How do I Choose the Best Garden Shrub?

Mary Elizabeth

Shrubs are woody plants, smaller than trees and without the central trunk that is usually a defining element of a tree. Instead, the branches of shrubs start from near the ground. Shrubs may be evergreen or deciduous. A garden shrub is simply any shrub that someone chooses to use in a garden, and these shrubs may also be known as landscaping or landscape shrubs, or alternatively, ornamental shrubs. In choosing the best garden shrub for your purposes, it is important to consider both the plant’s needs and the plant’s appearance, as well as what your goals are for your new plant.

Hydrangea is one choice for a garden shrub.
Hydrangea is one choice for a garden shrub.

One way to approach the search for the best garden shrub is to start by identifying your plant hardiness zone or climate zone, depending on which country you are in. This will help you to identify the range of garden shrubs that will thrive in your region. Second, consider the location you have chosen for the shrub. You need to take account of the amount of sun and shade it gets, the soil makeup, and the exposure to wind. Third, it is important to consider whether any portion of the shrub is poisonous if there are any small children or animals about.

The hibiscus plant is a favorite of gardeners and horticulturalists.
The hibiscus plant is a favorite of gardeners and horticulturalists.

With those things in mind, you can turn your attention to the appearance you’re aiming for. For example, if you’re looking for a shrub to create a hedge or to plant beside a path as a border, you may well consider common boxwood or dwarf myrtle, which can be shaped. If, however, you are extending an existing pattern or motif, you may well find a garden shrub of a type you already have, perhaps varying the color, size, or bloom time. For example, if you already have some rhododendrons — of which there are around 700 species — you might choose a different variety.

If you are set on an ornamental garden shrub, your choice might be influenced by the color and size of the flowers. There are many choices including the evergreen shrubs azalea, or camellia, or heather. Other choices include flowering quince, hibiscus, honeysuckle, laurel, buddleia — also known as the butterfly bush — hydrangea, or forsythia. Lilacs, crape myrtle, and wax myrtle are very popular in some areas.

Another direction to go in is shrubs that serve the kitchen. One example is rosemary, the leaves of which are used in cooking a variety of dishes. You could also include thyme or sage, as well as lemon verbena.

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