Landscape Shrub Choices for Kansas
Not just any shrub will do in a Kansas landscape. Drought-tolerant shrubs are a good choice for western Kansas, while shrubs grown in Eastern Kansas will receive more rain. Site-specific factors like available sunlight come into play as well. The chosen shrubs must also be hardy in Kansas, which falls in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5, 6 and 7.
Evergreen shrubs provide both color and structure for year-round interest in a Kansas landscape. Inkberry holly (Ilex glabra), for example, has dark green leaves that turn a bit lighter in the summer, but stay on the plant all year. It is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9, and grows best in full sun to part shade. Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis) is hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9, depending on the cultivar. The different cultivars offer green or blue foliage colors, sometimes with yellow-tipped leaves. Junipers are also water-wise, drought-tolerant plants, which makes them a particularly good choice for the Kansas landscape.
Some shrubs that grow well in Kansas turn a spectacular color in the fall and remain that color all winter long. Bearberry cotoneaster (Cotoneaster dammeri) is a fast-growing shrub that turns purple in cold weather. "Willliam Penn" barberry (Berberis x gladwynensis "William Penn") has small thorns, blooms yellow in the spring and has leaves that turn bronze-red in the fall. Both these plants are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8, but the barberry may need winter protection in USDA zone 5. Barberry and cotoneaster both grow best in full sun to partial shade.
Shrubs that lose their leaves at the end of the year also make nice landscape plants. Glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) and common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) both grow well in Kansas. They are tough, adaptable plants that will grow in sun or part shade and prefer well-drained soil. Buckthorns rarely need supplemental water once established. Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) requires full sun, and is another tough, deciduous shrub that tolerates low-water conditions. It has white flowers in the spring, but is grown for its foliage color, which varies depending on the cultivar. All of these shrubs are hardy in USDA zones 2 through 7.
Several shrubs that are good choices for Kansas landscapes also have lovely flowers. Golden St. Johnswort (Hypericum frondosum) is covered with yellow flowers in the spring, and continues to flower sporadically until fall. It is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8 and grows very well in dry soils in full sun or part shade. Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus) is a good choice for sun or full shade. It's hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9 and has highly fragrant reddish brown flowers. Most of the flowers are produced in May, though some appear in June and July.
- Manual of Woody Landscape Plants; Michael A. Dirr
- Kansas State Research and Extension: Evergreen Shrubs for Kansas
- KSU Horticulture Report: Low Water Use Plants for Kansas Landscapes