Not all gardens are enormous – and even if the soil is fertile for planting shrubs and flowering plants, there remains a long list of greenery that is not suitable for small space gardening. With a condominium, apartment, or townhome style of living, many people find themselves asking the question, “How can I beautify a small yard with plants?”
Perhaps you only have planters and patios or balconies that are large enough for a small shrub, or maybe you have an alley or front yard walkway that needs some beautiful flowering shrubs. Depending on your style and planting environment, you do not have to dismiss the idea that you can add life to your space.
There are several dwarf shrubs to suit your needs and the place where you live. Before going over the fourteen dwarf plants for small gardens, let us answer some basic questions to help you with your gardening adventure.
- What is a dwarf shrub?
- What are the USDA hardiness zones?
- Picking the Best Small Shrub for Gardens
- Caring for Small Bushes
- Sapphire Surf Bluebeard (Caryopteris x clandonensis) – Vibrant Shrub
- Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus alba)
- Sweetspire (Itea virginica) – Dwarf Bush with White Flowers
- Goldflame Spirea (Spiraea x bumalda)
- Hummingbird Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) – Best for Shady Areas
- Lo and Behold Butterfly Bush (Buddleia hybrid) – Reblooming Shrub with Pink Flowers
- Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)
- Cranberry Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster apiculatus) – Needs Full Sun
- Bella Anna Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)
- Dwarf Fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii)
- Autumn Princess Azalea (Rhododendron hybrid) – Evergreen Shrub
- Summer Blooming Wine Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)
- Dog Rose (Rosa canina)
- Sensation Lilac (Syringa Vulgaris) – Bicolor Flowering Shrub
What is a dwarf shrub?
Dwarf shrubs and low bushes are perfect options when landscaping a small garden or to add some contrast with ground cover and taller plants that may be spread throughout your garden. They are usually low maintenance and are very compact.
Most varieties do not grow taller than six feet, which can provide you garden scale and proportion. You can choose from dwarf evergreen shrubs to dwarf flowering shrubs or slow-growing low bushes. There are so many possibilities!
What are the USDA hardiness zones?
The USDA hardiness zones are areas that indicate what kind of shrubs grow in specific locations. It serves as a planting guide for gardeners, horticulturists, forest planters, and homeowners to help identify which plant can grow well in a particular place.
Geographically, the US regions are divided into different zones. Each zone is categorized from numbers from one to thirteen. Zone one includes the areas that have the coldest weather, with temperatures up to −60 °F; and zone thirteen has the warmest temperatures at 55 °F. You need to know this information because it will tell you if the shrub you want can grow well in your locale.
Picking the Best Small Shrub for Gardens
Choosing the perfect dwarf shrub means knowing several factors that affect plant growth. These include types of shrubs as well as their uses, weather conditions, hardiness zones, lighting conditions, soil requirements, and overall plant care. Once you know these planting basics, you will find it easier to decide which plant is suitable for your garden.
Caring for Small Bushes
In general, shrubs are easy-to-care-for plants. To get good results when growing them, use pots and a planting location that has proper drainage. Very few dwarf shrubs thrive in soggy or airless soil.
When it comes to watering, the secret is to keep them hydrated with appropriate amounts of water. Check the specific needs of each plant as one may differ from the other. Light pruning of shrubs from time to time helps maintain the size and the shape.
If you are new to pruning shrubs, you might want to visit a garden center to check various tools that can help you with pruning. Pick the best tool for your plant by choosing between loppers, hand shears, or hedge shears. Pruning time may depend on what kind of shrub you have.
Amazing Small Shrubs for Your Backyard
While these smaller bushes may not be ideal privacy shrubs, they can still be used as a property border to separate you from your neighbors. You can also choose several specimens to create a lush garden area that you can enjoy from the deck or patio.
Sapphire Surf Bluebeard (Caryopteris x clandonensis) – Vibrant Shrub
The Sapphire Surf Bluebeard is different from many dwarf shrubs varieties because of its unique dark purple to blue flowers. Anyone in zones five to nine may plant this small shrub even in tight gardens and spaces.
Other perennial plants may outgrow plant boxes and planters but not these low growing plants because they only peak up to two feet tall. It can be an individual accent plant in a garden corner or grow it as a set to show off the vibrant colors as the flowers bloom endlessly under full sun.
Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus alba)
Dogwood shrubs come in various shapes and sizes but, if you want an outstanding shrub that features peculiar branches, the Red Twig Dogwood might be your best option. It has pretty and unusual coral-red twigs with yellowish-white blooms.
After an entourage of the beautiful flower show, small blue-colored berries follow. Not only that, once winter comes, the bare red stems provide an attractive foundation planting accent, giving you a year-round small garden show.
This dogwood is one of the trees, bushes and shrubs for partial shade or full sun and does best in hardiness zones two to eight. With red twig dogwood, you can have a plant that you can use as a privacy screen, for erosion control or just a border for your flower garden. Beauty is available year round with this small tree.
Sweetspire (Itea virginica) – Dwarf Bush with White Flowers
Sweetspire grows only one and a half to two feet high in zones five to nine. Many gardeners and butterflies love this dwarf shrub’s white flowers that bloom like fireworks in early summer. Besides the shape, the flowers are also very distinctive due to their lovely fragrance.
The green summer foliage takes center stage as the leaves turn deep orange to reddish in the fall. Sweetspire shrubs are easy-care plants — they are drought tolerant, require little to no pruning and grow in partial to full shade.
Goldflame Spirea (Spiraea x bumalda)
Sometimes called Goldmound or Japanese spiraea, the Goldflame is one of the many small shrubs favorites. It starts showing its beauty with bronze-colored new growth that matures into bright golden or yellowish green foliage in the summer.
Goldflame spireas are also low maintenance shrubs, surviving cold temperatures of thirty degrees and below. They are one of the few dwarf shrubs that can survive USDA hardiness zones four to eight and still provide a tapestry of color. If you want colorful evergreen shrubs for full sun, look no further than these fabulous shrubs.
Hummingbird Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) – Best for Shady Areas
Summersweet, also known as Coastal Sweet Pepperbush, is a fragrant summer bloomer that has spiky-shaped white flowers. Unlike other flowering plants, this shrub tolerates full shade, making it the ideal shrub for dark areas of any small yard.
Most Hummingbird Summersweets grow up to eight or twelve feet, but with the compact Summersweet version, the height will stay between two to five feet. They are deer resistant, thrive in zones four to nine, and adapt well to a wide range of conditions including slightly acidic soil or some salt spray.
Lo and Behold Butterfly Bush (Buddleia hybrid) – Reblooming Shrub with Pink Flowers
Lo and Behold Butterfly Bush only reaches three feet high. It produces spiky-flowers in deep pink to red-purple. The foliage is grey-green, marking the contrast between the leaves and flowers.
From late spring to the first day of frosty weather, Lo and Behold Butterfly Bush will never be flowerless. The flowers produce a honey-like fragrance that attracts birds and butterflies to feed on their sweet nectar.
Growing up to three feet tall and wide, the butterfly bush is the perfect choice for gardeners who need low growing shrubs for front of house. They have a compact habit of growth, and their flowers are heavenly, thriving in hardiness areas five to nine.
Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)
Dwarf bush honeysuckle grows in zones three to nine. It is a deciduous shrub that grows as tall as three feet. It is known for its trumpet-like yellow flowers and green leaves that turn red in fall.
If you want a shrub that is safe against most pest and disease problems, pick this hardy dwarf shrub. It is very tolerant of cold climates and can take sandy, dry soil, as well. Use them as shrub borders or small hedges to add a little privacy to your garden.
Cranberry Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster apiculatus) – Needs Full Sun
Cranberry Cotoneaster is a dense, deciduous shrub with arching branches. With small pink blooms that appear in late spring and bright red fruit that matures in late summer, this shrub shines for months.
It reaches a height of just two to three feet tall and tolerates minimal erosion and air pollution. To grow Cotoneaster, locate well-drained soil in your yard that has full sun exposure.
Spider mites can be an issue during dry and warm months, so read about using peroxide for shrubs to keep pesky bugs and insects from destroying your merry little garden.
Bella Anna Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)
Bella Anna Hydrangeas, also known as Anabelle Hydrangeas, are small flowering shrubs that grow to a height of three to five feet. They are among the variety of mophead hydrangeas and are proven winners as they fill your small spaces with pleasure and beauty all summer and winter.
If you live in cold places, this plant is hardy to zone three. The crystal-shaped flowers expose their beauty from mid-summer to late fall, even in part shade or very shady corners of your yard. As the temperature falls, the snow-white flowers turn to cheerful reddish-pink or pink blooms, providing a splash of color before the snow hits the ground.
Dwarf Fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii)
Growing just around three feet tall, Dwarf Fothergilla is phenomenal, mainly when grouped like a hedge under full sun or partial shade. The apetalous flowers are aromatic and have bottlebrush-like spikes that bloom in spring. Their blue-green leaves turn to brilliant shades of yellow, red, and orange in fall.
If you’re after three-season color, this is the bush for you. Mostly grown in zones five to eight, these low, easy to grow bushes thrive best in organically rich, acidic, moist, and well-drained soils in full sunlight to part shade.
Fothergillas tend to grow root suckers that may form in colonies if not promptly removed. If you want eye-catching low growing shrubs for front of house, don’t miss the chance to check out Dwarf Fothergilla.
Autumn Princess Azalea (Rhododendron hybrid) – Evergreen Shrub
Autumn Princess Azaleas are dwarf, evergreen shrubs that are not only filled with stunning pink flowers in early spring but continue to burgeon through summer and rebloom in the fall. They are splendid performers with unbelievably pretty flowers, and a height of three to five feet tall.
They thrive well in acidic soil conditions and hardiness zones six to nine. These dwarf flowering shrubs like the sunshine and do best in full sun. In warmer areas, however, it is best for these dwarf evergreen shrubs to have morning sunlight and afternoon shade.
You won’t even have to make hummingbird nectar (unless you want to) if you have azalea bushes, as hummers love the blooms and drink from them eagerly.
Summer Blooming Wine Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)
Summer Blooming Wine Ninebark is an excellent gardening choice that has been around for decades. However, many homeowners and gardeners don’t know much about this native American shrub.
Offering interest year-round, this ground cover grows six to eight feet tall. It has white flowers in the spring which turn into berries later. Its dark purple leaves add interest for months.
A hardy plant, the Summer Blooming Ninebark can survive cold temperatures in zones three to seven. It grows in a variety of soil. The Ninebark’s upright arching form is an ideal solution for filling the corners in a small garden.
Dog Rose (Rosa canina)
Known as Eglantine during William Shakespeare’s era, the Dog Rose is the most abundant wild rose species around the world. It has flowers that vary in color, from white to pinkish red. They can grow in hedgerows and bloom in June and July.
The Dog Rose can survive in hardiness zones six through nine and is resistant to many diseases. Soil requirements are not that specific because they can grow in soils ranging from sandy to clay, as long as it has good drainage.
Sensation Lilac (Syringa Vulgaris) – Bicolor Flowering Shrub
If you like one-of-a-kind lilacs that have a dramatic effect, choose Sensation Lilacs. They have flowers with elegant white edges. The fragrance also adds distinctive flair, and it only grows up to three feet tall, fitting any small garden or yard.
These miniature dwarf fruit trees and shrubs are deer resistant and are somewhat resistant to mildew. They grow well in well-drained soil, enriched with hummus or coffee grinds. Pruning is not necessary but may help to maintain the shape. To plant Sensation Lilacs, dig a wide hole that covers the entire root ball.
Shrubs are enormously beneficial, decorative, and highly useful. With their incredible diversity of colors, sizes, shapes, and styles, they can quickly turn a small piece of property into an exciting showplace.
They provide an attractive look to any corner, edges, and property borders; and make yard inviting. You may not be able to plant trees for your small garden, but there are always shrubs to liven up the scenery.
We hope you benefitted from the information about dwarf shrubs in this article. If you enjoyed reading about low bushes for small yards, please share our dwarf shrub advice with your family and friends on Pinterest and Facebook.