How Do I Choose Shrubs for the Landscape?

How Do I Choose Shrubs for the Landscape?

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"How do I choose shrubs for my landscape?" 

This is a great question that we get asked all the time here at Nature Hills. People want to have a beautiful yard and want to make sure that they're spending their money on the right thing.

The Right Shrub For You

Do you want year-round interest or an ornamental and creative attraction? Or lots of color and texture by combining deciduous and evergreen species. Maybe you need shrubs that bloom at

How do I choose shrubs for the landscape?

 different seasons or bloom throughout all growing seasons! Everyone loves to add flowering shrubs to a typically green border!

Shrubs can be pretty divas or landscape workhorses. Think about what you want the shrub to do. They can define the border of your property, hide an exposed foundation on your house, or block an unwanted view! Look for shrubs with multi-seasonal interest, especially for use as accents or specimens.

Some people love Roses and their yards wouldn't be complete without them. Other people hate the upkeep and scent. Some people want one of everything they see in the garden center! Others only want a few repeating types of plants in their whole landscape for a clean, polished look.

You should start your search for the perfect shrub by finding out the details about where you are placing it. Once you find those key factors, you can now begin finding the perfect shrub for your landscape!

1. Find Your Growing Zone

Knowing your growing zone (USDA hardiness zone) is the most critical first step on your journey to finding the perfect shrub for your needs! Those high and low average temperatures your area endures year to year will determine the survivability of what you plant.

Microclimates within your landscape can determine its success. Low spots where cold settles, reflected heat and light from the street, or a light-colored fence or siding, black asphalt or dark siding that holds heat longer… all come into play.

Learn your growing zone by typing your zip code into our Growing Zone locator, or clicking the link located just above the Plant Facts on each Product Page.

USDA growing zone map

2. Mind the Sun

Next, spend a lazy Sunday watching the sun in your yard, focusing on where you want to plant your shrubs. Does it get sun the entire day? Half the day? Sun in the morning and shade the rest? Or is it just dappled shade most of the day? Perhaps it’s a full dark shade all day!

If your shrubs' new home gets 6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day, then you have a full sun location! If it’s 4-6 hours or broken up during the day (shaded by a house or large tree mid-day) then you have part sun or part shade. Less than 4 hours of sunlight a day, or all-day shade, means you have full shade. 

poprocks spirea bush

Shrubs for Full Sun

  • Lilac Bushes
  • Spirea Bushes
  • Sumac Shrubs
  • Ninebark Bushes
  • California Lilac Bushes

Shade-Loving Shrubs lemon lights azalea

  • Sweetspire Bushes
  • Nandina Bushes
  • Rhododendron
  • Buttonbushes
  • Sweet Box Shrubs

3. How Much Room Do You Have?

Measure the area and then look to see if there is anything above the planting site. Any power lines? A house overhang or a large tree? Then contact your local Diggers Hotline to ensure there’s nothing below ground either. Keep all these measurements in mind when choosing your shrub.

Using the toggles on our Category Pages, find a shrub that will work for your area, keeping in mind that shrub’s mature height and width. Overcrowding and choosing a shrub that quickly outgrows its boundaries means you will have to deal with loads of pruning to keep it in check. This is a common mistake new gardeners make in their landscapes.

Keep in mind a shrub's growth rate too, which will tell you how quickly it will take to fill in. If a slower-growing shrub needs to fill a larger area quicker - opt for a larger container size from the start and get results faster!

4. How’s That Drainage?

Now, it's time to find out about drainage! Dig a test hole in your location, going about a foot deep and a foot wide, and see if it is very dry, if it is moderately moist, or if water begins to pool. Most plants will prefer a well-drained location so this is important.

If you are not able to change your soil or its drainage, you can always berm the area! Adding 18-24 inches of topsoil to the site in a large mound, and planting in that mound, will allow you to create a raised bed. This brings your shrub's roots above the soggy water table or helps eventually soften a hard-pan site. 

Some plants love those boggy Rain Garden locations and others require those fast-draining xeric sites and Rock Gardens. So if you cannot change your soil, or workaround it without great expense and time, then choose plants that are better able to thrive in those situations. 

Shrubs For Rain Gardens/Wet Soil

How do I choose shrubs for the landscape?

  • Brandywine Viburnum
  • Winterberry Holly & Inkberry Holly
  • Buttonbushes
  • Dwarf Blue Leaf Arctic Willow
  • Nandina Bushes

Drought-Tolerant & Xeric Shrubs 

  • Crape Myrtle & Black Diamond® Crape Myrtle
  • Barberry
  • Potentilla
  • Bluebeard
  • Juniper Bushes

Types of Shrubs For Your Needs

Specimen Shrubs

arctic blue rose

Many shrubs are the highlight of the entire landscape! Big blooms, gorgeous berries, or some incredible fall color! Some have all of the above! Add gorgeous form and unique shape, and curious features to enhance your garden and add curb appeal! Get ready to plant a diva without all the extra fuss with these shrubs.

Beautiful Flowering Shrubs

  • Rose Bushes do great in full sun all day!
  • Hydrangea Bushes
  • Butterfly Bushes
  • Early Blooming Forsythia
  • Hardy/Perennial Hibiscus

Need an Eye-Catching Specimen?

walking stick

  • First Editions® Vanilla Strawberry™ Hydrangea
  • Harry Lauder's Walking Stick
  • Ruby Slippers Hydrangea
  • Grafted Dwarf Evergreens
  • Snow Day® Surprise Pearlbush
  • Trained & Pruned Topiary Shrubs

Double Duty Shrubs

Many shrubs aren’t just a pretty face! Lots of plants look great year-round with something new to see each season. Some have berries after the flowers. There is a world of choices that help you shelter and feed wildlife, attract and support pollinators, and many that even put food on your table - all while looking great as functional landscape shrubbery!

Feed the Birds

hummingbird summersweet

  • American Cranberrybush Viburnum
  • Chokeberry Bushes
  • Beautyberry Bushes
  • Saskatoon (Juneberry)
  • Toyon Bushes

Feed the Pollinators

  • Bush Honeysuckle
  • Summersweet
  • Butterfly Bushes
  • Viburnum Bushes
  • Weigela

Edible Landscaping

  • Blueberry Bushes - Flowers, fruit & fall color!
  • Chokeberry (Aronia) - Flowers, fruit & fall color!
  • Gold Raspberry Bushes
  • Guava Trees in Shrub form
  • Serviceberry Bushes

Hedge It In!

Foundation, property division, backdrops, and outdoor rooms - oh my! There’s a shrub for all your needs when you need some green borders and garden definition! These are also fantastic screening and privacy shrubs, simply plant in a row evenly spaced or in a zig-zag pattern for coverage and fast fill-in!

Year-Round Evergreen little giant arborvitae

  • Frost Proof Gardenia
  • Gold Lace Juniper
  • Euonymus
  • Gardenia Bushes
  • Sky Pencil Holly

For the Want of Privacy

  • Privet
  • Oakleaf Hollies
  • Red Tip Photinia Shrubs
  • Boxwood
  • Arborvitae Shrubs

The Right Shrub For You!

The next part is easy! Call our knowledgeable customer service representatives or head over to the Nature Hills Nursery website to place your order! Then, our expert growers will ship out your quality plants to you safely and mindful of temperatures and growing zone requirements to ensure they arrive at the proper planting time for your area!

Then simply track your package right to your doorstep!

How to Install Your Shrub planting shrubs

Plant in fall and or early spring (even winter in the warmer zones) to allow your plant the chance to develop a well-established root system that it will need before the stresses of the summer come around. Take advantage of Mother Nature’s generosity by planting in the fall or spring, when there is plenty of free rain and snow in fall and winter. But ideally, you can plant any time! Plant in the fall and winter to enjoy a healthy, vigorous plant going into the spring and summer months. 

  1. Give your new plant a nice, long drink before planting. Soak bareroot plants for a few hours or overnight; dunk potted plants in a bucket of water until the bubbles stop.
  2. Dig a planting hole at least twice as wide as the root ball or container size. 
  3. Add symbiotic Nature Hills Root Booster during planting for support that grows with your plant and doesn't wear out.
  4. Place your shrub in the soil and press the backfill soil around it to eliminate air pockets and ensure good soil contact with the roots.. 
  5. Soak your new planting well after planting
  6. Add a three-inch layer of mulch over the root zone to protect your new landscape asset. Please pull the mulch back away from directly touching the stems.

Your Landscapes Finishing Touch!

Look to place your order as soon as possible to ensure availability. Many new fresh bare root plants are available in the first part of the winter often ready for order as early as October with delivery beginning in spring for most areas. Often fruit and shade trees are overwintered in containers for fall and winter planting. Check to see if your favorite variety is currently available for planting. 

Once you have these few ideas thought through, then spend some time researching plants that fit the bill. You'll have an outstanding yard in no time with the help of!

Happy Planting!

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