Best Dwarf Shrubs for Planting In Every Gardening Landscape

Cultivar Dwarf Mountain Pine | Mykhailo Pavlenko

In concert with our recent article on Shrub Roses, we thought we’d highlight some of the best, basic landscape dwarf shrubs that suit most all landscapes. We understand that many people who are installing new gardens or fixing up and old one may not know a lot about what’s available and what they should choose for plant material, so highlighting the basic tried-and-true varieties could be useful. This is especially true for shrub choices.

Dwarf shrubs are necessary for basic landscape use, because they offer a transition between the more permanent shrubs that are larger and the perennial choices that tend to change more over time as plants die, fashions change, and landscape changes are necessary. Basic shrubs tend to stay the standard over time and their dwarf counterparts play that crucial intermediate role. Dwarf shrubs can also work in the landscape as small boundary line markers, anchor specimen beds, and can offer some screening use in smaller spaces as well as many other tasks.

Because of good breeding, many shrubs that are larger now come in dwarf cultivars so when choosing dwarf shrubs you’re going to have a lot of great options. But there are basics that have been popular for decades, some for hundreds of years- for great reasons. Here are those basics and why they continue to be planted in gardens all over the world.

Boxwood Shrub – Buxus Sempervirens | NAPA

Boxwood Shrubs

Boxwood shrubs are one shrub that has been in use for literally hundreds of years around the world. They are grown for their tight evergreen broadleaf foliage that takes to shaping and shearing perfectly well. They are often seen as an edging in English rose gardens, sheared into perfect mounds or squared-off edging. Chances are if you’ve been to a garden with green lush edging, it’s probably been the boxwood that was used. You can use these dwarf shrubs in your garden for the same reasons. They make great foundation plantings and edging in sun or even partial shade, and are long lived and disease resistant. ‘Sprinter’ is a faster growing cultivar of boxwood shrub that is dwarf, making it suitable again for edges and even containers!

Spiraea vanhouttei–Van Houtte’s spiraea. The ornamental shrub blooms with white flowers. | Piotr Velixar

Spiraea Shrubs

Spiraea shrubs are everywhere and are one of the most widely cultivated and bred shrubs in the nursery trade for landscape use today. If you live in the Midwest, there’s a pretty good chance you have, or know someone who has, a white flowering spirea in the yard- especially around older homes. These spiraeas were planted when a new family built or moved into a home up to about 30 years ago as a tradition. Some people continue this tradition today. You may have also heard of this tradition with lilacs too. Today spireas are bred to be large like old fashioned bridal wreath spiraeas, but the more popular types are the brightly colored dwarf shrub types like ‘Spiraea Gold’. Chartreuse foliage is topped with luminous bright magenta clumps of tiny blooms over a really long season- many will bloom from spring into fall when they are really happy.

More Dwarf Shrubs

There are lots and lots of other dwarf shrubs, often dwarf flowering shrubs that are really popular and very standard landscape affair. Some more unusual yet highly valuable dwarf versions of popular landscape shrubs include this wonderful dwarf crape myrtle, perfect for adding the wonderful aspects of all crape myrtles in smaller spaces. And of course, the wildly popular ‘Chip” series of butterfly bush, like ‘Lilac Chip’ butterfly bush buddleia. Wonderful standards in tiny size for smaller spaces!

Cheryl D. Jones, shares gardening tips and landscape ideas through her blog, newsletters and her nursery’s website. Visit for a full line of plants including shade trees, flowering shrubs, perennials, ornamental grasses and ground covers. Join the Greenwood Gardeners Club free to receive Greenwood Nursery’s weekly newsletter, seasonal promotions and 10% off your first order.

Source: Cheryl D. Jones

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