Common Shrubs for Temperate Climates That Are Easy to Grow
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.
Some areas have their own micro-climates due to shade, elevation, wind, sun, or protection from cold northern wind in the winter.
How to Plant a Shrub
- When planting a shrub, dig the hole 3 times as wide 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 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.
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.
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.
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 (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
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.
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 (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
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
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.