How to Choose Shrubs for Landscaping


Shrubs improve landscape designs through the many functions served. Shrubs provide texture and shape. They give the landscape color through foliage, twigs and flowers, even in winter. Some species supply food for wildlife, such as birds. Several design uses exemplify the versatility of shrubs: hedges, screens, foundations, backdrops and visual anchors. They can soften corners and highlight architectural features. With some knowledge, you can find a shrub available for almost any purpose and location in your landscape.

Step 1

Study the location you want to plant a shrub as outlined by the University of Minnesota Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series. Note the amount of sunlight the site receives. Check the soil type and drainage. Test the soil pH levels. Look at other factors, such as overhangs that block rain, windy locations and other plants in the area. Find out your USDA hardiness zone. Record all of this information.

Step 2

Measure the planting site. You need to know how much room the shrub will have to grow. Choosing an appropriately sized shrub---based on its mature height and spread---prevents excessive trimming and pruning later, reducing your landscaping maintenance. The shrub should have plenty of room to grow without interfering with structures and other plants.

Step 3

Search for shrubs that fit the location using books, catalogs, websites and local nurseries. Consider what kind of shrub you want, such as evergreen or flowering deciduous. Think about the purpose of the shrub. If you want a hedge, fast-growing evergreens may prove the best choice. As an ornamental plant, choose something like rhododendron or hibiscus varieties. For distinct winter interest, opt for a dogwood or holly.

Step 4

Pick healthy shrubs. When you go to purchase shrubs, look for disease- and insect-free selections. Avoid shrubs with leaf damage. Look at shape and size. Overpruned shrubs may not thrive. Check the roots. You don't want a heavily root-bound plant.

Tips and Warnings

  • Some shrubs have higher susceptibility to disease and insect infestations. If either of these presents regular problems in your yard, choose shrubs varieties with resistance.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil pH test kit
  • Tape measure


  • "Pictorial Guide of Landscape Plants"; M. Jane Coleman Helmer, Ph. D.; 1988
  • University of Minnesota: SULIS---Deciduous Shrubs
  • Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service: Planting and Transplanting Landscape Trees and Shrubs

Who Can Help

  • University of Minnesota: SULIS---Plant Selection
  • National Gardening Association: USDA Hardiness Zone Finder
  • Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service: Collecting Soil Samples for Testing
Keywords: choose shrub varieties, shrubs for landscaping, landscaping shrub selection

About this Author

Kitten Arbuckle is a freelance writer living in Indiana. Arbuckle has been writing for websites such as Garden Guides since early 2009. Her education includes training in landscaping, certification in herbal medicine from a botanical sanctuary and a variety of college courses.