How to Design With Shrubs


Various shrubs available at most garden centers and nurseries come in a range of sizes, growth habits and pruning needs. With all of this variety available, however, many people don't know how to design with shrubs to give them a proper place in their garden. You can take advantage of shrubs and find the ones that are right for your yard.

Step 1

Make a simple sketch of your yard to help you get a better idea of the area you have to work with. As you read the steps below, fill in your sketch with places you would be able to use shrubs for filler, function or dramatic effect.

Step 2

Research the different varieties of shrubs in a guidebook like those put out by Black and Decker or check online your university extension office online to find types that fit your needs and look appealing to you. The shrubs you choose should grow well in your region, thrive in the sun available and be suitable to the soil conditions of your yard or garden.

Step 3

Use shrubs as a background in existing flower beds or gardens if you feel like there is leftover space available. Background shrubs will need to be taller than the plants in front of them to ensure they get light and be low maintenance, such as a butterfly bush or barberry, with little to no pruning necessary.

Step 4

Create barriers next to walkways or border a property or tree line with shrubs that have a pleasing look. Using knee-high shrubs with dramatic growth can add interest to an otherwise boring area. Lavender adds a fragrant touch to walkways, while juniper shrubs can give a property a clean yet natural spray of deep green.

Step 5

Mask unsightly areas of your yard, home, or garden by placing a few waist-high shrubs in front of the space you want to cover. Select shrubs that grow dense with large leaves or close growth habits, preferably an evergreen variety that will cover the spot year-round such as boxwood.

Step 6

Add color with flowering shrubs to main points of the property that you don't want to replant year after year with annuals or are harder to get to. Typically azaleas and forsythia look nice and can give a show of color when they bloom.

Things You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Tree and shrub guidebook or website


  • "New Complete Guide to Landscaping"; Better Homes and Gardens; 2002

Who Can Help

  • Bushes and Shrubs
Keywords: how to design with shrubs, designing with shrubs, using shrubs in landscape design

About this Author

Margaret Telsch-Williams is a freelance, fiction, and poetry writer from the Blue Ridge mountains. When not writing articles for Demand Studios, she works for as a contributor and podcast co-host.