How to Use Shrubs in Landscaping


Shrubs include plants with multiple woody stems and foliage that remain throughout the year or fall off with the cold weather (deciduous). Providing focal points in the landscape, shrubs can be used to create a framework for landscape design. The key to using shrubs lies in choosing the correct plants based on light availability, soil requirements and mature plant size.

Step 1

Measure the length of the planned planting area. Transfer this measurement to the graph paper using a scale to reduce the proportions such as 1 block on the paper equals 1 foot on the ground. Adjust up or down to suit the length of the garden so it fits on one page. Use this scale for all horizontal measurements.

Step 2

Analyze the sunlight pattern for the entire garden area and note areas of full sun, partial sun, partial shade or full shade on the drawing. Full sun features sunlight exposure for more than six hours a day. Partial sun areas have four to six hours a day and partial shade areas feature two to four hours of sun. Full shade areas experience no direct sunlight and can include those areas with dappled sunlight peeking through tree canopies. This analysis dictates which types of shrubs will be suitable for each location.

Step 3

Visit your local garden center to investigate which plants work best in your area. Native plants include shrubs with proven track records in your area. These plants have acclimated and adjusted to local soil and climate conditions. Other options include plants adapted for use in your location, and successful planting of these shrubs may require additional soil modification.

Step 4

Decide which shrubs offer the most appeal for your vision of the landscape design. Check labels on each plant to determine sunlight requirements, water needs and mature plant size. Take notes on your favorites and include information provided on the growing label. Consult the USDA Hardiness Zone map for shrub choices that suit your location.

Step 5

Look at blooming time, foliage color, flowering properties and eventual maximum size of the shrub. Planning for mature height and width will eliminate future transplanting of these permanent additions.

Step 6

Envision the potential placement of plants in the landscape by drawing suitable plants. Use a ruler to accurately depict the mature size of the plant on the drawing. Position shrubs at the corners of foundations, as hedges or as focal points in the landscape to create your design.

Step 7

Consider plants that complement shrubs such as flowering perennials or annuals. Shrubs work well in gardens as generally low-maintenance plants that accent ornamental flowering plants. This limits maintenance and forms a beautiful blend of foliage and flowers in the garden bed.

Step 8

Adjust your plan as you envision the finished garden. Remember that initial planting may feature smaller shrubs that eventually fill in spaces of the garden as the plant matures.

Things You'll Need

  • Graph paper
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Measuring tape
  • Notepad
  • USDA Hardiness Zone map


  • Oklahoma State University: Selecting Shrubs for the Landscape
  • University of Missouri: Landscaping your Front Yard
  • University of Alabama Cooperative Extension: Residential Landscape Design

Who Can Help

  • USDA Hardiness Zone Map
Keywords: shrubs, landscaping with shrubs, shrubs in landscaping

About this Author

S.F. Heron is an avid gardener with three years of experience in online writing and a working background in aviation and earth and ocean sciences. She is published on various sites, including Helium, eHow and Xomba. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.