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Choosing Shrubs Suited to Your Landscape

Looks aren't everything, especially when it comes to landscape plants. Shrubs anchor planting beds, control erosion, border property lines and help with energy conservation, but not all shrubs are ideal for your landscape. Your climate, your purpose for having shrubs and even the specific features of your property play roles in which shrubs are best for your home.

  1. Know Your Purpose

    • The reason you're planting shrubs will help you narrow the numerous shrub options. Shrubs used as a privacy screen or for shade need dense foliage to block views, noise and wind. Japanese privet (Ligustrum japonicum) is an example of an ideal privacy hedge shrub; it is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7b through 10a. Shrubs used primarily as ornamental plants often feature flowers or other visually appealing elements. The butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii), hardy in USDA zones 5 through 10, is among the decorative shrubs. If you want to add shrubs for security, use plants with thorns as barriers or near windows. Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is an example; it is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8. Check whether or not Japanese barberry or any other shrub variety is considered invasive in your state before choosing it. Keep a Japanese barberry in check by removing all of its seedlings that develop in other areas of your landscaping.

    Evaluate the Location

    • Considering the specific location within your landscape where you want to put shrubs also will help you decrease the shrub options. Use a shrub's mature size as a guide to decide whether or not the plant will fit in the available space. Although you can prune shrubs to keep them contained, a shrub that typically grows 15 feet tall shouldn't be planted in a tiny space next to a walkway. Check the sunlight available in the planting area. Match a shrub's light requirements with the area's amount of sunlight. A sunlight meter is an inexpensive tool that can help you calculate the number of hours an area receives direct sunlight.

    Know the Requirements

    • The amount of maintenance work that shrubs need varies from one shrub to the next. Shrubs native to your area require less work than non-native shrubs; they often survive on the natural rainfall with little additional irrigation needed. Native plants are also better able to stand up to native pests and diseases, which means less need for pesticides in the landscape. The amount pruning necessary is another factor. Shrubs that grow quickly or with branches that spread widely need more pruning than compact, slow-growing shrubs.

    Consider Looks

    • Several factors come into play to determine the aesthetic value of shrubs. Their general shape is one consideration. For example, creeping juniper (Juniperus horizontalis), hardy in USDA zones 3 through 10, grows low, covering lots of ground. The "Golden Globe" arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis "Golden Globe") grows in a rounded shape; its USDA zones are 4 through 8. The texture of foliage is another consideration. Evergreen shrubs typically have thin, rough foliage. Deciduous shrubs often have larger leaves in varied shapes. The color of the foliage also plays into the appearance. A deciduous shrub may have leaves that change color in fall. Other shrubs grow flowers or berries during spring and summer months, providing additional color. Choose shrubs that visually complement your landscape's other plants and features.