  • Try Fragrant Sumac instead of Staghorn Sumac
  • Pieris are evergreen and fragrant alternatives to Azaleas
  • Use Snowball or Arrowwood Viburnum instead of Hydrangea
  • A Dwarf Alberta Spruce or False Cypress as great alternatives to Arborvitae
  • Weigela bushes are great alternatives flowering shrubs
  • Try Deutzia or Rose of Sharon instead of Roses
  • Crape Myrtle shrubs are great deer-resistant shrubs too!
  • Wintercreeper alternatives include Fothergilla
  • Scarlet Firethorn is a thorny barrier plant with colorful berries and evergreen foliage

5. Foolproof and Fuss-Free Shrubs

Quite a few shrubs need to be babied along and fussed over while they get established. Watered, papered, and worried over. In this hectic day and age, we need a plant-it-and-forget-it shrub! While all new shrubs need your attention their first year, these are the best for being the most resilient, easiest to get established, and foolproof shrubs for even the most black thumb out there!


In addition to the easy-care Landscape Roses above, try these shrubs for the forgetful or lazy gardener!

  • Forsythia
  • Yew (Taxus)
  • Viburnum
  • Native Buckeye Bushes
  • Flowering Quince
  • Abelia
  • Privet
  • Scarlet Firethorn
  • Bush Honeysuckle
  • Sweet Box
  • American Beautyberry
  • Possumhaw
  • Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo)
  • Sweetspire
  • Camelia

6. Water Hungry Shrubs


Rising costs and increased strain on the water supply mean that thirsty shrubs need to be replaced for more Xeric, water-wise options! Climate change too is increasing drought in some areas, so you need shrubs able to look good on less!

  • Wax Myrtle
  • Manzanita
  • Abelia
  • California Lilac
  • Rockrose
  • Daphne
  • Hebe
  • Pittosporum
  • Pieris
  • Potentilla (Bush Cinquefoil)
  • Go Native - If they grow in your area anyway and already thrive without your involvement

Get a Fuss Free Landscape With Shrub Alternatives

Save time, money, keep chemicals out of the environment, reduce water dependency, and focus on more enjoyable aspects of your landscape by planting Shrubs that practically take care of themselves!

See our #ProPlantTips for Care for additional tips and tricks to make your existing landscape easier to care for, while you are including these lower-maintenance options! Nature Hills is here to help you squeeze every drop of enjoyment from your garden - without the work!

Happy Planting!

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