Types of Soil for Shrubs

Staples in the landscape, shrubs come in varieties suitable for growing in all types of soil conditions, light levels and micro-climates. Planted as living fences of a single species or a mixture of species, singly as lawn specimens or as foundation plantings, the wide variety of shrubs makes them ideal additions to any landscape.

Alkaline

Growing to a mature height and width of 6 to 12 feet, the American filbert (Corylus americana) prefers full sun to partial shade. It does best in moist, well-drained soil, and quite well in alkaline soil. Yellow-brown catkins form in early spring and edible nuts in notched husks mature in fall. Preferring slightly acid soil but tolerating alkaline soil, common pearlbush (Exochorda racemosa) likes moist, well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade. It grows into an open, loosely arching 10- to 15-foot mature bush. Pearlbush produces white flowers in spring. It gets its common name because the partially opened buds resemble pearls. Plant pearlbush as a specimen, or mass together as a screen.

Acid

A semi-evergreen shrub, bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica) is a medium-size shrub with a rounded shape that becomes more upright as it matures to 10 feet high. It is adaptable to most types of soil and like most evergreens, thrives in acid soil. To keep foliage on the shrub during winter, plant in a site sheltered from winter winds. If you prefer to showcase its gray berries during the winter months, plant it in a more exposed site and it will exhibit deciduous tendencies and drop most of its leaves in autumn. A spreading shrub, spring heath (Erica carnea) produces red, pink or white flowers in spring, depending on the variety. It forms a low mound, growing just 1 foot high and spreading 2 feet wide. Heath prefers full sun, but should be covered during winter to prevent injury from sun scald or desiccation from harsh winter winds.

Wet

Native to North America, buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) grows best in moist soils along stream banks, near lake shores and other damp or wet areas. It usually grows to a height of about 6 feet, but can reach 12 to 15 feet in warm southern locations. Bottlebush's foliage is glossy green and creamy white flowers bloom in August. A deciduous form of holly, winterberry (Ilex verticillata) grows to a height of 6 to 10 feet. When its deep green leaves drop in autumn, the bright red berries stand out and provide winter interest in the landscape. Because hollies are dioecious—producing male and female flowers on separate plants—both male and female bushes are required for the female to produce fruit.

Dry

Commonly growing to a height of 15 feet, witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) can reach a height of 30 feet under ideal growing conditions. It forms a rounded, multi-trunked bush that can be as wide as it is high. Witch hazel produces ribbon-like yellow flowers in fall. Fruits begin to form soon after the flowers fade but does not ripen until the following autumn. Widely planted as a hedge, Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergi) makes an effective barrier because of its thorny twigs. It takes clipping well and can be trained into a tight hedge. Although the small yellow spring-blooming flowers are insignificant, in autumn its bright red berries are attractive. Many varieties have reddish foliage during the growing season, and a bright red fall color.

Keywords: soil for shrubs, grow shrubs, plant shrubbery

About this Author

Sharon Sweeny has a college degree in general studies and worked as an administrative and legal assistant for 20 years before becoming a freelance writer in 2008. She specializes in writing about home improvement, self-sufficient lifestyles and gardening.