Common Shrubs for Temperate Climates That Are Easy to Grow

Updated on May 11, 2019
Dolores Monet profile image

An avid gardener for over 40 years, Dolores has landscaped for private clients and maintained one client's small orchid collection.

If you choose the right shrubs for the climate you live in, they can be a beautiful addition to your landscape.
If you choose the right shrubs for the climate you live in, they can be a beautiful addition to your landscape.

Upgrade Your Home by Planting Shrubs

Improve the value of your property and the look of your home by planting shrubs. Shrubs offer privacy and can screen unattractive house foundations. Shrubs add color and texture to your property and create a frame for your home. Highlight your home's "curb appeal" by planting a mix of shrubs.

Shrubs can be low growing ground covers or tall as a small tree. Mix different kinds of shrubs for an interesting effect. Evergreen shrubs retain their foliage throughout winter, while deciduous shrubs lose their leaves. Some shrubs flower, while others have unique shapes, berries, or unusual bark that looks attractive even in the winter.

You can create a hedge with shrubs, plant them in groups, or use a single plant as a focal point in your yard. Chose plants that grow in your USDA Plant Hardiness Zone. Remember that in certain areas, the zones may overlap. In addition, some areas have their own micro-climates due to shade, elevation, wind, sun, or protection from cold northern wind in the winter.

Japanese Aucuba
Japanese Aucuba

How to Plant a Shrub

  • When planting a shrub, dig the hole three times as wide as it is long and slightly deeper than the size of the root ball. Improve the soil you use to fill the hole by adding compost. The compost will add texture to the soil, lighten heavy clay soils, and provide nutrients that your shrub needs to establish a good toot system.
  • Most shrubs should be planted in moist, well-drained soils.
  • Plant your shrub in early spring. Fall planting is best in hot weather climates with warm or mild winters. Evergreen shrubs are best planted in early fall, well before cold weather sets in.
  • Remove container grown shrubs from the container. Place the shrub in the hole. Make sure that the area where the roots meet the trunk is slightly (2") higher than ground level as the soil and the shrub will settle into the hole after a few days.
  • Fill the hole halfway with soil. Then gently pour water, filling the hole halfway. Allow the water to settle. Wait for the air bubbles to stop coming to the surface. Then, fill the hole with the rest of the soil and tamp it down gently yet firmly to avoid leaving air pockets. Do not cover any part of the main trunk with soil.
  • Mulch, leaving a little well around the base of the plant. Do not push the mulch up against the bark of the plant.
  • Water thoroughly once or twice a week until the plant has become established, after about six weeks or when the plant sends out new buds or shoots.

Boxwood | Source

Evergreen Shrubs

Aucuba, Japanese (Zone 7 - 10) has leathery green leaves and enjoys partial sun, partial shade. Slow growing up to 10' tall. Some cultivars features white or yellow spots that brighten up shady spots. Does not thrive in cold, northern climates.

Barberry (Zone 4 - 8)is a dense shrub with small green or purple leaves and thorns. Drought tolerant. Plant in full sun to partial shade. Grows 3 - 6' tall and 4 - 7' wide.

Boxwood (Zone 6 - 10) lush green leaves, a dense slow growing shrub to 15 feet tall, that can be trimmed and shaped. Favorites at historical sites and parks. Grow in full sun. Some people object to boxwood's pungent odor.

Holly, inkberry(Zone 4 - 10) a large, thick shrub up to 8' tall and 10' wide. Fruit ripens to black in fall and stays on the plant through the winter. Attracts birds.

Holly, Japanese (Zone 4 - 10), similar to inkberry but without profusion of blackberries. Can be trimmed to shape.

Junipers can be low growing ground covers, shrubs, or trees. Their scale-like foliage ranges from deep green to blue-green, and gray-green. Junipers prefer full sun. You will find a juniper type that can live in almost any zone, so check local nurseries. Pictured on the right is Hollywood juniper which is comfortable in beach areas, and grows in a sinuous, unusual fashion.

Mahonia (Zone 7 - 9) is a shade loving favorite of warmer climates with large, leathery, holly-like leaves, growing 4 - 8' tall. Pretty sprays of yellow flowers bloom in late winter or very early Spring. Bright blue berries attract birds in summer.

Privet is a tough, drought tolerant plant that comes in a wide variety of types with leathery leaves. Privet makes a great hedge and is good for shaping and topiary. Different types are available that survive in zones 4 - 10.

Rhododendron - see flowering shrubs, below.

Rosemary (Zone 7 - 10) aromatic herb that grows best in hot dry climates or mini climates in more northern regions of zone 7. Full sun. Tiny purple flowers. Grey green needle like foliage that can be trimmed to shape. 2 - 4' tall and wide. Can not tolerate too much moisture. Container plant in the north.

Hollywood Juniper
Hollywood Juniper | Source

Flowering Shrubs

Butterfly Bush (Zone 5 - 9 ) is a fast grower with droopy, graceful panticles of pink, yellow, white, or purple flowers that bloom in summer. 5 - 10' tall, drought and heat tolerant. Plant in full sun. Prune hard in late winter as flowers emerge from new growth. Attracts butterflies.

The shiny, leathery leaves of mahonia.
The shiny, leathery leaves of mahonia. | Source

Buttonbush (Zone 5 - 10) fragrant, puffy white flowers bloom in late spring, attracting butterflies. Plant in moist soil. Will not tolerate dry conditions.

Crape Myrtle (Zone 7 - 9) is a tall shrub that can stand in as a small tree, growing 15 - 20' tall, and producing long lasting pink, red, white, or lavender flowers in mid - late summer. Leaves turn orange, yellow, or red in fall. Interesting winter specimen with exfoliating patchy brown and gray bark. Remove low growing suckers to reveal bark and create a tree like form. Pinch spend flowers to encourage more.

Forsythia can be brought in early to force blooms indoors.
Forsythia can be brought in early to force blooms indoors.

Forsythia (Zone 5 - 8) is often the first bright color of spring, an easy to grow, easy to propogate (shove a stick of it in the mud). Bright yellow flowers bloom on a fountain shaped shrub. Tolerates shaping but looks awful if you cut it into geometrical shapes.

Pussy Willow (Black pussy willow shown) -(Zone 5 - 9) is a tall up to 10' shrub that produces fuzzy little catkins in late winter. Common pussy willow has gray catkins. Black pussy willow has black catkins that appear on twigs that turn red in late winter. Easy to propagate - stick in the mud.

Pussy Willow with black catkins.
Pussy Willow with black catkins.

Hydrangea comes in several varieties and is known for its large, late summer blooming showy flowers which are really clusters of small flowers. Part sun/part shade with shade in the late afternoon. Large leaves. Decrease soil acidity for pink flowers, increase for blue. Flower heads are good for cutting. Flowers bloom on last year's growth so if you want to prune, do it right after flowering.

Panicle hydrangea is an old fashioned large shrub that can grow up to 20' tall and stand in as a small tree. Flowers appear in July and last until fall, starting out white and gradually changing to a dusty rose. Flowers bloom on new growth so prune in late winter or early spring.

Hydrangea | Source

Mountain Laural (Zone 4 - 8) is a slow grower with clusters of white, pink, or red flowers in early summer. An evergreen with glossy, green leaves that grows 7 - 15' tall. Plant in full sun where summers are cool, partial shade in warm regions. Planting Mountain laurel in shade will create an open growth habit.

Lilac (Zone 3 - 7) is an upright plant up to 15' tall and produces extremely fragrant spring blooms in white, rose, purple and lilac. Plant in full sun. Deadhead flowers. Susceptible to powdery mildew in hot, humid weather.

Rhododendron | Source

Rhododendron (Zone 4 - 10). Even though azaleas are of the rhododendron genus, commonly, rhododendrons are evergreen shrubs with large, dark green, leathery leaves, flowering later than azaleas with large, often unusually brilliant clusters of bell shaped flowers. Rhododendrons can grow up to 12' but smaller varieties are available.

Azaleas can be deciduous or evergreen with small, oval leaves, often used in foundation plantings. Both small and larger varieties are available in white, pink, red, scarlet, purple, violet, yellow, and orange.Plant in well drained soil in partial shade; full sun in northern climates. Feed in early spring. Water during hot months but avoid wet leaves - a soaker hose works well for this. If pruning is necessary, prune right after flowering

Azaleas | Source

Rose (Zone 2 - 10) a wide variety of types, shapes and colors, an elegant, classic addition to the landscape. Prune most roses in early spring. Full sun. Avoid wetting leaves in summer. May require special attention.

A new hybrid called Knock-Out roses is a large bush that is easy to grow and produces tons of flowers throughout the growing season.

Knock Out Roses
Knock Out Roses | Source

Rose of Sharon (Zone 5 - 9) is an open, vase shaped shrub with large white, pink, red or purple blooms in mid summer and grows 8 - 12 feet tall. Full sun in moist, well drained soil. Prune in late winter to encourage flowering.

Rose of Sharon
Rose of Sharon | Source

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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    • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

      Dolores Monet 

      3 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Dennis - I don't know a lot about plants in your zone or exactly what you are looking for. The Indian hawthorn bush is beautiful but why do you want a plant that is similar. Why not just concentrate on what kind of shrub would do best in your conditions and area. Visit a local nursery, a real nursery not the garden area of a chain store. Ask the people there for the kind of shrub that will fill your bill. Remember that the kind of shade you have makes a difference. If the site is exposed to eastern light in the morning that is one thing. If the site gets harsh afternoon sun, it's a whole different ball game. Good luck!

    • profile image

      Dennis in Iowa 

      3 years ago


      Sorry to revive an old post.

      We live in zone 5b and would like a bush similar to the indian hawthorn bush, but it is rated for zone 7.

      The area the bush will be placed is between 2 houses that are approximately 30 ft apart with walls running north to south, so, it is shaded for a large part of the day by one house or the other. We would appreciate any suggestions you might be able to provide for a suitable substitute.



    • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Mini - and keeping shrubs in pots looks charming on a patio or large porch! Thanks!

    • profile image

      Mini Greenhouse Guy 

      9 years ago

      Another useful hub here Dolores, I find potted shubbery much easier to manage as I can never stop changing my mind about where I want to arrange them in my garden!

    • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

      Dolores Monet 

      10 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Thank you very much, Peggy. Though I warn against moving shrubs, 2 years ago we moved an 8 foot Crape myrtle and it transplanted just fine. But, it's sure better to make sure you plant it where you want it!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      10 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Haha! I had to laugh when you commented about rearranging shrubs like furniture. I used to be that way also. We have things pretty well established in our garden now with just a few exceptions. So won't be doing much rearranging anymore. You showcased some nice shrubs here in this hub.

    • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

      Dolores Monet 

      10 years ago from East Coast, United States

      2patricias - my mother lived at the beach and battled the elements to create a beautiful garden. Rosa ragusa,bayberry, and Hollywood juniper are two great salt tolerant shrubs. Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the advice!

    • 2patricias profile image


      10 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This is an excellent selection of shrubs for temperate climate areas. One extra tip - if you leave in an exposed coastal area make sure the shrub you choose is salt-tolerant.

    • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

      Dolores Monet 

      10 years ago from East Coast, United States

      RT - I just started growing lavender myself, had trouble with it in the past. I live in an area that is often very wet and I think that got to it. But I do have a dry area that gets a lot of sun. Lavender is so great. thanks!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks for good info and a reminder of plants that have a big impact in a garden. I am hoping to look at some varieties of lavender this week, in hopes that there is a dwarf or low-growing variety readily available for an island that needs a boost this year. We are loving our forsythia right now. Although they are late because of our extra long/cold winter, they are ushering in spring with an eager show. Daffodils and camellias are late as well, but are dancing happily in these warmer early-spring temps.


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