There are many different types of shrubs, most used for landscaping borders and barriers. Depending on the area you live in, you might choose a certain type of shrub because it prefers the soil, the light and the weather patterns, allowing it to thrive. Some shrubs flower, some do not. Some prefer heavy pruning and are best used for manicured landscapes, while others do not react well to pruning and are best left for the outside areas of the landscape.
Most shrubs prefer full sun--at least six hours of continuous sunlight per day, especially those that grow in the Northern states where the days are shorter. Shrubs that prefer full sun are used for borders on lawns with little to no trees. They are also used as a barrier against the wall of the home or to outline sidewalks. Some shrubs that prefer full sun include the various cultivars of the Chamaecyparis obtusa dwarf family.
Soil and Fertilizing
Most shrubs prefer moist, well-drained soil. They will survive in any type of soil, from sandy loam to clay, as long as the soil is well-draining and has plenty of nutrients. Nutrients in the form of fertilizers (chemical or organic) can be added to soil that is less than par for the shrub. Fertilization is normally only needed once per year, in the spring. Shrubs should not be fertilized in the fall; the extra nutrients encourage new growth that will not be hardened in time for the winter.
All shrubs need water, even drought-resistant shrubs. Shrubs should be watered at least once per week with an inch of water. Watering deeply encourages deeper root growth and ensures that those roots get enough moisture and nutrients to stay healthy. Healthy shrubs stave off pests and disease easier than unhealthy shrubs. Watering several times per week with just a bit of water (shallow watering) encourages the roots to grow near the surface. The shrub is then affected by temperature, as the soil might be too hot or cold, depending on the season.
Mulch shrubs with at least 3 inches of compost or pulverized bark. The mulch keeps the ground temperature warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The mulch also contains moisture, allowing you to water deeply only once per week. The mulch also works as a weed barrier--certain weeds carry disease and attract pests. With a mulch base, you don't need to weed as often, making for a lower-maintenance shrub border.
Most flowering shrubs grow flowers on the stem tips and have lateral flowers. On some, the lateral flowers will not bloom unless the stem tips are pruned. Most shrubs, flowering or not, respond well to pruning and are common because of the ability to prune to shape.
Always prune shrubs in the spring for dead and decaying wood and plant matter. If the branches are too close together, prune entire branches to give the rest of the branches room to grow and much needed sunlight. When pruning for shape, especially shrubs like boxwoods, cut the top a bit narrower than the bottom, allowing the lower branches to receive sunlight.