Shrubs play an important role in the garden. For those looking for formal additions, privet and boxwoods provide consistency in color and form. They also adapt readily to frequent pruning. In informally or blooming garden applications, willows, althea and roses work well. Use shrubs for hedging, in staggered groupings or as stand-alone specimens.
Scrutinize plants before purchasing. Look for pots of the proper size, healthy foliage, limbs that do not cross and no noticeable pests. Check plants for solid root balls, not root-bound specimens. When choosing evergreens, such as hollies and junipers, avoid any that look brown or feel "crispy"---as many times, these plants fail to recover from their weakened state. Checking plants thoroughly for pests and disease will decrease your chances of infecting your gardens with a bad purchase. It is acceptable to see a few tattered blossoms or dying leaves on otherwise healthy plants. Typically, trees and shrubs transplant better when they are small to medium in size. This means that many times smaller plants attain mature size faster than larger ones.
It is a good idea to test your soil before deciding on any plant. Soils heavy in clay are not suitable for species that require excellent drainage. The same is true of planting moisture loving in dry, sandy soil. Generally, blooming shrubs require less nitrogen than those grown for foliage alone. When you apply too much nitrogen to flowering species, the plant produces a lot of foliage at the expense of blossoms. If pushing flowering shrubs for fast growth with nitrogen, remember the plant will have to recover before blooming will be satisfactory---this may not occur for one or more seasons.
Types of Shrubs
Gardeners have several species to choose from when looking for shrubs. For colorful foliage, barberry, golden privet, variegated maple, variegated willow, variegated mugwort and euonymus remain hard to beat. Flowering shrubs include azaleas, rhododendron, brugmansia, spirea, crepe myrtle and bee balm. Shrubs offering unusual foliage include autumn sedum, wormwood, gold thread false cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera) and compact hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa). For security purposes, roses and sharp leaves species like hollies and yucca work well at discouraging trespassers.
Landscaping Uses for Shrubs
Use shrubs in various applications throughout the landscape. When planted in rows, shrubs create attractive living fences. Commonly uses hedges include holly, privet, roses, boxwood and barberry. Thorny shrubs excel at when used under windows and around other private areas. Foundation plantings keep houses cool, lend a manicured look to buildings and absorb excess water runoff. Shrubs also play an important role in adding structure to garden landscaping.
Things to Consider Before Purchasing Shrubs
Keep in mind your natural growing conditions and those your plants require. Altering growing conditions is possible in some instances, in others it is too costly an option. Think too about whether your plant choices pose risks to children and pets. Certain shrubs like oleander and castor beans are deadly poisonous when ingested. Consider too how much time you're willing to set aside for pruning and general shrub care---some plants require much more care than others. Plants like privet grow quickly and require frequent pruning to retain a structured shape.