Many contemporary homeowners have small lots ideal for low-growing shrubs. These shrubs provide the same garden interest as their larger relatives in a more compact space. They add street appeal to front yards without blocking a homeowner's view. They're effective proportional plantings around perennial beds and small ornamental trees. Single low growing shrubs make striking container plants. Finding ones to provide color from spring to fall is easier than it has ever been.
Cranberry cotoneaster (Cotoneaster apiculatus), says the Iowa State University Extension, is a spreading shrub stands between 2 and 3 feet high. Hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 4 (minimum annual temperature of minus 30 degrees F), cranberry cotoneaster has glossy green leaves that provide maroon or bronze autumn color.
Spreading up to 6 feet wide, cranberry cotoneaster has arching branches with small pink flowers between May and June. Red cranberrylike fruit follows the flowers, ripening in mid-fall and providing winter garden color. This shrub, says the Missouri Botanical Garden, grows best in full sun and average, well-drained soil with medium moisture. It suffers in hot humid areas and wet soil. Use it for erosion control on hillsides, foundation plantings and low hedges.
Flowering Quince 'Cameo'
Flowering quince (Chaenomeles x superba), a member of the rose family, stands 3 to 4 feet high and up to 5 feet wide. "Cameo," a flowering quince cultivar, is a compact, round dense shrub with tangled branches. Its heavy clusters of double pink or peach blossoms, up to 2 inches across, appear in April and May, before glossy deep green leaves appear.
Edible yellow-green quinces arrive in summer, developing a red blush as they ripen in the fall. Although bitter if eaten off the shrubs, they make good sweetened preserves. Plant "Cameo" in well-drained loam with medium moisture. Its leaves will turn yellow in high-alkaline soil, says the Missouri Botanical Garden. The shrubs tolerate partial shade but flower best in full sun. Shape them with post-bloom pruning. While it reduces the fruit crop, pruning promotes growth of flowering spurs for the next year.
Virginia Sweetspire 'Little Henry'
Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), a summer-blooming shrub native to the wet woods and swamps of the eastern United States, normally stands 3 to 5 feet high and wide. The 'Little Henry' cultivar, however, is a compact, round shrub standing only 2 feet tall and 2.5 feet wide. In June and July, it has dense, drooping 2- to 5-inch clusters of fragrant white flowers against oval, deep green leaves. Red autumn foliage may remain on the shrubs into winter.
Plant 'Little Henry' in moist to wet well-drained humus-rich soil and full sun to partial shade. This shrub is a good choice for wet areas and water gardens. In massed plantings it works as a ground cover.