Highly versatile flowering dwarf shrubs perform well as garden and walkway edgings. They soften the rock garden's angles and rough edges, and make appealing companions for larger foundation shrubs. Low, spreading flowering dwarf shrubs double as ground covers. They offer gardeners working with small spaces a host of forms, textures and colours. Few plants outperform these compact multitaskers.
Japanese pieris shrubs typically stand from 9 to 12 feet tall. Dwarf Pieris japonica "Prelude" reaches a height of 18 inches to 2 feet, with a 3-foot spread. Its glossy foliage emerges pink in spring and matures to dark green. Its dainty, cascading, white early-spring blooms open from pink buds. Forming in the summer, the buds and evergreen leaves provide winter-long interest. Pieris japonica "Nocturne" stands 1 to 2 feet high, with bronze spring foliage maturing dark green. It also has clusters of white, bell-shaped spring blooms. Both shrubs tolerate winter temperatures to U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone 5's minus -6.67 degrees C. They like fertile, acidic moist soil and full sun to partial shade.
Dwarf Evergreen Azaleas
Dwarf evergreen azaleas pair showy spring blooms with glossy, green foliage with colourful winter tones. Two to 3 foot high and wide, Rhododendron "Red Red" azalea has intensely red, trumpet-shaped flowers. Its olive-green foliage assumes hints of red and yellow with cold weather. Rhododendron "Girard's Rose" azalea, a Missouri Botanical Garden Plant of Merit, stands just 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall, with an equal spread. Slow growth sees it at 2 feet high after seven years. Its 3-inch, wavy-edged flowers open against deep green leaves with reddish- orange fall and winter colour. Their bi-coloured petals have rosy-pink surfaces with pinkish-yellow undersides. These midspring bloomers are cold-hardy to zone 5. They flourish with morning sun, afternoon shade and acidic, humus-rich, moist well-drained soil.
Rhododendron "Mary Fleming" rhododendron and R. myrtifolium rhododendron, early-to-mid-spring-bloomers, thrive in sun-dappled shade and rich, well-drained, moist acidic soil. Zone 6-hardy Mary Fleming's pink-tinged, pale-yellow 1-inch blooms open against elliptical, dark green leaves with bronze winter tones. This dwarf stands just 2 feet high and wide after 10 years, with an eventual height and spread of 30 inches. Throats blotched with deeper pink add to its flowers' appeal. R. mrytifolium, an Alpine shrub native to the Eastern European mountains, forms a spreading, 2-foot-tall, 3-foot-wide mound of glossy, green myrtlelike leaves. Its pinkish-purple, tubular flowers open in clusters of three to seven blooms. Winter foliage colour is reddish-bronze. This dwarf rhododendron survives to zone 5.
Dwarf forsythias bring the first signs of spring to small garden spaces. Forsythia x intermedia "Minigold" forsythia, standing 18 inches to 2 feet tall and up to 3 feet wide, follows its bright-yellow, late-winter or early-spring blooms with variegated, yellow-centred bright-green leaves. Forsythia "Gold Tide," a Missouri Botanical Garden Plant of Merit, forms a 1- to 2-foot-high, up to 4-foot-wide mound of light-yellow blooms and oval medium-green foliage. Winter-hardy to zone 5, these forsythias flower best in full sun and averagely moist, well-drained soils.