Tall border shrubs for landscaping

Updated June 18, 2018

Tall border shrubs add privacy and are suitable as screening plants. They also define areas of the garden and landscape. Tall shrubs have a variety of features, and gardeners have a multitude of species choices. Consider the shrub's preferred conditions when selecting locations.

Colourful Foliage

If you're looking to add colour as well as height to the border, utilise shrubs with colourful foliage, which will stand out amongst greener varieties. Copperleaf ("Acalypha wilkesiana") prefers frost-free climates and grows up to 10 feet wide and tall. This evergreen has an upright habit and oval, serrated foliage up to 8 inches long. There are several cultivars that feature multiple foliage colours, including copper, green, pinks, reds, white and yellow. It prefers sun to partial shade. Silver buttonwood ("Concocarpus erectus var. sericeus") is evergreen and grows 50 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Foliage is greyish-silver. Clusters of small, reddish-brown, berrylike fruits develop after the inconspicuous flowers bloom. It grows in sun to partial shade.

Flowering Shrubs

Tall flowering shrubs not only add height to bordered areas but also brighten them with flowers. Some tall shrubs are evergreen and bloom all year. Bougainvillea ("Bougainvillea spp.") is a thorny, mostly evergreen shrub with a dense, almost-impenetrable habit. It can grow up to 30 feet tall and wide, depending on the cultivar. Colourful bracts in a variety of colours surround small yellow or white flowers summer through fall. Azalea ("Rhododendron spp.") grows up to 20 feet tall, and depending on the cultivar is evergreen or deciduous. This shrub has a spreading habit with deep-green foliage. Trumpet-shaped flowers bloom in spring in pinks, white, purples, orange or reds.

Fall Color

Some tall shrubs burst with colourful fall foliage. For 2 to 3 months in the fall, the shrubs brighten borders with an array of colours. Smoketree ("Cotinus coggygria") has a rounded, spreading habit and grows up to 15 feet tall. Foliage is greenish-blue and oval and turns purple, orange, yellowish and bright red during fall. Filaments on branches are long, pink and pufflike, resembling smoke. It prefers sun to partial shade. Japanese maple ("Acer palmatum") is deciduous and grows 20 feet tall and wide. Shrubs have twisted branches with a wispy habit. Foliage is palmate with approximately 5 pointed lobes. Fall foliage is red, yellow and orange. It grows in sun to partial shade.


Shrubs that are tall and evergreen give colour to bordered areas of the landscape all year. They don't drop foliage in fall, adding colour even in the coolest time of the year. Cherry laurel ("Prunus caroliniana") averages 20 feet tall. It has long, lancelike foliage and a dense habit. Winter through springtime, the tree fills with clusters of fragrant, white flowers. Black berries follow blooming. It grows in sun to partial shade. Mahoe ("Hibiscus tilliaceau") grows to 25 feet tall and wide in frost-free climates. It has 8-inch heart-shaped foliage and a dense, spreading habit. Large flowers are yellow during the day and slowly change to a reddish colour in the evening. It grows in sun to partial shade.

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About the Author

For over 25 years, Joyce Starr has owned businesses dealing with landscape & design, lawn maintenance, specialty herbs and a garden center. She holds certificates in landscape design and xeriscaping. Starr shares her passion for nature in her writing, publishing articles on horticulture, outdoor recreation, travel as well as business.