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The Best Dwarf Shrubs

Azalea image by truckersandy from

Dwarf shrub varieties do not tower over the garden, but rather accent the space with their low but commanding presence. Some dwarf shrubs are evergreen, and keep their needles throughout the year, while others are deciduous. The best dwarf shrubs are drought-tolerant and will grow in a wide range of soil types.

Little Gem Arborvitae

Little gem arborvitae (Thuja occidentals 'Little Gem') is an evergreen shrub that keeps its brilliant color and foliage all year long. Growing 1 to 3 feet tall, little gem has medium texture and a slow growth rate. The dense dwarf shrub has a compact form and globose shape. It is ideal tucked along a front flowerbed or lining a path. The glossy, dark green foliage makes up the flat, horizontal spreading branches. Little gem requires full sun to light shade and well-drained, moist soil to thrive. Plant in USDA zones 3 to 7a.

Dwarf Azalea

Dwarf azalea (Rhododendron atlanticum) in a deciduous shrub with a slow to moderate growth rate and medium texture. Growing only 3 to 6 feet tall and wide, dwarf azalea has striking blooms that light up the shrub with color and vibrancy. Beginning in April, the fragrant clusters of puffball-like blooms emerge in pink and white to contrast with the vibrant green foliage. Dwarf azalea has oval shaped leaves that are leather-like and glossy; when crushed, the leaves produce a fragrant aroma. They are ideal shrubs to grow in a partially shaded area such as under a shade tree or along the side of a home where they receive a smattering of sunlight. Dwarf azalea require full sun to part shade and moist, well-drained soil that is acidic in nature. Plant in USDA zones 5 to 9a.

Carissa Holly

Carissa holly (Ilex cornuta 'Carissa') is a slow growing evergreen shrub with coarse texture and brilliant green leaves. The compact, rounded form is ideal grown in a formal setting or nestled into a container for a dwarf specimen plant. Growing 3 to 4 feet tall, Carissa holly bushes are drought- and heat-tolerant, making for a low maintenance landscape shrub. Planted in arid climates where rainfall is limited, they are an ideal dwarf shrub. The leather-like leaves of Carissa holly are dark to olive green and grow 2 to 3 inches long. They require full sun to part shade and tolerate a wide range of soil types. Plant in USDA zones 7 to 9.

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