How do I Choose the Best Small Shrub?

Ellen Henry

Shrubs can serve as decoration in a yard or even be used for added privacy in lieu of a fence. Determining how the shrubs will be used and where you want to place them is the first step in choosing the best small shrub. Taking note of the planting area’s sun exposure and soil conditions can also help you to choose a shrub that is more likely to flourish. Other considerations may include the maintenance requirements, climate, and the size the shrub will reach at maturity. Most garden store employees can assist customers with these questions, and tags are included with most plants offering important information to help with the decision.

Hydrangea bushes produce clusters of flowers.
Hydrangea bushes produce clusters of flowers.

Observing the planting area at multiple times of day can help determine if the shrub will receive full sun, partial shade or mostly shade throughout the day. The type of soil also may affect your shrub choice — some shrubs thrive in sandy soil while other may prefer a more moist, fertile soil. Checking the acidity of the soil may be important as well — most garden stores have inexpensive kits to acquire this information. Soil fertility may also be a consideration, and garden store employees can help choose the proper fertilizer for your chosen small shrub.

Some small shrubs attract butterflies.
Some small shrubs attract butterflies.

Maintenance and care may also be a consideration. The amount of maintenance required can vary from plant to plant. Some may need to be watered more often or have a higher-maintenance fertilizer schedule. Some shrubs need to be pruned each year as well.

Be sure to review tags, labels, and other available descriptive information before you make a decision on a small shrub. What may look like a small plant could eventually grow into a tall tree, depending on the growing environment the plant will experience. Thinking about what size you would like your small shrub to be once it reaches maturity is an important factor in making the right choice. Gardeners also want to ensure the shrub is rated for their climate — some shrubs do well in areas that experience frigid cold winters while others would likely die if temperatures fall below freezing.

Considerations on how the shrub will be used also may help you choose. Some shrubs are very dense and can help provide privacy. Other types of shrubs can be used as ornamental decoration, such as Burning Bushes, which turn bright red in the fall, or Hydrangea bushes, which produce dramatic flower clusters. Other types produce flowers, such as butterfly bushes, that may attract birds or butterflies. Some shrub varieties even grow fruit, such as blueberry bushes.

Butterflies are attracted to shrubs such as Rhododendrons, azaleas and butterfly bushes.
Butterflies are attracted to shrubs such as Rhododendrons, azaleas and butterfly bushes.

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Discussion Comments


@Animandel - If you decide to take @Feryll's suggestion and plant privet bushes to form a privacy fence then you should be aware that these shrubs reproduce quickly and if you do not keep a close eye out then you will have a yard covered with the bushes before long.

Once you plant the the privet bushes, keeping them trimmed and under control requires much more work than some of the prettier flowering garden shrubs that could also be used to give you more privacy. There are a virtually endless number of small shrubs to choose from, so I advise you to do your research and find the bush that works best for your situation, one that also adds beauty to your yard.


@Animandel - The house my girlfriend and I bought has a yard full of all types of garden shrubs, trees, and flowers. On the back side of our house, there is a row of privet shrubs that have been placed so that they form a natural fence that gives us some privacy.

The privet shrubs will grow very tall, so you will need to keep them trimmed unless you want to have a bunch of out of control plants. We live in the country in the middle of a farm. The fields around our property are farmed, and the tractors kick up a lot of dust when they are in the fields.

The privet bushes not only give us privacy. They also block some of the dust that would otherwise be blown into our house when the windows are open.


The article mentions that small shrubs can be used to make a good fence to give you more privacy in your yard. Does anyone have any suggestions on the best types of scrubs to plant when you want create a little more privacy so that you are not always visible to your neighbors when you are in your own yard?

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