The Best Small Shrubs for a Garden

Updated July 20, 2017

Planting shrubs is a great way to improve the appearance of any garden area. Shrubs can add colour, form and texture to any outdoor space. Many varieties of shrubs are also drought-tolerant, cold-resistant and can adapt to a wide range of growing conditions. Even if your outdoor space is limited, there are many small garden shrubs to choose from that can live for years in your landscape.

Koreanspice viburnum

Koreanspice viburnum is a small, easy-to-grow deciduous shrub used in foundation plantings, hedges and shrub borders. The height and spread of this shrub ranges from 2 1/2 to 4 feet, requiring little maintenance to retain its attractive rounded shape. Pink buds appear on branches in the spring, gradually developing into aromatic clusters of white flowers that look like snowballs. Wide dark green leaves turn various striking shades of red in the fall. Koreanspice viburnum thrives in full sun or partial shade with well-drained soil and grows in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 7.

Black Chokeberry

Hardy in zones 3 to 8, black chokeberry is an eye-catching foundation shrub with a mature width and height of just 3 to 6 feet. This shrub grows in full sun or partial shade and can tolerate dry or wet soil conditions, making it uniquely suitable for growing around ponds, streams or water gardens. Small white flowers form in clumps on branches in the spring, which eventually turn into shiny, dark purple fruit the size of blueberries, good for use in jellies and jams. The shrub's shiny, dark green leaves also turn a beautiful purple-red colour before shedding in late autumn.

Big Leaf Hydrangea

Big leaf hydrangea is showy, deciduous flowering shrub with a height and width of 3 to 6 feet. This shrub has large clusters of ball-like flowers--in colours of white, pink or blue--that bloom throughout the summer and large bright green leaves. It makes an excellent showcase specimen or border plant. Growing in hardiness zones 6 to 9, the big leaf hydrangea prefers moist, well-drained soil and full sun to partially shaded conditions.

Korean Boxwood

A small evergreen shrub with a mature height and width of 3 to 4 feet, Korean boxwood makes an attractive foundation, hedge or single-specimen plant. This boxwood has a pleasing round compacted shape with branches of small dark green leaves that turn shades of yellow-brown to purplish-red in winter. Korean boxwoods grow in hardiness zones 5 to 9, and prefer moist, well-drained soil and sunny to partially shaded conditions.

Cranberry Cotoneaster

Cranberry cotoneaster is a small deciduous shrub used in border and foundation plantings. Reaching a maximum height of 2 to 3 feet and a width of 3 to 5 feet, this small shrub is also suitable for use as ground cover. Small pink flowers appear on the branches in spring that turn into bright red fruit in summer and autumn. Small green leaves on the shrub turn purplish red before shedding in fall. Cranberry cotoneaster, hardy in zones 5 to 7, prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soil, though it can tolerate dry conditions.

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About the Author

Barbara Biehler is a freelance writer who has written articles for various websites, as well as online specialty courses for She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Central Florida and over 15 years experience in business development, sales and marketing. An avid gardener, cook and voracious reader, Biehler resides with her family near Nashville, Tennessee.