Shrubs are a staple in the garden to provide height, texture and color. Grown in rows flanking a backyard patio or nestled along a fence line, shrub varieties have their own distinct characteristics and growing requirements. Some shrub varieties are ideal barrier shrubs for creating hedgerow plants that help to shield areas of the garden, while others are ideal specimen shrubs to plant in a front bed for their bright and colorful blooms.
Evergreen shrubs retain most of their foliage throughout the year, including winter, and thrive in all hardiness zones. A tough, long-lasting type, evergreen shrubs require proper soil drainage and aeration to thrive. Because they don't shed all of their foliage, evergreen shrubs keep the landscape tidy, unlike deciduous shrubs, which lose their leaves each season. Because they retain foliage, evergreen shrubs are often used as barrier screens, windbreaks and privacy fences. Prune evergreens in early spring, after new growth has begun and the ground has thawed. Examples of broadleaved evergreen shrubs, shrubs that carry traditional flat leaves, are holly, boxwood, laurel, barberry and Nanina. Narrowleaved evergreens, an evergreen subtype with needle-like foliage rather than leaves, include fir, juniper, spruce, cedar, pine and hemlock.
Deciduous shrubs have leaves that darken to eventually fall at the end of their growing season. Unlike evergreen shrubs, deciduous shrubs during winter have bare, woody stems. Some deciduous shrubs like Kerria japonica and dogwood have colored bare stems that provide a burst of vibrancy in winter even without leaves. Deciduous shrubs are also known for colorful blooms that light up the garden. Grown in masses along a backyard garden or tucked along a front bed, flowering deciduous shrubs are a garden staple and grow in a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors. Pruning is essential with deciduous shrubs to control their size and shape. Flowering deciduous shrubs include hydrangea, lilac, viburnum, dogwood, forsythia, spirea and butterfly bushes.
Subshrubs have a woody base and herbaceous traits like a soft stem. Smaller than other shrub varieties, subshrubs have low-growing, bushy shapes that take less time than a regular sized shrub to produce new growth. Susceptible to frost, subshrubs rest during winter, rather than die down, so in warmer temperatures, the plants respond quickly to produce new growth. Prune subshrubs in the spring after new growth has begun.
Subshrub varieties include lavender, thyme, sage and some geraniums.