Top 5 Pollution Tolerant Shrubs!

Top 5 Pollution Tolerant Shrubs!


Inner city sites and urban areas have to deal with a lot of rough growing conditions. Poor acidic soil, tight spaces, depleted and compacted soil, and light all day and light pollution at night.

But these plants also have to deal with what you do every time you take a breath - Smog, fumes, industrial gasses, and other air pollution!

Since plants draw in air to filter out the CO2 they use for photosynthesis, and release oxygen, they absorb so much more when grown in the city.

So you need a bush that’s up to the challenge and will help clean the air, sequester excess carbon dioxide, and look good while they’re at it!

Top 5 Shrubs and Bushes That Stand Up To City Pollution

There are many reasons why plants are so important! But especially in the expanding urban jungle of hot pavement and concrete, never-ending traffic and smog, and large populations of people crowded together. 

Finding a bush that will handle these conditions can be tricky!

Check Out These Pollution-Tolerant City Shrubs!

Any fast-growing plant or bush, like Bamboo and Ornamental Grass, are great for capturing and sequestering CO2, but you are also dealing with smaller yard sizes or no yard at all in the city. Not to mention the many other issues that urban landscaping throws at your garden!

1. Camellias

camiella bush

Featuring gorgeous Rose-like blooms and broadleaf evergreen leaves that remain glossy all year long, the Camellia is a southern standard for urban and suburban landscapes! Shrugging off not just pollution but heat, humidity, and the partial shade that tall buildings cast, Camellias also provide flowers and color during the fall, winter, and early spring when you need it most!

  • Fantastic Evergreen Foliage for Urban Part Shade
  • Bold (Sometimes Scented) Flowers
  • Four Seasons of Interest
  • Perfect for Urban Areas & Purifies The Air
  • Screening, Specimens, Hedges & Accents


2. Butterfly Bushes

butterfly bush

Butterfly Bushes (Buddleia) are fast-growing flowering plants that have huge panicles of sweet-smelling flowers for pollinators and won’t mind the heat, full sun, poor/xeric soil conditions or the poor air quality of the city. There are large-sized shrubs for seasonal screening and courtyards and even container-sized plants for balcony gardeners too!

  • Big Bold Fragrant Panicles of Flowers All Summer and Fall
  • Large & Small Sizes To Fit Your Landscape
  • Aromatic Sage-Green to Blue-Green Airy Foliage & Branching
  • Not Fazed By Street or Air Pollution, Salt, Heat, or Challenging Soils
  • Pollinator & Hummingbird Nectar Resources


3. Bush Honeysuckle

bush honeysuckle

Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla) are not a real Honeysuckle at all, but instead are a low-growing great shade-loving deciduous shrubs with great bronzy foliage color all growing season long! My #1 pick for low-growing, suckering shrub that loves to be contained in between sidewalks or concrete, easy-care, colorful foliage (and different cultivars offer incredible foliage color) and flowers in summer. Sun or shade, moist or dry, amazing plant that can simply be cut down each fall or spring and all fresh new foliage quickly emerges. Tolerates all kinds of tough urban microclimates softening any landscape and holding soil where needed. The Honeysuckle-like summer yellow flowers adorn the shrubs for pollinators, and these shrubs finish the season with great fall color!

  • Incredible Range of Flower Types, Sizes, Shapes & Hardiness Zones
  • Textured Foliage - Can Be Evergreen or Deciduous
  • Fills Small or Large Areas
  • Great Fall Color & Fruit For Birds/Fall and Winter Interest
  • Tolerant of Urban Air, Traffic Pollution & Inner City Gardens
  • Tolerates Some Wet Soils While Others Handle Xeric Conditions


4. Cotoneaster Bushes


Cotoneaster Shrubs soak up the pollution and sequester it amazingly! Spring flowers, glossy foliage, dense low growth, and even colorful fruit in the fall for the birds, there’s not much this hardy shrub can’t do! Cold-tolerant arching and mounding shrubs, they’re ideal for the urban inner city garden and courtyard, containers, and balconies only asking for well-drained soils. You’ll find hedge-sized shrubs, evergreen privacy shrubs, groundcover Cotoneaster, and of course - cute flowers for pollinators and berries for birds! All this and gorgeous fall color too!

  • Glossy Dark Green Foliage & Dense Growth
  • Space-Saving & Pollution Tolerant
  • Spring Flowers & Colorful Fall Fruit
  • Excellent Urban Air Purifier
  • Low Arching Mounding Growth Habit or Tall Hedge-Sized Options!


5. Red Osier/Red-Twigged Dogwood Bushes

red twigged dogwood bush

Brilliantly colored stems in the winter are just the beginning of the many features of the Red Twig Dogwood! Featuring lush foliage, beautiful flowers, red or purple fall color, and fruit for birds, Dogwood shrubs have kept their native adaptability and hardiness! Available in a range of sizes, shapes, and colors - there are orange and yellow twig Dogwoods, and variegated varieties, too! These cold-hardy plants shine all year round!

  • Lovely Flowers Spring & Sporadically Through Summer
  • Glossy Summer Foliage & Fall Color
  • Variegated Forms & Orange/Yellow Twig & Variegated Varieties Available
  • Brilliant Stems for Winter Interest
  • Wide Range of Sizes/Shapes - Sun & Shade
  • Pollution, Urban Gardens, Well-Drained Clay Soil & Drought Tolerant
  • Hedges, Specimens, Winter Color & Containers


Honorable Mentions

honorable mentions infographic

The Viburnum family features spring flowers, gorgeous textured foliage, and sometimes fruit for birds (and humans) in the fall! There is an incredible variety of Viburnum Shrubs for you to choose from - Seedless, large or small, flat-topped clusters or mopheads, broadleaf evergreen and deciduous - You name it there is a Viburnum for you! Handling an even broader range of growing conditions beautifully, you’ll find these shrubs happily growing anywhere!

Check with your County Extension Office as many Viburnums are not performing well due to Viburnum Borers in the Midwest but do very well in more southern regions and where this pest isn’t emerging. For those gardeners in areas where the borers are prevalent, pick another shrub from this list.

Evergreen shrubs that do well in city and urban environments and shrug off pollution include Blue Holly, Inkberry Holly, and many types of Boxwood.

Living Blooming Air Purifiers!

So breathe easier and fill your world with pretty shrubs that double as air purifiers! Feed pollinators and birds in the urban jungle with tough, adaptable, pollution-tolerant shrubs from Nature Hills!

Happy Planting!

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