How to Choose Shrubbery


Shrubbery is a broad classification of plants that are used to soften building lines, screen unsightly views and provide color and texture in the landscape. Most shrubs are woody, multistemmed and broad leafed, but there are exceptions to this rule. Shrubs range in size from about 1 to 12 feet. When choosing shrubbery, there are several factors to consider including ultimate size, design goals, environment and maintenance requirements.

Step 1

Test your soil. An accurate test will tell you the pH of your soil and what nutrients it contains or needs. Some shrubs prefer acid soil and some will prefer alkaline.

Step 2

Determine the ultimate height of your plantings. If you are planting below a window or along a path, consider the full adult height and width of your plants. It is tempting to crowd small, young plants together to fill in the bare spots, but resist this urge. Fill in bare spots with annuals and be patient. Choose plants that will not overpower your space. Keep in mind that many desirable shrubs are available in dwarf forms, making them more useful in the small garden.

Step 3

Be aware of light and drainage. Full sun locations experience at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight. Partial sun areas will receive between 4 and 6. Read shrub requirements carefully---too little sun will stunt growth or result in poor, leggy growth. A shade-loving plant in direct sun will burn and fade. Keep your eye on drainage, too. Does the area drain readily or does water stand for several hours? There are plants that can tolerate so-called "wet feet" but most shrubs will prefer well-drained soil.

Step 4

Know your zone. Consult the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to determine your planting zone and select plants that fall within your range. Be aware that you might have microclimates on your property: a sunny, well-protected alcove might accommodate a plant outside your growing range, especially if you mulch it heavily in winter.

Step 5

Confront your deer problem. If you live in an area of heavy deer predation, consider deer resistant shrubs like boxwood, lilac, butterfly bush and Russian sage. These shrubs are deer resistant, not deer proof. In areas of dense deer populations and little winter food, you might need to fence, net or spray your shrubbery to prevent damage.

Step 6

Consider maintenance. Some shrubs are very easy to care for, others are more demanding. Fancy, formal topiary creations will require monthly trimming and pruning, while hardy Russian sage asks only that you chop it down to the ground in late winter so that it can grow and bloom all summer.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil test
  • Tape measure


  • Texas A&M: Planting Shrubs
  • N.C. Department of Agriculture: Soil Sampling
  • USDA Zone Map

Who Can Help

  • Iowa State University: Little Known Shrubs
Keywords: choosing shrubbery, deer resistant, topiary

About this Author

Moira Clune is a freelance writer who since 1991 has been writing sales and promotional materials for her own and other small businesses. In addition, she has published articles on VetInfo and various other websites. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hartwick College.